PLT Marlowe Awards recognize rising stars

By Ryan Ottney

August 25, 2013

Ryan Scott Ottney

PDT Staff Writer

Portsmouth Little Theater last week hosted its annual Marlowe Awards Dinner during a Board of Governors meeting. Like the Tony Awards, the annual dinner recognizes actors and actresses from the previous season’s performances.

Board member Leigh Anne Smith said last season went very well.

“We’ve had several years of very, very good shows. Last season, every single show was quality. It started with ‘The Woman in Black’ which was with two people and the woman in black herself. It’s hard to make something actually chilling and scary without being campy and cheesy, and we did it and it was bone chilling. The biggest part of that was due to the credit of the actors, but also equally to Jason Chaney who was the technical director who handled all the light and sound. It was really amazing,” Smith said.

Following “The Woman in Black” last season was a children’s performance of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” with more than 60 players, and then “The Secret Garden” musical with more than 40 players.

Smith said the theater’s performance of “God of Carnage” was controversial for some members but she loved it. The show is billed as a black “comedy of manners… without the manners.” Simply, the play is about two sets of parents, one of whose child has hurt the other at a park, who meet to discuss the incident in a mature and civilized manner. As the evening goes on, the parents become increasingly childish and conversations dissolve into chaos.

The original Broadway production, starring Jeff Daniels (of HBO’s “The Newsroom”), Hope Davis (of the film “American Splendor”), the late James Gandolfini (of HBO’s “The Sopranos”) and Marcia Gay Hardin (of the film “Into the Wild”) won three Tony awards in 2009 for Best Actress (Hardin), Best Director (Matthew Warchus) and Best Play (Yasmina Reza) as well as the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Comedy (Yasmina Reza). In 2011, Roman Polanski directed the film adaptation, simply titled “Carnage.”

“I was very, very proud of the board for choosing it, and of course I thought we did a great job of it. It was one of those, when I read it I was in tears by Page 2. I had seen the movie with Jodie Foster and John C. Reilly, and I was actually amazed at how close the movie was to the script. It was hilarious,” she said.

On Thursday, Aug. 15, the theater had its annual Marlowe Awards Dinner and Board of Governors meeting at the Lofts at 800 Gallia Street, in Portsmouth. The awards are named after Julie Marlowe, a native-Portsmouth Shakespearean actress who died in 1950 at the age of 85.

Awards were given this year to Emily Cram (Best New Younger Actress, “A Charlie Brown Christmas”), Henry Feight (Best New Younger Actor, “A Charlie Brown Christmas”), Ivy Idzackovich (Best Younger Actress, “The Secret Garden”), Simon Davis (Best Younger Actor, “The Secret Garden”), Julie Ann Buckler (Best New Actress, “The Secret Garden”), Melanie Manchester (Best Supporting Actress, “The Secret Garden”), Eric Armstrong (Best Supporting Actor, “The Secret Garden”), Leigh Anne Smith (Best Lead Actress, “God of Carnage”), and Jason Chaney (Best Lead Actor, “The Secret Garden;” and Best Director, “Woman in Black”). The Secret Garden” won for Best Production, and Paul Mayberry and Chris Musick tied for the Best New Actor award for their performances in “The Secret Garden.”

“It meant a lot to me,” Smith said of winning Best New Actress. “This role was the best part I’ve had in a long time. Not to trivialize any of the shows that I’ve done, but it was hard. She’s horrible. The character I played was just a horrible person, so it was really fun.”

The 2013-14 Portsmouth Little Theater season begins in October with a performance of Alfred Hitchcock’s “The 39 Steps,” directed by Jim Hays.

“It’s not a typical Alfred Hitchcock. It’s a melodrama. Four actors play 250 different characters. It is fascinating, and it is a very tech-heavy show. There’s some crazy things that are going to happen on this stage, and I can guarantee Jason Chaney is going to make sure they do,” Smith said.

Auditions for cast and backstage crew for “The 39 Steps” will be Aug. 26-27 at 7 p.m. The show opens the season with its first performances Oct. 25-26 at 7:30 p.m., followed by shows Nov. 1-2 at 7:30 p.m.

Following is the theater’s Christmas performance, honoring the very first Portsmouth Little Theater director Barbara Robinson by performing her international best-selling Christmas story, “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.”

Robinson was born in Portsmouth and burst onto the scene in 1972 with her book, “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.” Now considered a classic, the story has been made into a perennially rebroadcast TV movie and a play. “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” was followed by “My Brother Louis Measures Worms: And Other Louis Stories” in 1988, then “The Best School Year Ever” in 1994, and “The Best Halloween Ever” in 2004.

“We chose ‘The Best Christmas Pageant Ever’ because Barbara Robinson directed the very first show at Portsmouth Little Theater 65 years ago,” Smith said. “We haven’t done the show for a long time, and it is a great show. It is a hilarious show.”

The Portsmouth Little Theater performance, directed by Melanie Manchester, and assisted by Aundrea Perkins, will be Dec. 6, 7, 13, and 14, at 7:30 p.m.; with one matinee Dec. 15 at 2 p.m. The theater had planned to invite Robinson to attend their performance, but Robinson passed away Tuesday, July 9. She was 85 years old and was living in Berwyn, Penn., at the time of her death.

In February, the theater will present a performance of the classic Rodgers & Hammerstein musical “South Pacific,” directed by Jason Chaney with Musical Direction by Linda Tieman. The theater will perform “South Pacific” Feb. 14, 15, 21 and 22 at 7:30 p.m., and Feb. 16 and 22 at 2 p.m.

The Portsmouth Little Theater then will wrap up its next season with the comedy “Art,” by last season’s “God of Carnage” playwright Yasmina Reza, and directed by directed by Michael Stapleton. In the story, three friends discuss the exorbitant purchase of a piece of art that seems to be a blank canvas. “Art” will be performed at the Portsmouth Little Theater June 6, 7, 13 and 14 at 7:30 p.m.

“I’m super excited about this season. I think it has something for everyone. There’s some classics and some cutting-edge — I mean, ‘Art’ is pushing the envelope a little bit. They’re all going to be fantastic. We couldn’t go wrong with any of them,” Smith said.

Season tickets will be available to season ticket members first, in September, and tickets for individual shows will be available to the general public before the performances. Audition dates for each show and season ticket information, as well as individual show tickets, will be available on the theatre’s website www.pltlive.com.

Ryan Scott Ottney may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 287, or rottney@civitasmedia.com. For breaking news, follow Ryan on Twitter @PDTwriter.