As I did last year, it is my pleasure to scan the productions I reviewed this past year, encompassing the second half of the 2011-12 theatre season and the first half of the 2012-13 season and pick out the most impressive aspects of shows that I saw. This year, I admittedly saw fewer shows than last as I was busy directing a show and acting in one over the course of the year. (I attended shows at Spotlight, CCP and the Belfry) Nonetheless, I saw some very impressive theatre and would just like to acknowledge the best of what I saw.

So – the 2012 MIT (Mitties?) Awards go to:

In the category – Most Impressive Set Design: Barney Boyd designed the set used for the Belfry’s production of  State of the Union. It wins due to it’s impressive flexibility as a set of three walls, two of which converted fully as the scene changed from hotel room to suite of rooms to living room. Doorways become alcoves, bedrooms become sitting rooms and houses. The third act living room was especially impressive as it included an extra living area upstage. It was an ingenius design and was impressively rendered in it’s construction and use.

In the category – Most Impressive Costume Design: Norma Floyd and her crew of costumers designed and built the very impressive array of costumes for the Belfry’s production of Titanic -The Musical. With 50 people playing at least 75 characters, there are over 100 costumes, including posh dresses for the rich ladies, coats, hats, uniforms, worker’s clothes – the list is nothing short of stunning. The costumes we saw were completely and thoroughly wonderful! They were definitely a major accomplishment.

In the category – Most Impressive Newcomer: There is no doubt in my mind about this award – Cody Fenimore, who starred as Buddy in CCP’s production of The Diviners delivered a knockout performance. Coincidently playing the brother of last year’s winner of this award, Tempiellen Knuteson, the capable seventh grader performed a very difficult role well beyond his years and his experience. I may add: he also won last season’s Encore Awards as Best Performer Under 18 AND Best Actor in a Drama, the latter being against adult competition.

In the category – Most Impressive Actor in a Smaller Role: the winner is Earl Campbell as a villianous and sassy Jack Favell in CCP’s production of Rebecca. I have always been a big fan of this actor and he justifies that adulation with every role I see him tackle. His Favell was so well crafted and delivered, one couldn’t help but look forward to the character’s return in subsequent scenes.

In the category – Most Impressive Actress in a Smaller Role: the winner here is Tanya Haas who sparkled and amused as Beatrice Lacy in CCP’s Rebecca. In what was basically a comic relief role in a tightly wound drama, Ms. Haas came through with a delightfully impressive and entertaining portrayal. Dressed to the nines, she lit up the stage as the main character’s sister and her swift and slick banter with her overmatched husband (played by Steven Marsh) was a great deal of fun.

In the category – Most Impressive Actor in a Larger Role: the winner is Clay Mabbitt for his role as Peter in Bug at Spotlight Players. Mabbitt put it all on the line for this very challenging, ultra-complicated portrayal. In the span of the play, he showed us his character’s many sides from awkward and mild-mannered to psychotic and aggressively deranged. It was a hard journey every night of the run, I am sure. Mabbitt was beyond extraordinary in what was the most impressive male role I witnessed this year.

In the category – Most Impressive Actress in a Larger Role: the winner is Mabbitt’s counterpart, Lisa Marie Smith’s Agnes in Bug. I have never seen a more intense portrayal of derangement than what Ms. Smith offered in her work here. There was a moment in her second act breakdown where I thought she might not snap back to normalcy – so mighty was her portrayal of hysteria and psychosis. Her turn in Bug has to be among the top of all performances I have seen in our theatre community.

In the category – Most Impressive Direction: the winner is, not surprisingly, Lori Raffel for her spot-on direction of the very difficult Bug at Spotlight Players. I have always admired Ms. Raffel’s work – she is consistently among the most highly regarded directors after any season. She outdid even her best offering in this (I repeat) difficult and extraordinary production. Everything fell into place action-wise and production-wise. I am awed by how well this play was presented.

In the category – Most Impressive Show: It should be no surprise either that my choice here is Bug – all of the many ingredients that make for an impressive production were present in this show. The cast, including the above winners plus great performances by Earl Campbell and Lina Ricks; the set, a beautifully realistic run-down motel room; plus, of course, the well-directed action and tempo of the piece, put this show in a stratospheric class all it’s own.

Special categories are for areas I will not normally give awards in – last year I had an award for Most Impressive Theatre Accomplishment. This year I have two special awards.

In the special category – Most Impressive Independent Production: the winner is The Dealer Smiles by Larry Adams. I reviewed this show from a DVD I received and was very impressed by it’s message, it’s production and the script itself. I hope that this show finds a local stage somewhere and can be seen in it’s entirety by audiences. Local playwrights need to have a chance to show their work outside of the Fringe format, I think. It would work to further legitimize a valuable resource we enjoy here in Indianapolis.

In the special category – Most Impressive Breakthru Performance: this category appears this year because of one impressive performance by someone who I have watched work in small roles for a long time. Given the chance, Barbara Weaver showed her impressive talent in the Belfry’s production of State of the Union. Her portrayal of Mary Matthews showed a lot of understanding and deep character development. It is a very complicated role, with lots of moods and many emotional stages, and Ms. Weaver pulled it off with poise and polish. It was a very impressive job!

That’s it for this year. There was so much good theatre that I did not get to see – but I was so glad to be able to watch the ones I attended. Keep local community alive and well with your attendance AND your participation. Happy New Year everyone!