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'Balm in Gilead' and 'Drowsy Chaperone' Win Top Innovative Theatre Awards

'Balm in Gilead' and 'Drowsy Chaperone' Win Top Innovative Theatre Awards
Photo Source: Suzy Evans
The Gallery Players' "The Drowsy Chaperone" and T. Schreiber Studio's "Balm in Gilead" took home the top prizes—for outstanding production of a musical and outstanding production of a play, respectively—on Monday night at the 2011 New York Innovative Theatre Awards, which honor Off-Off-Broadway theater.

"They say Off-Off-Broadway is a labor of love, and my God, feel the love in this room," said lead actress winner Kirsten Vaughan in her acceptance speech. Vaughan won for her work in Retro Productions' "Benefactors."

The audience erupted in rapturous applause with the announcement of every winner, carrying the evening to a long three hours at Cooper Union's Great Hall. Comedian Harrison Greenbaum hosted the ceremony.

"I'm a theater guy, so I've never had cheerleaders before," Greenbaum joked after an opening sketch by the Passion Crest Violators Fictional Cheerleading Squad. "I think theater might be the closest we get to real magic."

There was magic in the room, as winners delivered heartfelt speeches and almost everyone received a standing ovation. "The Drowsy Chaperone" was the big winner of the night, also taking home the awards for outstanding ensemble, choreography, and costume design.

Nick Paglino and Deanna McGovern won the awards for lead actor and featured actress for their work in Godlight Theater Company's "An Impending Rupture of the Belly." New York newcomer David Darrow won featured actor for Project Y Theatre's "The Revival," a play he was cast in two months after moving to the city. "Wow, this is cool," he said with honest shock in his voice.

Nat Cassidy, who previously won for best full-length script in 2009, won for outstanding solo performance for "Things at the Doorstep: An Evening of Horror Based on the Works of H.P. Lovecraft."

Well-known artists, many of them with roots in Off-Off-Broadway, presented several awards. Playwright David Henry Hwang gave the award for outstanding original short script to Isaac Oliver for "Come Here," produced by F*It Club, and the award for original full-length script to Jonathan Blitstein for "Keep Your Baggage With You (at all times)," produced by Artists Empire.

Celebrated lyricist Richard Maltby Jr. presented the award for original music to Cormac Bluestone for Pipeline Theatre Company's production of "The Caucasian Chalk Circle." Mark Valdez won the same award for the same play, produced by Performance Lab 115, in 2010. "I love Off-Off-Broadway!" Bluestein exclaimed with his win.

Actor John Glover, a surprise guest, presented the lead actor trophies, and actor Jay O. Sanders presented the featured actor trophies. "I believe in New York theater," Sanders said. "It's why I choose to live in New York. I just think it's exciting as hell to be here."

Susan Stroman presented the award for best director to Leslie Kincaid Burby for "The Navigator," produced by the WorkShop Theater Company, and Jeanine Tesori presented the award for outstanding production of a musical.

"Thank you for the applause," Tesori graciously said after an extended welcome, joking that she recommended applause after a long day of working and parenting.

The ceremony also featured four special awards, including an honor for outstanding stage manager, presented to Laura Schlachtmeyer. The IT Awards is the only organization to give an award for stage management, according to executive director Jason Bowcutt. Horse Trade Theater Group received the Ellen Stewart Award, Robert Patrick received the Artistic Achievement Award, and Flux Theatre Ensemble received the Caffe Cino Fellowship Award.

A new award was announced for next year. Starting in 2012, the IT Awards will present the Doric Wilson Emerging Playwright Award, in honor of the renowned Off-Off-Broadway playwright, who died in May.

As the evening wore on, the host made sure the attendees weren't too worried about missing that night's TV shows. "I'm missing the roast of Charlie Sheen!" Greenbaum mocked, as an audience member shouted "Winning!" "I don't want to spoil it for you, but he's a douche."

Finally, celebrated playwright and screenwriter John Patrick Shanley presented the award for best production of a play. After poking fun at his own beginnings in Off-Off-Broadway and calling the audience "failure-loving lunatics," he revealed why the work is important.

"I love the theater," Shanley said. "Why? Because I'm crazy."

Watch the NYIT Award winners share advice on working Off-Off-Broadway:



The complete list of nominees and winners is below. (The winners are in bold.)

2011 Special Awards
Artistic Achievement Award: Robert Patrick
Ellen Stewart Award: Horse Trade Theater Group
Caffé Cino Fellowship Award: Flux Theatre Ensemble
Outstanding Stage Manager: Laura Schlachtmeyer

Outstanding Ensemble
Whitney Branan, Jennifer DiDonato, Tauren Hagans, Robert Anthony Jones, Edward Juvier, Lorinne Lampert, Aaron J. Libby, Jake Mendes, Trey Mitchell, Jan-Peter Pedross, Colin Pritchard, Megan Rosenblatt, Chloe Sabin, Dawn Trautman, Craig Treubert, Tyler Wallach, Eric Weaver, "The Drowsy Chaperone," The Gallery Players

Tonya Canada, Megan Hill, Polly Lee, Michael Levinton, Hugh Sinclair, Laura von Holt, Donya K. Washington, Stephanie Weeks, Merlin Whitehawk, "(oh my god I am so) THIRST(y)," Little Lord (a theater company)

Seth Allen, Ian Bell, Esteban Benito, Jill Bianchini, Dennis Brito, Tommy Buck, Lowell Byers, Ian Campbell Dunn, Belle Caplis, Amanda Catrini, Lawrence Crimlis, Lily DePaula, Warren Douglas, Jordan Feltner, Stephanie Iscovitz, Brad Martocello, Mariel Matero, Jevon McFerrin, Erica Lauren McLaughlin, Alona Metcalf, Sebastian Montoya, Michael Murray, Jason Pumarada, Orlando J. Rivera, Olivia Roric, Stephanie Seward, Lisa Sobin, Eric Spear, Christine Vega, Stewart Villilo, Jonathan Wilde, Richard Zekaria, "Balm in Gilead," T. Schreiber Studio

Heather E. Cunningham, David Ian Lee, Matthew Semler, Kristen Vaughan, "Benefactors," Retro Productions

Richard Ginocchio, Jenny Lee Mitchell, Matt Muszynski, Aldo Perez, Jonathon Roberts, Matthew Talmage, "Radio Purgatory," Theater THE

Marc Bovino, Joe Curnutte, Michael Dalto, Henry Vick, Stephanie Wright Thompson, "The Tremendous Tremendous," The Mad Ones

Fred Backus, Hope Cartelli, Stephen Heskett, Kent Meister, Josh Mertz, Robert Pinnock, Shelley Ray, "Theater of the Arcade: Five Classic Video Games Adapted for the Stage," Piper McKenzie & the Fifth Wall in association with the Brick Theater

Outstanding Solo Performance
Nat Cassidy, "Things at the Doorstep: An Evening of Horror Based on the Works of H.P. Lovecraft," Manhattan Theatre Source, Greg Oliver Bodine, and Nat Cassidy
Andrea Caban, "Questions My Mother Can't Answer," Coyote Rep and soloNOVA Arts Festival in association with Jack Sharkey
Elaine Del Valle, "Brownsville Bred," Del Valle Productions
Monica Hunken, "Blondie of Arabia," Monica Hunken and Co.
Darrell James, "St. Nicholas," Theatre of the Expendable
Grant Neale, "Polanski, Polanski," Nomad Theatrical and soloNOVA Arts Festival

Outstanding Actor in a Featured Role
David Darrow, "The Revival," Project Y Theatre Company
Daniel Abeles, "Keep Your Baggage With You (at all times)," Artists Empire
Gregory Konow, "An Impending Rupture of the Belly," Godlight Theatre Company
Jeff Pagliano, "Fracturing," Sweeter Theater Productions
Colin Pritchard, "The Drowsy Chaperone," The Gallery Players
Brent Vimtrup, "Sight Unseen," InProximity Theatre Company

Outstanding Actress in a Featured Role
Deanna McGovern, "An Impending Rupture of the Belly," Godlight Theatre Company
Becky Byers, "Dog Act," Flux Theatre Ensemble
Elizabeth Neptune, "Weekend at an English Country Estate," Ateh Theater Group
Lauren Roth, "Billy Carver and the Children in Mind," OPTimistiks
Nicole Taylor, "The Navigator," WorkShop Theater Company
Laura von Holt, "(oh my god I am so) THIRST(y)," Little Lord (a theater company)

Outstanding Actor in a Lead Role
Nick Paglino, "An Impending Rupture of the Belly," Godlight Theatre Company
D.J. Canaday, "A Christmas Carol," Literally Alive
Trent Dawson, "The Revival," Project Y Theatre Company
Kevin Kane, "Someone Who'll Watch Over Me," The Collective NY
Jeff Paul, "Interchange," WorkShop Theater Company
Craig E. Treubert, "The Drowsy Chaperone," The Gallery Players

Outstanding Actress in a Lead Role
Kristen Vaughan, "Benefactors," Retro Productions
Virginia Bartholomew, "Macbeth," Redd Tale Theatre Company
Jill Bianchini, "Balm in Gilead," T. Schreiber Studio
Kelly Anne Burns, "The Navigator," WorkShop Theater Company
Belle Caplis, "Balm in Gilead," T. Schreiber Studio
Heather E. Cunningham, "Benefactors," Retro Productions
Daphne Gaines, "The Walk Across America for Mother Earth," Talking Band in association with La MaMa Experimental Theater Club

Outstanding Director
Leslie Kincaid Burby, "The Navigator," WorkShop Theater Company
Gyda Arber, "Theater of the Arcade: Five Classic Video Games Adapted for the Stage," Piper McKenzie & the Fifth Wall in association with the Brick Theater
Michole Biancosino, "The Revival," Project Y Theatre Company
Hans Friedrichs, "The Drowsy Chaperone," The Gallery Players
Robert Z. Grant, "Someone Who'll Watch Over Me," The Collective NY
Rachel Klein, "Circus of Circus," The House of Yes
Paul Zimet, "The Walk Across America for Mother Earth," Talking Band in association with La MaMa Experimental Theater Club

Outstanding Choreography/Movement
Christine O'Grady, "The Drowsy Chaperone," The Gallery Players
Karina Casiano and Daniel Irizarry, "The Orphans," La MaMa Experimental Theater Club presents La Criatura Theater
Angela L. Harriell, Rachel Klein, and Ashley Morgan Monroe, "Circus of Circus," The House of Yes
Aaron Haskell, "Wake Up, You're Dead," La MaMa Experimental Theater Club
Austin McCormick, "Nutcracker Rouge," Company XIV
Elisabetta Spuria, "disOriented," Theatre Co

Outstanding Lighting Design
Duane Pagano, "The Navigator," WorkShop Theater Company
Joie Bauer, "Brownsville Bred," Del Valle Productions
Alex Fabozzi, "Someone Who'll Watch Over Me," The Collective NY
Ben Hagen, "The Revival," Project Y Theatre Company
Ryan Metzler, "St. Nicholas," Theatre of the Expendable
Stan Pressner, "Pass the Blutwurst, Bitte," La MaMa Experimental Theater Club
Eric Southern, "The Caucasian Chalk Circle," Pipeline Theatre Company

Outstanding Costume Design
Ryan J. Moller, "The Drowsy Chaperone," The Gallery Players
Krista Amigone, "Someone Who'll Watch Over Me," The Collective NY
Kae Burke, "Circus of Circus," The House of Yes
Hwi-won Lee, "The Country Wife," Odyssey Productions
Machine Dazzle, "The Walk Across America for Mother Earth," Talking Band in association with La MaMa Experimental Theater Club
Zane Pihlstrom, "Nutcracker Rouge," Company XIV
Anne Wingate, "Balm in Gilead," T. Schreiber Studio

Outstanding Set Design
Kevin Judge, "The Revival," Project Y Theatre Company
Matt Brogan, "Balm in Gilead," T. Schreiber Studio
Duane Pagano, "The Navigator," WorkShop Theater Company
Jason Paradine, "Dog Act," Flux Theatre Ensemble
Jeff Stander, "Dear Ruth," Retro Productions
Hal Tine, "The Changing Room," T. Schreiber Studio

Outstanding Sound Design
Aldo Perez, "Radio Purgatory," Theater THE
Tim Boyce, The Spring Fling, F*It Club
Quentin Chiappetta, "The Navigator," WorkShop Theater Company
Andy Cohen, "Balm in Gilead," T. Schreiber Studio
M.L. Dogg, "The Land Whale Murders," Shelby Company
Christopher Loar, "(un)afraid," New York Neo-Futurists
Amit Prakash, "The Revival," Project Y Theatre Company

Outstanding Innovative Design
Kae Burke, aerial and circus rigging design, "Circus of Circus," The House of Yes
Matt Acheson and Tom Lee, puppet design, "The Secret History of the Swedish Cottage," Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre
Volodymyr Klyuzko and Mikhail Shraga, projection design, "Raven," La MaMa Experimental Theater Club
Alex Koch, video and projection design, "Feeder: A Love Story," terraNOVA Collective
Hugh Morris, art installation, "Michael & Edie," The Greenpoint Division
Tatsushi Tahara, film and cinema design, "Radio Purgatory," Theater THE

Outstanding Original Music
Cormac Bluestone, "The Caucasian Chalk Circle," Pipeline Theatre Company
Chris Chappell and Frank Padellaro, "Theater of the Arcade: Five Classic Video Games Adapted for the Stage," Piper McKenzie & the Fifth Wall in association with the Brick Theater
Live Footage, "Displaced Wedding," New Worlds Theatre Project
George MacDonald, "The Country Wife," Odyssey Productions
Aldo Perez, "Radio Purgatory," Theater THE
Colonna Sonora, "Woyzeck," Toy Box Theatre Company

Outstanding Original Short Script
Isaac Oliver, "Come Here," The Spring Fling, F*It Club
Vincent Marano, "My Baby," Ingenius Short Play Festival, Manhattan Theatre Source
Clay McLeod Chapman, "Diary Debris," "The Pumpkin Pie Show: Amber Alert," Horse Trade Theater Group
Clay McLeod Chapman, "Sixteen Again," "The Pumpkin Pie Show: Amber Alert," Horse Trade Theater Group
Aaron Wigdor Levy, "Monroe, Illinois: Over Here/Townie," On the Square Productions
Anna Ziegler, "If," The Spring Fling, F*It Club

Outstanding Original Full-Length Script
Jonathan Blitstein, "Keep Your Baggage With You (at all times)," Artists Empire
Eddie Antar, "The Navigator," WorkShop Theater Company
Jeff Lewonczyk, "Theater of the Arcade: Five Classic Video Games Adapted for the Stage," Piper McKenzie & the Fifth Wall in association with the Brick Theater
Sara Montgomery, "Weekend at an English Country Estate," Ateh Theater Group
Matt Pelfrey, "An Impending Rupture of the Belly," Godlight Theatre Company
Matt Wilson, "Play America (Life Is Short, Wear Your Party Pants)," Sister Sylvester

Outstanding Performance Art Production
"Locker #4173b," New York Neo-Futurists
"(un)afraid," New York Neo-Futurists
"Hold Music," PegLeg Productions/Culture Project's Women Center Stage 2011
"Radio Purgatory," Theater THE
"The Bitter Poet: Looking for Love in All the Wrong Black Box Performance Spaces," The Bitter Poet
"Wake Up, You're Dead," La MaMa Experimental Theater Club
"Woman of Leisure and Panic," soloNOVA Arts Festival

Outstanding Production of a Musical
"The Drowsy Chaperone," The Gallery Players
"(oh my god I am so) THIRST(y)," Little Lord (a theater company)
"A Christmas Carol," Literally Alive
"Reefer Madness: The Musical," The Gallery Players
"The Human Comedy," Astoria Performing Arts Center
"The Walk Across America for Mother Earth," Talking Band in association with La MaMa Experimental Theater Club

Outstanding Production of a Play
"Balm in Gilead," T. Schreiber Studio
"Benefactors," Retro Productions
"Circus of Circus," The House of Yes
"St. Nicholas," Theatre of the Expendable
"The Navigator," WorkShop Theater Company
"The Revival," Project Y Theatre Company

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