It’s time for the 10th annual Mitty Awards!

As I wrote in the previous awards post: 2020 has been a year like none other. Most theatres suffered extended shutdowns, lost revenue, trashed schedules and uncertainty for the future. In mid-March, when most production companies halted their output, we had attended a surprising number of productions to start the year off, only to be left off at that point save for two brave shows we gained invitations to. Furthermore, we completely missed celebrating our 10th anniversary online.

I know the entire Indianapolis theatre community, both professional and avocational, long for a full restart to our amazing theatre scene. I truly hope that 2021 will prove to be a banner year of great new shows and renewed attendance.

So it is from a very limited sample of only 5 community theatre offerings that we present 2020’s Most Impressive Theatre winners: (Please note, some categories have, out of necessity, been left off the list this year.)

In the category – Most Impressive Set Design – Community Theatre Division: Ryan Koharchik’s striking set for Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre’s production of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing was this year’s standout design, featuring a lavish two story exterior and garden.

In the category – Most Impressive Costume Design – Community Theatre Division: Likewise, Adrienne Conces’ costume designs for Civic’s Much Ado About Nothing extended the lavishness of the show’s theme.

In the category – Most Impressive Newcomer – Community Theatre Division: I still consider fifth grader Sadie Cohen a newcomer, although I have seen her perform on local stages in the past. This young lady impressed me yet again, this time as Small Alison in Footlite Musical’s Fun Home. From the review: “Ms. Cohen shows a lot of stage presence through her acting scenes and knocks her solo, “Ring of Keys’, out of the park.”

In the category – Most Impressive Performer in a Supporting Role – Community Theatre Division: Tim Spradlin gives a noteworthy performance as the father, Bruce, in Footlite Musical’s Fun Home. “Spradlin takes on an immensely emotional role – with multiple levels of anxieties, improprieties, sorrows and joys. This is a complicated man, and Spradlin’s gifts are heightened throughout in his portrayal, resulting in a winning performance.”

In the category – Most Impressive Ensemble in a Play – Community Theatre Division: This small group of supporting actors worked hard to advance the story of two unsure people on a First Date. Footlite Musical’s production featured Austin Stodghill as Casey’s BFF, Reggie; Darrin Gowan as The Waiter; Ben Fraley as Aaron’s dating adviser, Gabe; DonaMarie Kelley as Aaron’s ex, Allison; and Hannah Janowicz, who doubles as Casey’s sister, Lauren, and as Aaron’s mother.

In the category – Most Impressive Duo in Lead Roles – Community Theatre Division: In Carmel Community Players’ The Last Five Years, Nina Stilabower as Cathy and Daniel Draves as Jaime impressively work through this unusual musical show. “Both are veteran performers who possess wonderful vocal talents and acting abilities – and both come through with amazing portrayals. Ms. Stilabower is near perfect as the struggling actress Cathy. Her remarkable voice, coupled with a winning sense of mood and emotion, makes her performance memorable…Mr. Draves…(as) the successful novelist Jaime, pulls together a sensitive and well-thought out characterization, with powerful song interpretations…”

In the category – Most Impressive Actress in a Lead Role – Community Theatre Division: Kristen Cutler does a masterful job in her role for Footlite Musicals’ Fun Home. “Kristin Cutler takes the central role of Alison. Part narrator, part scene-influencer, she takes us back through various stages of her life and her blossoming as a lesbian…Ms. Cutler has a perfect, steadily-calm countenance for her duties, as well as a terrific singing voice…”

In the category – Most Impressive Direction – Community Theatre Division: For Footlite Musicals’ Fun Home, “Director Maria Matters has gathered an outstanding community theatre level cast to tell the story and has managed to deftly propel them with just the right levels of tragic and humorous choices. Ms. Matters’ sense of the themes at work here is invariably on-the-mark. The result is a highly emotional odyssey for her audience, who gave it a much deserved standing ovation.”

In the category – Most Impressive Production of a Play – Community Theatre Division: Civic Theatre wins with their wonderfully concise production of William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. “The play is well-directed, most of the action being readily understood (hey, this IS Shakespeare), with apt portrayals by (Director) Tzucker’s crew of players… this is a nicely compact Shakespearean experience – a pleasure to look at, entertaining to take in. Civic Theatre should perhaps do more of the Bard’s offerings – with their amazing capabilities for stagecraft and production, there are many from his folios which they could provide for their followers in an impressive manner.”

In the category – Most Impressive Production of a Musical – Community Theatre Division: Footlite Musicals’ Fun Home was presented just before the shut down and it left a sharp impression. Here’s what I wrote in the review: “Footlite Musicals’ Fun Home is an exceptional piece of community theatre. It is a moving, informative, and important theatrical undertaking. Full of amazing performances, you’ll be well-rewarded by the company’s efforts when you attend.”

That’s it for another year. Congrats to all those who were included. I know this has been an impossible year for all theatre lovers and practioners, and I join everyone in the hope that we will be able to get back to some normalcy soon.