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2016 Annual Artie Awards Celebrates Buffalo’s Productive Theater Scene

For the 26th year, the Artie Awards (think Tony Awards for our local theatrical community) recognized the hard work, dedication, and talent that keep us entertained, with proceeds from the evening (along with collections from area theatres’ sale of Red Ribbons) going to an HIV/AIDS related charity, this year ECMC’s Immunodeficiency Services. The beautiful summer evening gave everyone a chance to look glamorous in front of the venue, 710 Main Theatre, as well as to snap photos in front of the “Buffalo Theatre District” sign on Main and Tupper.

There was also a red carpet inside with professional lighting and Artie Awards backdrop. Most of the men wore black (a tux or some variation on that), the women wore glam gowns, and while this year actor Eric Rawski did not wear his red sneakers, choreographer Michael Walline (lead photo standing with Victoria Perez) wore his gold ones.

Hosts Anthony Chase, Charmagne Chi, and Amy Jakiel kept things moving with assistance from Musical Director Allan Paglia, valiantly stepping in for the late, great Michael Hake. (One sour note: can we please get the piano tuned next year?)

The Artie Awards were started in 1991 by Anthony Chase, Theater Editor of Artvoice magazine, with support from founding publisher Jamie Moses.  This year the 14 member Artie Committee (Full Disclosure: including me) cast votes in 19 categories, from the evening’s first award – “Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Play” (this year Greg Gjurich for END OF THE RAINBOW) – to the last presentation – “Outstanding Production of a Play” (OF MICE AND MEN at the New Phoenix Theatre).

To be eligible for an Artie, an artist must live and work in the Buffalo, NY area, while a theater must produce work locally, primarily with local artists.

That said, the Catherine Cornell Award winners were for “out-of-town” actors Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal (LOVE LETTERS), Natasha Drena (END OF THE RAINBOW) and Gary-Kayi Fletcher (DETROIT ’67). Here’s a little insight: Mr. Fletcher, a national talent with matinee idol good looks and a voice to match was so pleased he updated his professional bio within hours to include his Artie Award. These things do matter.

Other memorable moments: Canadian actors from The Shaw Festival (currently in MRS. WARREN’S PROFESSION) Shawn Wright and Thom Marriott presented an award and were obviously impressed as they enjoyed looking over the theater which is where they will be this November when, in a five-year deal, Shaw will bring five plays to Buffalo.

Starting this November, in a five-year deal, Shaw will bring five plays to Buffalo.

Randall Kramer of Musicalfare picked up on the excitement and close ties that developed between the white and Latino cast members of IN THE HEIGHTS. And director Daniel Shanahan (THE SHIPMENT) noted that while race relations is the number one issue in America today, theater has the power to deal with that and move things forward.

In addition to the 19 “Outstanding” awards, the Career Achievement Award went to retiring president of Shea’s Performing Arts Center (which also manages the Smith Theatre as well as the 710 Main Theatre). It was noted that while across the country many venues are struggling to keep subscribers, Shea’s has tripled its subscriber list. And, in presenting the award, Neal Radice of the Alleyway Theatre (literally in the shadow of Shea’s) pointed out that while it’s true that “Shea’s is the 800 pound gorilla” of the theater district, Tony never pushed and was nothing but supportive of the entire community.

There were three names honored in memorial – Michael Hake, Luther Nelson, and Toni Smith Wilson.  But, after you mourn those who have passed, you look to the future, and The Blossom Cohan Debut Awards went to a variety of actors, both young and old, who were first timers on stages this past season.

As usual, there were five musical interludes, featuring the casts of the five nominees for Outstanding Production of a Musical (see below).

Here are the top five nominees with the winners of the 2016 Artie Awards (* and in bold):

Outstanding Production of a Play:

City of Conversation, Kavinoky Theatre

Daniel’s Husband, Buffalo United Artists

My Name is Asher Lev, Jewish Repertory Theatre of WNY

* Of Mice and Men, New Phoenix Theatre

The Shipment, Torn Space Theatre


Outstanding Production of a Musical:

* In the Heights, MusicalFare Theatre/Raices Theatre Company

Joe Hill’s Last Will, Subversive Theatre Collective

A Little Night Music, Irish Classical Theatre Company

Ring of Fire, MusicalFare Theatre

The Wild Party, Second Generation Theatre


Outstanding Direction of a Play:

Kelli Bocock-Natale, Of Mice and Men

Joyce Stilson, Quickies ’16

* Daniel Shanahan, The Shipment

Steve Vaughan, Twelfth Night

Drew McCabe, House of Blue Leaves


Outstanding Direction of a Musical:

* Chris Kelly, A Little Night Music

Randall Kramer, In the Heights

Victoria Perez, Ordinary Days

Neal Radice, Granny Bird

Michael Walline, Ring of Fire


Outstanding Choreography:

Robin Barker, Stompin’ at the Savoy

Bobby Cooke, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

Dominic Giambra, Carrie

Jon Lehrer, The Yeats Project

* Michael Walline, In the Heights


Outstanding Ensemble of a Play:

Appropriate, Road Less Traveled

El Hajj Malik, Ujima Theatre Company

House of Blue Leaves, American Repertory Theatre

King O’ the Moon, Kavinoky Theatre

* Quickies ’16, Alleyway Theatre


Outstanding Ensemble of a Musical:

Granny Bird, Alleyway Theatre

Ordinary Days, O’Connell & Company

* Ring of Fire, MusicalFare Theatre

Sisters of Swing, MusicalFare Theatre

Stompin’ at the Savoy, Paul Robeson Theatre


Outstanding Actor in a Play:

Richard Lambert, Harvey

Brian Mysliwy, Fully Committed

Greg Natale, Of Mice and Men

Eric Rawski, Daniel’s Husband

* Larry Rowswell, Mark of Cain


Outstanding Actress in a Play:

Diane DiBernardo Blenk, House of Blue Leaves

Kristen Tripp Kelley, City of Conversation

* Kate LoConti, Outside Mullingar

Kathleen Macari, Wait Until Dark

Bonnie Jean Taylor, Nora


Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Play:

Raymond Boucher, Compulsion or the House Behind

* Gregory Gjurich, End of the Rainbow

Shabar Rouse, Detroit ’67

Adam Yellen, Twelfth Night

Tom Zindle, My Name is Asher Lev


Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Play:

Annette Christian, Detroit ’67

Lisa Ludwig, Judgment at Nuremberg

Aleks Malejs, City of Conversation

* Anne Hartley Pfohl, Daniel’s Husband

Danica Riddick, Farragut North


Outstanding Actor in a Musical:

Jacob Albarella, The True Story of the Three Little Pigs

* Ricky Marchese, In the Heights

John Profeta, Joe Hill’s Last Will

PJ Tighe, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

Matt Witten, A Little Night Music


Actress in a Musical:

Kelly Copps, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

Arianne Davidow, The Wild Party

Elena Victoria Feliz, In the Heights

Jennel Pruneda, Ordinary Days

* Jenn Stafford, A Little Night Music


Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Musical:

Anthony Alcocer, A Little Night Music

* Kevin Craig, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

Alejandro Gomez, In the Heights

Rolando Gomez, In the Heights

Zak Ward, Ring of Fire


Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Musical:

Nicole Cimato, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

Katie Clark, Ring of Fire

Pamela Rose Mangus, A Little Night Music

Victoria Perez, In the Heights

* Melinda Capeles Rowe, Stompin’ at the Savoy


Outstanding Set Design:

* Paul Bostaph, Of Mice and Men

Dyan Burlingame, Speed of Light

David King, Both Your Houses

Chris Schenk, In the Heights

Kristina Siegel, The Shipment


Outstanding Lighting Design:

Brian Cavanagh, Both Your Houses

* Brian Cavanagh, The Yeats Project

Chris Cavanagh, Judgment at Nuremberg

John Rickus, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Patty Rihn, Nora


Outstanding Costume Design:

Kelly Copps, The Wild Party

Kari Drozd, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

Lise Christine Harty, A Little Night Music

* Benjamin Streeter, City of Conversation

Jessica Wegrzyn, The Yeats Project


Emanuel Fried Award for Outstanding New Play:

Donna Hoke, Safe

Bella Poynton, Speed of Light

Neal Radice, Granny Bird

* Gary Earl Ross, Mark of Cain

Todd Warfield, Load More Guys

Lead image: Victoria Perez and Michael Walline – 2016 Artie for Best Choreography

Written by Peter Hall

Peter Hall

Peter Hall continues trying to figure out how "it" all works. For 20 years, as program host on Classical 94.5 WNED and continuing on-stage with the Buffalo Chamber Music Society, he's conducted over 1,000 interviews with artists as he asks them to explain, in layman's terms, "what's the big picture here?"

As mentioned recently in Buffalo Spree magazine, Peter's "Buffalo Rising reviews are the no-holds barred 'everyman's' take." And, on “Theater Talk” (heard Friday mornings at 6:45 and 8:45 a.m. on WBFO 88.7 FM and Saturday afternoons at 5:55 p.m. on Classical 94.5 WNED) his favorite question of co-host Anthony Chase is simply "What's goin' on?"

A member of Buffalo's Artie Awards Committee, Peter holds a B.A. in Comparative Literature from Columbia University and an M.B.A. from SUNY at Buffalo. For over twenty-five years he has been an adjunct professor for Canisius College’s Richard J. Wehle School of Business.

View All Articles by Peter Hall
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