Planet Ant Theatre's original comedy "Antenna" was honored with three 2016 Wilde Awards, including a Best Performance nod to Lauren Bickers (center). Photo: Planet Ant Theatre

Wilde Awards Honor Best Productions, Performances of 2015-16 Professional Theater Season

It was another Wilde night at West Bloomfield's Berman Center for the Performing Arts, as Michigan's professional theater community came together for The 15th Annual Wilde Awards presented by http://EncoreMichigan.com. Established in 2002, The 2016 Wilde Awards honored the best productions, performances and technical accomplishments of the recently concluded 2015-16 season.

In all, 37 artists and 26 productions produced or presented by 20 professional theaters across the state earned an award. In an unusual feat, no single show, artist or production dominated the awards - a trend that is becoming more common with each passing year.

"Although it might look like we're trying to spread the number of awards across as many theaters and artists as possible, that's certainly never our intent," said co-founder of The Wilde Awards Donald V. Calamia. "But when you have more than a dozen critics spanning out across the state reviewing nearly 250 shows produced or presented by more than five dozen theaters like we did this past season, it becomes very tough for one artist, one show or one company to win multiple awards. And to me, that's a good thing, because it's a sign that great work is happening in theaters of every size, shape and budget - and they're being recognized for it."

This year's top theaters - Saugatuck's Mason Street Warehouse, Hamtramck's Planet Ant Theatre, and Ferndale's Ringwald Theatre - each earned four awards. The top production was Mason Street's "Cabaret," with four wins; Planet Ant's "Antenna" was next with three. And only Kurt Stamm, founding artistic director of Mason Street Warehouse, was the only artist to win multiple awards - with two.

"The wealth of talent on display at theaters all across the state is evident by these awards," said David Kiley, owner and publisher of EncoreMichigan.com. "Since taking over the company last year, I've been blown away by the work I've seen on our stages. And this year's results - with so many people being honored for their work - should prove to the world that Michigan can compete with the best of them when it comes to producing high quality theater."

The awards were determined by EncoreMichigan.com's team of professional critics who reviewed 241 productions produced or presented by 66 professional theater companies located in 36 communities across the state. The critics included Paula Bradley, Calamia, Tom Emmott, Carolyn Hayes-Harmer, Marin Heinritz, Tanya Gazdik Irwin, Kiley, Martin F. Kohn, Jenn McKee, Sue Merrell, Amy J. Parrent, Frank Anthony Polito, John Quinn and Bridgette M. Redman.

Thespians from theaters around the state attended the event that began at 6:30 p.m. with a social hour of cocktails and hors d'oeuvres; the awards presentation began at 8 p.m. Hosted by Calamia, the evening included performances of songs from shows nominated for Best Musical, and an original mini-production created by Brandy Joe Plambeck of The Ringwald Theatre.

"It's been a long-standing tradition to poke fun of ourselves at The Wilde Awards, and Brandy Joe's spoof of 'Romeo and Juliet' did just that. While the awards themselves we take seriously, we can't help but laugh at ourselves and our industry at an event such as this, since it's not often that the community comes together in a single spot to celebrate what ties us together," Calamia said. "And laughter IS the best medicine, after all!"

Other top productions include "Charlotte's Web" by Ann Arbor's Wild Swan Theater (Best Theater for Young Audiences; Best Performance - Theater for Young Audiences); "Mary Poppins" by Augusta's Barn Theatre (Best Performance, Supporting Actress - Musical; Best Design - Lights); "The Rivals" by Jackson's Michigan Shakespeare Festival (tie for Best Supporting Actress - Play; Best Design - Costumes); and "The Passenger" by Detroit's Michigan Opera Theatre (Best Opera; Best Performance - Opera).

Even the recently defunct Performance Network Theatre walked away with two awards for its spectacular production of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" (tied for Best Play; Best Performance, Lead Actor - Play). "Performance Network is the winner of more Wilde Awards than any other theater in our history, and they certainly left us on a high-note," said Kiley. "They'll truly be missed."

Special awards were presented to Rochester's Meadow Brook Theatre in honor of its 50th season; Hal Soper of Planet Ant Theatre; David Regal in honor of his retirement from the University of Detroit Mercy and the UDM Theatre Company; Tom and Kathy Vertin of The Snug and Riverbank Theatres (Marine City); Scott Myers of Little Man Public Relations; and recently retired George Cvetanovski of the 7 Brothers Bar, whose love for the Metro Detroit theater community will be missed.

Only shows that were produced or presented by Michigan's professional theaters and opera companies - both union and non-union - and reviewed by EncoreMichigan.com's theater critics during the 2015-16 season were eligible for a 2016 Wilde Awards nomination. Shows had to be performed for four consecutive days or more or over two weekends or more to be eligible for a review.

The 2016 Wilde Awards were sponsored by Comcast, Pride Source Media Group, Actors' Equity Association, The Berman Center for the Performing Arts, and Little Bill's Trophies.

WINNERS: The 2016 Wilde Awards

Best Musical

Cabaret, Kurt Stamm, director; Mason Street Warehouse

Best of The Bard

Henry IV, Janice L. Blixt, director; Michigan Shakespeare Festival

Best One-Person Show

From Broadway to Obscurity, Brian P. Sage, director; Detroit Public Theatre

Best Opera

The Passenger, Rob Kearley, director; Michigan Opera Theatre

Best Original Production or One-Act

Antenna, Mike McGettigan, director; Planet Ant Theatre

Best Play

A Streetcar Named Desire, Randy Wolfe, director; What A Do Theatre

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Suzi Regan, director; Performance Network Theatre

Best Theater for Young Audiences

Charlotte's Web, Lauren Mounsey, director; Wild Swan Theater

Best Touring Production

A Christmas Carol, Graham McLaren, director; University Musical Society

Best Performance - One-Person Show

Sebastian Gerstner, Chesapeake; Theatre Nova

Richard Payton, Buyer & Cellar; The Ringwald Theatre

Best Performance - Opera

Adrienn Miksch, The Passenger; Michigan Opera Theatre

Best Performance - Original Production or One-Act

Lauren Bickers, Antenna; Planet Ant Theatre

Best Performance - Rising Star

Maxim Vinogradov, BFs!; Slipstream Theatre Initiative

Best Performance - The Bard

David Montee, As You Like It; Interlochen Shakespeare Festival

Best Performance - Theater for Young Audiences

Sandy Ryder, Charlotte's Web; Wild Swan Theater

Best Performance, Lead Actor - Musical

Christopher Behmke, Cabaret; Mason Street Warehouse

Best Performance, Lead Actor - Play

Joe Bailey, The Whale; UDM Theatre Company and The Ringwald Theatre

John Seibert, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?; Performance Network Theatre

Best Performance, Lead Actress - Musical

Stacey Harris, Cabaret; Mason Street Warehouse

Best Performance, Lead Actress - Play

Jamie Warrow, A Streetcar Named Desire; The Ringwald Theatre

Best Performance, Supporting Actor - Musical

Vince Kelley, Heathers: The Musical; The Ringwald Theatre

Best Performance, Supporting Actor - Play

Dax Anderson, Orson's Shadow; Planet Ant Theatre

Best Performance, Supporting Actress - Musical

Shinnerrie Jackson, Ghost the Musical; Barn Theatre

Best Performance, Supporting Actress - Play

Wendy Katz Hiller, The Rivals; Michigan Shakespeare Festival

Allison Megroet, Precious Little; Matrix Theatre Company

Best Choreography

Kurt Stamm, Cabaret; Mason Street Warehouse

Best Design - Costumes

Laura Heikkinen, R.U.R.; Puzzle Piece Theatre

Melanie Schuessler, The Rivals; Michigan Shakespeare Festival

Best Design - Lights

Andrew Carson, Mary Poppins; Barn Theatre

Best Design - Props

Thomas Koehler, August: Osage County; What A Do Theatre

Best Design - Sets

Shy Iverson, Mary Poppins; Barn Theatre

Best Design - Sound or Video

Mike Eshaq, Antenna; Planet Ant Theatre

Tom Whalen and Noelle Stollmack, 2AZ; The Purple Rose Theatre Company

Best Music Direction

Tyler Driskill, Into the Woods; The Encore Musical Theatre

Best New Script

David Wells and R. Mackenzie Lewis, Irrational; Theatre Nova

SPECIAL AWARDS:

Critics' Choice Award:

Meadow Brook Theatre

50th Anniversary

Critic's Choice Award

George Cvetanovski

7 Brothers Bar

Founders Award for Excellence

Hal Soper

Planet Ant

Jim Posante Community Pride Award

Scott Myers

Council Cargle Award for Dedication to the Michigan Theatre Community

David Regal

Publisher's Award

Tom and Kathy Vertin

The Snug and Riverbank Theatres

About http://EncoreMichigan.com

http://EncoreMichigan.com is a web-based media company focused on Michigan's professional theater industry. It is the state's premier source for free, up-to-the-minute news and information about this often-ignored segment of the arts community. Designed as a one-stop shop for consumers, industry professionals and others with an interest in the performing arts, http://EncoreMichigan.com is updated daily and packed with informative interviews, insightful reviews, comprehensive show listings, thoughtful commentary, audition notices and much, much more.

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