CINCINNATI — The Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park walked away with wins in eight of the 20 categories in Cincinnati's annual theatre recognition program, the Cincinnati Entertainment Awards (CEA). Awards for the 2005-06 season were presented in a gala program on Aug. 25 at the University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music.
Six awards went to Playhouse's high-profile revival of Stephen Sondheim's Company, which is transferring to Broadway's Barrymore Theatre this November. The production, which opened in March, was staged by this year's Tony-winner for Best Direction of a Musical, John Doyle (for the revival of Sondheim's Sweeney Todd). Company not only earned a CEA for Outstanding Musical, but its cast, which provided its own musical accompaniment under Doyle's actor-musician concept, was cited in the Ensemble Acting Performance category. RaĂşl Esparza, who played the central role in Company — the distant, uncertain Bobby — won for Best Visiting Actor, and Barbara Walsh, as cynical, embittered Joanne, was cited as Best Visiting Actress. Company also earned two technical honors: costumes (Ann Hould-Ward) and lighting (Thomas C. Hase).
A production of Sarah Ruhl's The Clean House received two additional awards for the Playhouse — for Best Local Premiere and Outstanding Play. The production was directed by Michael Evan Haney, the Playhouse's associate artistic director. The Clean House will have its New York premiere this fall in a production at Lincoln Center Theater.
Also honored was D. Lynn Meyers, who has been Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati's producing artistic director since 1996 and has long focused on staging regional, national, and world premieres, working closely with playwrights such as Lee Blessing and Warren Leight. Meyers received the League of Cincinnati Theatres' annual Award for Continuing Excellence, and was introduced at the ceremony by Ed Stern, producing artistic director of the Cincinnati Playhouse, where Meyers rose to become associate artistic director between 1980 and 1990. Stern praised Meyers' artistic efforts and steadfast dedication to the sometimes troubled Over-the-Rhine neighborhood where ETC is located.
Local acting awards were split between the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company and Know Theatre of Cincinnati. CSC's Giles Davies earned the CEA for Leading Actor in a Play for his interpretation of the title role in Shakespeare's Richard III; he offered the play's opening monologue as part of the evening's showcased performances. Corinne Mohlenhoff was named Best Supporting Actress in a Play for her work as Stella Kowalski in CSC's spring staging of A Streetcar Named Desire. Know Theatre, an up-and-coming company, picked up Best Leading Actress in a Play recognition for Molly Binder as Ben Affleck in the comedy Matt & Ben, while Nick Rose, a CSC founder, was honored as Best Supporting Actor in a Play as Satan in Know Theatre's production of The Last Days of Judas Iscariot by Stephen Adly Guirgis.
(UN)Natural Disaster, a collaborative work devised by Richard Hess, University of Cincinnati drama chair, and 15 of his students for the 2006 Cincinnati Fringe Festival was recognized as the Best Alternative Production. Drawn from first-person accounts of natural disasters and staged throughout an abandoned building in an urban neighborhood, the play also received the first-ever CEA for Best Stage Movement/Choreography.
Performers from Cincinnati community theatres received awards for work in Urinetown (Showbiz Players) and 42nd Street (Cincinnati Music Theatre).
The evening also included a memorial to C. Dean Tabler, a pioneer in local black theatre who died last February. This year marked the 10th anniversary of the CEAs, which is produced by CityBeat, Cincinnati's alternative newsweekly.
For more information, visit www.citybeat.com/cea.