Friday, March 25, 2013

UNO Alumni and Students Dominate Nominations for Big Easy Theater Awards

The Big Easy Theater Awards are New Orleans' very own brand of Tony award, designed to recognize achievement in live theatre, said David Hoover, chairman of the University of New Orleans' Department of Fine Arts. This year, University of New Orleans alumni and students have been nominated in nearly every category and some have been nominated several times.

"UNO alumni in some capacity had their hands in the best quality work the city has to offer," said UNO Film and Theatre Department spokeswoman Jenny Billot. We've got four or five heavy hitters in some of the best productions around town. The names that show up again and again – Michael Harkins, Ashley Ricord-Santos, Michael Santos, Natalie Boyd, Beau Bratcher ― you look at the quality of work that they're doing, that's what we strive for."

The Foundation for Entertainment, Development and Education (FEDE) announced nominations for the 2013 Theater Awards in February and a full list of categories and nominations can be found in an article by Kandace Power Graves in the Feb. 19, 2013 issue of Gambit weekly newspaper. Winners will be announced at the 25th Annual Big Easy Theatre Awards ceremony, which runs from 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday, March 25, at Harrah's New Orleans. Proceeds from the event will benefit the FEDE, which awards grants to support education and development.

UNO Master of Fine Arts alumnus Mike Harkins will receive a special recognition award at the event for his extensive work in sound design.

UNO students and alumni have also been nominated in the following categories:

Best Musical – The Light in the Piazza, performed by the Jefferson Performing Arts Society, is nominated for a Best Musical Theater Award. The production was directed by UNO theatre alumnus Butch Caire. Kate Abreyo, a UNO music department alumna, acted in the production along with UNO alumni Scott Sauber and Peter Gabb. Diane Baas, UNO faculty and technical advisor and lighting director, served as the production's lighting designer.

Best Drama – A Streetcar Named Desire, which received 11 nominations, was co-produced by Southern Repertory Theatre and InSideOut, a theatre company comprised of UNO alumni.

Also up for Best Drama is Balm in Gilead, produced by NOLA Projects/Cripple Creek Theatre Company. Beau Bratcher, who received his MFA in Directing from UNO served as the show's assistant director. Cast members included: UNO MFA alumnus James Yeargain; UNO alumna Natalie Boyd; UNO undergraduate student Kristen Gremillion; UNO alumnus Jared Gore, who is now pursuing an MFA in playwriting at UNO and Eric Gremillion, who is pursuing a UNO Master of Fine Arts Degree in Film. UNO Alumna Andrea Watson served as stage manager aided by current UNO undergraduate student Kayln Hepting, who served as assistant stage manager.

Best Comedy – A Behanding in Spokane, directed by UNO alumna Ashley Ricord-Santos and produced by NOLA Project is nominated; UNO alumna Natalie Boyd acted in the show.

Also up for Best Comedy is The Divine Sister by Theatre 13/Magna Puella. UNO Distinguished Alumnus Gary Rucker directed, produced and performed in the comedy.

Best Director of a Musical – UNO theatre alumnus Butch Caire, who directed The Light in The Piazza for Jefferson Performing Arts Society, is nominated.

Best Director of a Drama – Three UNO theatre alumni are nominated: Beau Bratcher for The Gingham Dog, The Elm Theatre; Janet Shea for Diary of Anne Frank, New Orleans Contemporary Arts Centre and Jason Kirkpatrick for A Streetcar Named Desire, Southern Repertory Theatre.

Best Director of a Comedy – UNO alumna Ashley Ricord-Santos is nominated for her direction of A Behanding in Spokane, produced by NOLA Project.

Best Actor in a Musical – UNO alumnus Kasey Marino is nominated for his performance in Sunset Boulevard, part of Summer Lyric Theatre at Tulane University.

Best Supporting Actress in a Drama – Two UNO alumnae are nominated: Ashley Ricord-Santos and Tracey Collins, both of whom performed in A Streetcar Named Desire, by Southern Repertory Theatre. Becca Chapman, a current graduate student in the UNO arts administration program, is nominated for her performance in The Elm Theatre's The Gingham Dog.

Best Supporting Actor in a Drama – UNO MFA alumnus Mike Harkins is nominated for his performance in Southern Repertory Theatre's A Streetcar Named Desire.

Best Actress in a Drama – Vinnie Matthews, a UNO graduate student in English, is nominated for her performance in The Amen Corner by Anthony Bean Community Theater.

Best Actor in a Drama – UNO MFA alumnus James Yeargain is nominated for his performance in Balm and Gilead, produced by NOLA Project and Cripple Creek Theatre Company. UNO MFA Alumnus and former adjunct professor Michael Aaron Santos is nominated for his performance in Southern Repertory Theatre's A Streetcar Named Desire.

Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy – UNO alumna Natalie Boyd is nominated for her performance in A Behanding in Spokane, produced by the NOLA Project.

Best Actress in a Comedy – UNO alumna Caitlyn Cifford is nominated for her starring role in Becky Shaw, produced by Jonathan Mares Productions. Producer Jonathan Mares is a UNO alumnus.

Best Actress in a Comedy – UNO alumna Natalie Boyd is nominated for her performance in She Remembers, produced by the NOLA Project.

Best Original Work of Theater – Among the nominations is Urban Education Smackdown, produced by Irish Channel Productions and UNO alumnus Mike Harkins, who also served as the show's director and lead actor.

Best University production – Holy Ghost, produced by the University of New Orleans theatre company, Theatre UNO, is nominated. Fifteen UNO graduate and undergraduate students made up the magnificent cast: Caleigh Keith, P.J. McKinnie, Peter Gabb, James Vitale, Larry Johnson, Justin Bupp, Robert Facio, Sarah Chatelain, Jan Schluter, Kayln Hepting, Zach Rogers, Paxton H. McCaghren, Matthew Rigdon, Brittany Garlepied and Mason Joiner. David Hoover, chair of the UNO Film and Theatre Department, directed. Jenny L. Billot served as stage manager. Other key roles were filled by: Set Designer Kevin Griffith, Light Designer Diane Baas, Costume Designer Lindy Bruns, Sound Tech Timothy O'Neal, Assistant Stage Manager Kit Sternberger and Assistant Stage Manager Mark Griffin.

Best Lighting Design – UNO alumna Diane Baas is nominated for her lighting design in The Light in the Piazza, produced by Jefferson Performing Arts Society.

Best Set Design – UNO alumnus Kevin Griffith is nominated for his work on Bloody, Bloody, Andrew Jackson, produced by Harms Way Theatre.

"The number of alumni in A Streetcar Named Desire and Balm and Gilead...the heavy hitting productions that seem to have made a lot of waves...that shows that UNO produces quality work," Billot said. "They're an example of the best that we can produce. We graduate people who can make awesome productions."