PRISCILLA's Jessica Hanna Making Outsized Theatre Magic Within Intimate L.A. Parameters

The Celebration Theatre will be presenting the Los Angeles intimate theatre premiere of PRISCILLA QUEEN OF THE DESERT - THE MUSICAL as their second show of their 2017-2018 season, beginning February 10, 2018. We had the opportunity to chat with a die-hard, creative contributor to the Los Angeles Theatre community, Jessica Hanna, who just happens to be directing this huge extravaganza in the tiny, but always efficient Lex Theatre.

Thank you for taking the time for this interview, Jessica!

You have worked with a number of Los Angeles theatres, especially Bootleg Theatre which you co-founded. What magnetic forces drew you to The Celebration and PRISCILLA QUEEN OF THE DESERT - THE MUSICAL?

I've been a fan of Celebration Theatre for some time, but hadn't had the chance to work with them. So when Michael Shepperd asked me to direct PRISCILLA... well, it's PRISCILLA QUEEN OF THE DESERT - THE MUSICAL at Celebration Theatre, how would that not be a fantastic project? I was honored they brought me on and I'm having a fantastic time making it. PRISCILLA is about transformation. All of the characters, even the bus, go through some sort of transformation on the outside and in. We are living in a time of transformation, which isn't easy, but it can be glorious. And in this case, sparkly. The stage version is lavish with a very large cast and, well, the titular character is a bus, so the puzzle of how to make this epic journey story in an intimate theater also excited me. Working within parameters seems to be something I thrive on. We have to find ways to tell the story that work on the scale of the space without losing the surprise and delight built in to the show. We have a great team of collaborators in the room and I'm very excited about what we've found so far and can't wait to see what we have on February 16.

I scored an early screener of the 1994 film, and I must have watched it with friends at least twenty times within the first three months I had it. Were you first familiar with the film? Or the stage musical that began in 2006?

I never saw the stage version, but the movie was striking when it came out. The images and story were fierce and groundbreaking. It helped to create change in Western culture's perception and feelings about gender. Plus, it had amazing costumes, super fun music, and at the time, was a window into another country and culture that I didn't know much about and found totally exciting.

As a multi-creative, did you want to just sink your teeth into PRISCILLA then? Which creative aspect of PRISCILLA did you want to tackle? Or did you simply enjoy it as a 'civilian'?

Well, when I saw it, I was a just a child (ahem). So it never occurred to me that it would be something I could work on. When I heard it was a musical, all I could think was, it has to be a giant show because it has to have a bus in it, right? How do they do that? A lot of the theater work I've made or been part of making, has a flare or spectacle aspect involved. So the challenge of making a giant show in an intimate setting means figuring out how theater magic can create spectacle in a small space. My theater tastes run the gamut from simple and small to giant costume shows. This one lands more on the giant costume side. Yet, at its heart is a simple story of being true to yourself, facing your fears, and finding support and acceptance with friends and family.

The movie is iconic for many artistic reasons, but also, because it was groundbreaking. We wouldn't have RuPaul's Drag Race today without it. PRISCILLA is set in the 90s and we are working hard to pay homage, but not make it a copy or a dated period piece. We're reflecting where we are now within a period piece. For instance, the three Queens (Tick, Bernadette and Adam) all represent different eras of drag to me. Bernadette is the earlier Les Girls style - more in the style of burlesque. Tick is the late 70s/80s avant-garde drag of early RuPaul, and Adam is closer to us now as gender becomes more fluid. I think, or I hope, by following these ideas, we'll end up with a very relevant show that reminds us where we came from and encourages us to keep progressing forward.

Any particular moments really register with/touched you?

Tick's relationship with his son or his finding a relationship with his son always moved me. Remember this was 27 years ago, so the idea that a gay drag queen would or could be married and have a child was still very taboo. To watch Tick fear that his son would reject him, and then see that who he is, is exactly who his son wants and needs, was deeply moving. And, of course, watching Bernadette kick ass against bigots was fantastic to watch. Still is.

The movie itself was such a convergence of magical talents - songs, costumes, performances, sweeping fabric atop a giant high heel atop a pink bus, ping pong balls. What can the Celebration Theatre audiences expect to see in their tiny, but so-efficiently-used space?

They're going to get all that and, oh, so much more. The space is going to be packed with joy. And sparkles. And heart. I hope that audiences will be jumping in their seats, overcome with the creativity on the stage, fighting the urge to sing along, and in the next moment find themselves moved by the beautiful relationships and the friendship and acceptance the Queens find. Celebration always makes the most of their space and this show will carry on that tradition. We have a spectacular team of theater magic makers and they are employing all their tools. I hope that there will be a lot of surprise at what we have created.

Aside from the aforementioned tiny space of the Celebration, what challenges did you have to deal with and overcome in mounting PRISCILLA there?

Working within parameters causes creative choices that would never have been thought of if the space were giant and the budget unlimited. We must be creative in order to figure out how to tell the story the way we want within the parameters. There have been challenges in figuring out how to scale the cast size down to something workable for the space. How to then schedule rehearsals with a large cast of working actors is also a bit of a dance, always is. I love ensemble theater work and I strive to make space for the ensemble to find each other, which is difficult when you have a very limited rehearsal time and a LOT of material to learn quickly. But we were able to take a little time to do some ensemble work that really helped the group gel and grew their excitement about working with each other. And when working in a small space, cultivating excitement and awareness of each other makes a huge difference in focus that permeates the stage and effects the audience in beautiful ways.

Have you worked with any of this cast and crew before?

I've worked with a few of these artists, but most are new to me, which I love. I'm always excited to meet talented strangers! Los Angeles is teeming with amazing artists. I feel privileged to have opportunities to get to know and work with more of them.

I've never directed Tad Coughenour (Bernadette), but he has been in a couple shows I've produced. And I've been a fan of Gina Torrecilla (Marion) and her work at Celebration, so that's been a treat to work with her. Becca Kessin sound designed a show I produced at Bootleg years ago, but we hadn't found another project to work on until this. And Brandon Baruch, the lighting designer, and I have a long and fructiferous history of collaboration and we're having a ball on this one.

You have contributed to the theatre community using many of your various talents. Which gives you the most satisfaction - hearing the audience direct responses to your own performance onstage? Or sitting in the back of the house listening to the audience respond to the combination extension of your talents?

Sitting at the back of the house - or if a space has a vom, I love to watch & listen from a vom.

Wait, Jessica! Sorry to interrupt your train of thought, but what's a 'vom'?

The 'vom' is an entrance or aisle into a theater - comes from Ancient Rome, I think, when that aisle or hall out of the theater led to the vomitorium. You can stand in the vom and not be seen by the audience.

My new word of the week - 'vom.' Can't wait to use it. "I was standing in the vom on my way to the vomitorium and..." I digress, back to you, Lovely Lady.

I actually have a hard time sitting in an audience during a show I've directed. The energy I get from bearing witness to an audience's reactions to my collaborators performances and ideas is moving. Literally. I love hearing/feeling an audience say, "Yes!" and take the ride with the company. That's the exciting part when I'm onstage or off. Nothing like an audience saying, "Yes! I'm in. What happens next?!"

Since co-founding Bootleg Theatre in 2006, what growth have you noticed in the Los Angeles theatre scene?

You got another few pages of space? The growth has been astounding really. In the artists and the levels and variations of storytelling. L.A. is vast, and there is space for all different kinds of theater artists and their interests. And, one could argue, more importantly the audiences have grown. There is an interest in live performance in the city that feels different. Maybe it's because of the times we live in, and the technology that isolates us; but more and more I see ALL kinds of people out seeing art. Wanting to have a group experience that illuminates their humanity. Audiences all walks of life with different interests. Angelenos are craving experience. We are adventurous by nature, that's how many of us ended up here in the first place. We followed our interest, our dreams. Dared ourselves. And you can see it in the cultural landscape of the town. So much new work being incubated. Retelling of old stories in fantastic ways. Artists seem to feel a safety here to express, to attempt their wildest dreams. We encourage each other to reach because that's why we're here too. I'm gonna really start waxing poetic here soon. I can talk about theater and art for hours. It's my favorite subject.

One more thing on this topic, there has been an energizing in the L.A. theater community in the last few years, as many of us were forced to more clearly define what our theater scene has been, what it is and what we want it to become. It is a difficult and sometimes infuriating process, but it has caused conversation, collaboration and creative solutions. And I hear more pride in what we create and how we create it than ever before. It's an exciting time to be an artist anywhere, but especially in Los Angeles.

As one who's been in and around the Los Angeles theatre community, what do you see as its status in the next five years?

I think it will continue to grow. The theater that's made here will be exported more with tours of L.A.- based productions and scripts developed here in L.A. being picked up by regional theaters. Busting the myth that L.A. isn't a theater town. New plays will continue to be developed here, as I don't see the small screen giving up on all the amazing playwrights they're hiring lately. And those playwrights are based here and want to make plays. And the plays they are writing and will write will reflect the diversity of L.A., and make them more accessible in more places outside of L.A. National New Play Network rolling premieres will become more prevalent. What's really going to be key, I think, to the continued growth of the L.A. theater community is support, not just financial (though that's always welcome), from the city and state. I would love to see the city put more effort into promoting the theater and live performance scene as an asset, a glorious facet of an exciting city. Finding ways to get more young people interested in theater and art early. Helping artists make spaces that encourage collaboration and conversation that will energize all Angelenos.

Next ten years?

Ten years from now, L.A. will all be gearing up for the Arts Festival that I hope will be happening in tandem with the Olympics that summer. The city will find exciting ways to highlight and celebrate local artists, as well as, bring in some international artists, hopefully from Latin and South America. And by that time, I hope we have at least two new midsize theaters that will be supporting the growth of shows year-round by local artists. The larger houses will be casting and hiring a majority of local artists. Work will highlight diversity and give voice to those without equality more and more, because that's what audiences want to see. And since we're dreaming about the future, the city will have at least ten well-appointed spaces around town that they rent for theater and live performance for $1 a year.

What do you see for Jessica Hanna in the next five, next ten years?

Lots and lots of theater making. Continuing to allow my interest to dictate what I work on. I have a couple stories I'd like to tell in the television format as well. I will be touring theater pieces that I've directed, outside of L.A. and outside of the country. Being hired to direct outside of L.A. Working with artists all over the world, yet always being based in L.A., 'cause I mean, the weather's pretty damn amazing. And as stated above, I love this L.A. scene. I will have created an incubator space for artists of all mediums to collaborate, develop and present their work - including my own. And I will be a part of whatever arts component is happening with the Olympics. Working to highlight local artists and raising the profile of Los Angeles theater.

Thank you again, Jessica! I do so look forward to reliving my Australian road trip on the pink bus through your eyes!

You're so welcome, Gil!

To check ticket availability for Celebration Theatre's PRISCILLA QUEEN OF THE DESERT - THE MUSICAL running through March 25, 2018; log onto CelebrationTheatre.com


THIS IS NOT EMMA STONE'S "BOULDER CITY"

Jimmy Fowlie as Mia Dolan at the Celebration Theatre

SO LONG BOULDER CITY by Jimmy Fowlie and Jordan Black, performed by Mr Fowlie and directed by Mr Black

The title of this meta-comedy will be immediately recognizable to any avid fan of Damien Chazelle's film LA LA LAND.  In the film, Mia Dolan, an aspiring actress played by Emma Stone (who won an Academy Award for her performance), writes herself a one-woman show called "So Long Boulder City" in a desperate attempt to boost her faltering career.  Only 9 people show up - none of whom is her boyfriend Sebastian, played by Ryan Gosling.  However, her ploy works out better than she ever expected, since one of the attendees is a high-powered casting agent.

All of this is such far-fetched nonsense - as I wrote about in one of my first columns for this website - that it seems to be crying out for lampooning, and this show by Jimmy Fowlie and Jordan Black more than fills the bill.  While not everything works, the parts that are funny are howlingly so - as in one bit that features Abraham Lincoln's niece.  Personally, I could see anothere way to go with this parody, that would hone closer to the character of Mia Dolan and evoke Ms Stone's performance more acutely.  But this broadly farcical approach works too, and Mr Fowlie is a hoot as an untalented LA actress who is too in love with herself and her "dreams" to even notice how terrible a performer she really is.

I highly recommend this if you want to laugh your ass off at one-person shows in general and at the LA entertainment industry scene in particular.  But it's better if you know the source material well - or can go with someone who does.

The fun continues at Celebration Theatre until November 6th.  But if it keeps selling out the house, as it's been doing... do I hear extension?


THREE QUICK HIPSTER TIPS FOR THE WEEKEND

As usual, there's so much going on in the SoCal area this weekend, including a dangerous fire (try to avoid that).  For those who want a memorable experience at the theater, here are 3 options - all have some humor in them, though only one is a laugh out-loud comedy.

 

George Wyner and Richard Fancy are brothers in "Daytona". Photo: John Perrin Flynn

DAYTONA by Oliver Cotton, directed by Elina de Santos

There are so many great older actors in Los Angeles, and far too few plays that really give them anything to perform.  But Daytona at Roguemachine has three terrific roles, which are inhabited to the hilt by George Wyner and Sharron Shayne as a long-married couple and Richard Fancy as Mr Wyner's long-absent brother, under the pitch-perfect direction of Elina de Santos.  The play takes place in Brooklyn in 1986, where Joe and Elli are preparing for their dance competition the next evening, a hobby they've cultivated for the past 15 years.  Then Elli goes out to pick up her dress from her sister, where she will also spend the night.  Suddenly the downstairs buzzer sounds.  Joe is shocked to hear the voice of his brother Billy, who he hasn't heard from for the past 30 years, and whose entrance will shake up the easy-going world of Joe and Elli.  I completely agree with Kathleen Foley's review in the LA Times that the play has some major problems, most of which crop up in the Second Act, when the writing begins to waver and drift.  But, as Ms. Foley asserts, the actors couldn't be better, and their moment-to-moment character work is thrilling to watch.  Certainly Richard Fancy - who I've seen in numerous shows at Pacific Resident Theatre and elsewhere around town - has never seemed more focused and relaxed, having the time of his life.  This is a play and a production that will likely stay in your mind long after the houselights have come up.

UPDATE: DAYTONA has to close earlier than expected, on Monday October 16, but Roguemachine is looking to move and reopen it, so your support is essential.

Karen Finley in the The Expanded Unicorn Gratitude Mystery (Photo: Carolina Restrepo)

THE EXPANDED UNICORN GRATITUDE MYSTERY by Karen Finley at Redcat

Karen Finley, the author and performer of the one woman show at the Redcat in DTLA for this weekend only, is herself something of a unicorn on the American performance art scene, part stand-up comic, part Oracle at Delphi.  She came to public prominence in the early 1980s as one of the NEA 4 - 4 performance artists of highly political and controversial works who had received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, much to the disgust of conservative senator Jesse Helms.  She has continued to develop her work far out of the mainstream (by choice), using sexual imagery in unexpected ways (just google "Finley yams" and "Finley chocolate" for  more detailed accounts) to bring attention to the glorification of rape and other acts of misogyny in the central nervous system of American life.  Pretty much alone among her peers, she has managed to maintain her integrity and develop her metaphors in a series of performance art pieces and books and recordings.  That alone would provide a good reason to catch her new show at Redcat, if you can still score a ticket.  But this is something different than I've seen from Ms. Finley before.  (I caught both her yam and her chocolate performances.)  There is no nudity this time - that's a first, at least in my limited experience.  There are three sections to her performance, and the first two are funnier than anything I've seen from her.  These satirize American consumerism and American politics, respectively.  In the political section, she takes on Hillary Clinton, Trump and their campaigns, to devestating effect.  The third (and most powerful) section is Karen Finley being Karen Finley - dispensing with the clown costumes and the wigs and assuming the role of Cassandra the Seer, peering poetically into the darkness of the American soul.  What she sees is dark indeed - a hollowness which has to be filled up with things, a death-wish that yearns for mass destruction.  Her performance is so dense with references and layers of meaning that it is difficult to take in in one sitting.  On the other hand, who knows when you'll get another chance?

Jimmy Fowlie as Mia Dolan at the Celebration Theatre

SO LONG BOULDER CITY by Jimmy Fowlie and Jordan Black, performed by Mr Fowlie and directed by Mr Black

The title of this meta-comedy will be immediately recognizable to any avid fan of Damien Chazelle's film LA LA LAND.  In the film, Mia Dolan, an aspiring actress played by Emma Stone (who won an Academy Award for her performance), writes herself a one-woman show called "So Long Boulder City" in a desperate attempt to boost her faltering career.  Only 9 people show up - none of whom is her boyfriend Sebastian, played by Ryan Gosling.  However, her ploy works out better than she ever expected, since one of the attendees is a high-powered casting agent.  All of this is such far-fetched nonsense - as I wrote about in one of my first columns for this website - that it seems to be crying out for lampooning, and this show by Jimmy Fowlie and Jordan Black more than fills the bill.  While not everything works, the parts that are funny are howlingly so - as in one bit that features Abraham Lincoln's niece.  Personally, I could see anothere way to go with this parody, that would hone closer to the character of Mia Dolan and evoke Ms Stone's performance more acutely.  But this broadly farcical approach works too, and Mr Fowlie is a hoot as an untalented LA actress who is too in love with herself and her "dreams" to even notice how terrible an actress she really is.  I highly recommend this if you want to laugh your ass off at one-person shows in general and at the LA entertainment industry scene in particular.  But it's better if you know the source material well - or can go with someone who does.

 


Drew Droege Dishes on His Many Faces Leading to His Latest of Charles Busch's Angela Arden

An avid, frequent, and popular staple of in Los Angeles theatre scene, Drew Droege adds to his impressive repertoire of female characterizations with his latest role as Angela Arden, the role Charles Busch wrote and originated in his DIE, MOMMIE, DIE! Drew will be high-camping it up at The Celebration Theatre beginning February 10th.

Thank you for taking the time for this interview, Drew!

My pleasure! Thank YOU!

You will be taking on Charles Busch's iconic role of Angela in his 2007 cult classic DIE, MOMMIE, DIE! at the Celebration Theatre. When did you first become aware of Charles Busch?

I grew up in a small town in North Carolina. However, I had a very well-worn Samuel French catalog and stumbled onto the title PSYCHO BEACH PARTY. I ordered it and immediately fell in love. I desperately campaigned for my high school drama club to produce it, but they had just canceled prom because of freak dancing. So obviously, it was never approved. Instead, we just performed an evening of original and clean poetry. 

Have you seen Charles Busch perform live?

Yes! I got to see him in his play THE THIRD STORY at La Jolla Playhouse in 2008. I was playing his role in RED SCARE ON SUNSET in LA at the time, so the cast drove down to see him and meet him. He is poisonously hilarious to watch live. 

What were your preparations for this role of Angela?

I've watched several Bette Davis, Lana Turner, and Susan Hayward movies to get into the mindset of these women and into the style we're playing. Angela is a blast, because she's equal parts washed-up, drunk, raunchy, vulnerable, glamorous, vindictive, and every inch a STAR! I think it's truly Charles' best character.

You are a fixture of LA Theatre, frequently appearing @ the LA LGBT Center, the Rockwell, Casita del Campo and Celebration. Which gets your creative juices up more, performing live theatre or TV shows and podcasts?

I love doing all of them because they all work different muscles. There's nothing like performing in front of a rowdy LA crowd - I feel so lucky that I get to do stupid fun shows. And, Oh, My God! We all need to get together and laugh - now more than ever. But TV and film are satisfying because I can be a piece of something bigger and try to be somewhat real. And podcasts are just pure raw, sobbing, naked honesty that I also find myself needing now more than ever.

Do you prefer tackling a female role (Miranda Priestley in UMPO THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA, Velda in UMPO TROOP BEVERLY HILLS, Mellie Moleson in PRAIRIE-OKE!) to a male role (BRIGHT COLORS & BOLD PATTERNS)?

I always just look at the character's point of view first. To me, their gender is less interesting than what drives them. I hope that I get to play both men and women for my entire life.

UMPO producer Kate Pazakis told me, once you put on Miranda's wig, you became her. Do costumes make the woman for you?

Oh, my god, absolutely. I have always been that actor who screamed for his rehearsal shoes! And wigs are powerful beasts - put them on and just say, 'Yes!'

Did you 'become' Angela when you first tried on her wig?

I'm still trying wigs, and I'm still finding Angela, so... 

You are infamous for your Chloe Sevigny parodies. What made you pick Chloe in particular to 'do'?

I put on a wig for something else and realized I looked like her. And I've long been fascinated by Chloe and her world. And she has been the gift that has kept on giving. And I debuted her in a sketch comedy show at Celebration Theatre - 15 years ago!!!

What was growing up in South & North Carolina like?

It was perfect for me. Everyone is a drag queen or a sketch character there. And I had a family and very close friend circle, and it was always about love and laughter and FOOD!

Was being funny your defense mechanism?

Yes. And pretending to be possessed by Satan - that created a necessary fear that kept the Carolina bullies at bay. 

When did you decide you could make a career out of being funny?

I'm still figuring that out. 

Who were your comedy idols growing up?

Carol Burnett, Divine, Jan Hooks, Madeline Kahn, Goldie Hawn, Kevin Kline, The Kids In The Hall, The State, Laurel and Hardy, and my Dad. 

Was being part of The Groundlings a major stepping stone for your career? Absolutely! First of all, the training is unparalleled, because it made me create original characters. It made me stop waiting for the phone to ring and create my own career. And it's never about jokes at The Groundlings - it's about what's true to the people you are playing. I was fortunate enough to make it through their program and get to perform there and work with the funniest people in the world. My first legit TV job was on RENO 911!, thanks in many ways to The Groundlings. And my most recent TV job was doing four episodes of IDIOTSITTER, created by and starring brilliant Groundlings friends Jillian Bell and Charlotte Newhouse. I will be forever grateful.

Did you find your NY audience reactions different or similar to your LA audience reactions to your BRIGHT COLORS?

Every audience was wildly different. I guess in general, New York has less regard/respect/reverence for celebrities, so they understood the ridiculous tragedy of my character's obsession with them. Truly, that show is my favorite thing ever, ever, ever to perform. 

What's in store for Drew Droege in 2017?

I'm going to be shooting TVLand's brilliant new Heathers series and writing sporadically for a Netflix show - and hopefully bringing BRIGHT COLORS & BOLD PATTERNS back to New York soon. It all feels so exciting and exhausting at once! Come see DIE, MOMMIE, DIE! The cast is amazing and our director Ryan Bergmann is a genius. We're having a blast, and so will you! 

Thank you, Drew! Looking forward to seeing you transformed into Angela.

DIE, MOMMIE, DIE! plays through March 26, 2017. For ticket info and further info, log onto www.celebrationtheatre.com


Ovation Award Winners 2016!

Last night was the 27th Annual Ovation Awards hosted by Alexandra Billings and held at the Ahmanson Theatre.
Celebration Theatre had a strong night taking home 7 awards. Looks like taking a bus to the awards was a great idea as the company had a lot to celebrate.
Host Alexandra Billings was a delight and gave a passionate speech about how now is the time to march. She also brought down the house with her rendition of Creep by Radiohead. Executive Director Steven Leigh Morris gave a wonderful speech about empathy. Luis Alfaro had us all up on our feet shouting "I AM". The overall night had a political tone to it, but it wasn't one of hopelessness and desperation. It was a call to action highlighting the transformative power of live theatre.
The winners in each category have asterisks *** by them. Congratulations to all the winners!

Best Season

CELEBRATION THEATRE
Bootycandy
Dream Boy
The Boy From Oz
GEFFEN PLAYHOUSE
Barcelona
Big Sky
Guards at the Taj
In & Of Itself
Outside Mullingar
Sex with Strangers
Stage Kiss
These Paper Bullets! A Modish Ripoff of William Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing
Thom Pain (based on nothing)
***LOS ANGELES LGBT CENTER
Fool for Love
HAM: A Musical Memoir
Hit the Wall

Best Production of a Play (Intimate Theatre)

AMERYKA
Critical Mass Performance Group
SPACE
Crooked Arrow Productions
MY MAÑANA COMES
Fountain Theatre
HIT THE WALL
Los Angeles LGBT Center
HONKY
Rogue Machine
CHURCH & STATE
Skylight Theatre Company
***DRY LAND
The Echo Theater Company

Best Production of a Play (Large Theatre)

ENDGAME
Center Theatre Group
THE COMPLETE HISTORY OF AMERICA (ABRIDGED)
Falcon Theatre
BARCELONA
Geffen Playhouse
***GUARDS AT THE TAJ
Geffen Playhouse
MOJADA: A MEDEA IN LOS ANGELES
The Getty Villa & The Theatre @ Boston Court

Best Production of a Musical (Intimate Theatre)

***THE BOY FROM OZ
Celebration Theatre
WE ARE THE TIGERS: A NEW MUSICAL
Heart and Flame Productions
THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE
Sierra Madre Playhouse

Best Production of a Musical (Large Theatre)

AMERICAN IDIOT
La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts
FIRST DATE
La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts
***HAM: A MUSICAL MEMOIR
Los Angeles LGBT Center

Best Presented Production

A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE TO LOVE & MURDER
Center Theatre Group
***1984
The Broad Stage
JANE AUSTEN UNSCRIPTED
The Broad Stage

Acting Ensemble of a Play

ENDGAME
Center Theatre Group
FATHER COMES HOME FROM THE WARS (PARTS 1, 2 & 3)
Center Theatre Group
AMERYKA
Critical Mass Performance Group
***THE COMPLETE HISTORY OF AMERICA (ABRIDGED)
Falcon Theatre
MY MAÑANA COMES
Fountain Theatre
HIT THE WALL
Los Angeles LGBT Center
FLY
Pasadena Playhouse

Acting Ensemble of a Musical

***THE BOY FROM OZ
Celebration Theatre
AMERICAN IDIOT
La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts
DREAMGIRLS
La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts
EMPIRE
La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts
FIRST DATE
La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts
I ONLY HAVE EYES FOR YOU
The Al Dubin Musical/Corky Hale
RECORDED IN HOLLYWOOD
Theatre Planners

Choreography

ANNIE YEE
THE GOLDEN DRAGON
The Theatre @ Boston Court
***JANET ROSTON
THE BOY FROM OZ
Celebration Theatre
TASHEENA MEDINA
THE SPARROW
Coeurage Theatre Company
DANA SOLIMANDO
AMERICAN IDIOT
La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts
JOHN FARMANESH-BOCCA
TEMPEST REDUX
Odyssey Theatre Company & New American Theatre

Music Direction

BRYAN BLASKIE
THE BOY FROM OZ
Celebration Theatre
PATRICK SULKEN
WE ARE THE TIGERS: A NEW MUSICAL
Heart and Flame Productions
DAVID O
AMERICAN IDIOT
La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts
***TODD SCHROEDER
HAM: A MUSICAL MEMOIR
Los Angeles LGBT Center
GERALD STERNBACH
I ONLY HAVE EYES FOR YOU
The Al Dubin Musical/Corky Hale

Book for an Original Musical

ROBERT HULL & CAROLINE SHERMAN
EMPIRE
La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts
MO WILLEMS
ELEPHANT & PIGGIE'S: “WE ARE IN A PLAY!”
MainStreet Theatre Company
***MICHAEL SHAW FISHER
SHAKESPEARE'S LAST NIGHT OUT
Orgasmico Theatre Company

Lyrics/Composition for an Original Musical

***REBEKAH ALLEN
WE ARE THE TIGERS: A NEW MUSICAL
Heart and Flame Productions
DEBORAH WICKS-LA PUMA & MO WILLEMS
ELEPHANT & PIGGIE'S: “WE ARE IN A PLAY!”
MainStreet Theatre Company
MICHAEL SHAW FISHER
SHAKESPEARE'S LAST NIGHT OUT
Orgasmico Theatre Company

Playwriting for an Original Play

NANCY KEYSTONE
AMERYKA
Critical Mass Performance Group
STEFAN MARKS
SPACE
Crooked Arrow Productions
JULIE MYATT
JOHN IS A FATHER
The Road Theatre Company
JASON WILLIAMS
CHURCH & STATE
Skylight Theatre Company
ERIK PATTERSON
ONE OF THE NICE ONES
The Echo Theater Company
***LUIS ALFARO
MOJADA: A MEDEA IN LOS ANGELES
The Getty Villa & The Theatre @ Boston Court
JASON WELLS
THE ENGINE OF OUR RUIN
The Victory Theatre Center

Direction of a Musical

***MICHAEL SHEPPERD
THE BOY FROM OZ
Celebration Theatre
OANH NGUYEN
A CHORUS LINE
Chance Theater
BRIAN KITE
AMERICAN IDIOT
La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts
NICK DEGRUCCIO
FIRST DATE
La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts
BILLY PORTER & KEN SAWYER
HAM: A MUSICAL MEMOIR
Los Angeles LGBT Center

Direction of a Play

ALAN MANDELL
ENDGAME
Center Theatre Group
JOSEPH CALARCO
THE SPARROW
Coeurage Theatre Company
JERRY KERNION
THE COMPLETE HISTORY OF AMERICA (ABRIDGED)
Falcon Theatre
TRIP CULLMAN
BARCELONA
Geffen Playhouse
GIOVANNA SARDELLI
GUARDS AT THE TAJ
Geffen Playhouse
***KEN SAWYER
HIT THE WALL
Los Angeles LGBT Center
KATHARINE FARMER
SEE ROCK CITY
Rubicon Theatre Company

Lead Actor in a Musical

ANDREW BONGIORNO as Peter Allen
THE BOY FROM OZ
Celebration Theatre
JON JON BRIONES as Georges
LA CAGE AUX FOLLES
East West Players
DAVID LAMARR as James Thunder Early
DREAMGIRLS
La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts
MARC GINSBURG as Aaron
FIRST DATE
La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts
***SAM HARRIS as Multiple Characters
HAM: A MUSICAL MEMOIR
Los Angeles LGBT Center

Lead Actress in a Musical

RACHEL YORK as “Little” Edie Beale/Edith
GREY GARDENS
Center Theatre Group
***MOYA ANGELA as Effie
DREAMGIRLS
La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts
BRITTNEY JOHNSON as Lorell Robinson
DREAMGIRLS
La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts
ERICA LUSTIG as Casey
FIRST DATE
La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts
ALISON LUFF as Charlie Jane
BREAKING THROUGH
Pasadena Playhouse

Lead Actor in a Play

BARRY MCGOVERN as Clov
ENDGAME
Center Theatre Group
STERLING K. BROWN as Hero/Ulysses
FATHER COMES HOME FROM THE WARS (PARTS 1, 2 & 3)
Center Theatre Group
STEFAN MARKS as Kurt Finge
SPACE
Crooked Arrow Productions
RAMIZ MONSEF as Babur
GUARDS AT THE TAJ
Geffen Playhouse
***SAM ANDERSON as John
JOHN IS A FATHER
The Road Theatre Company
ERIK ODOM as Raleigh
SEE ROCK CITY
Rubicon Theatre Company
ROB NAGLE as Charlie Whitmore
CHURCH & STATE
Skylight Theatre Company

Lead Actress in a Play

BETTY GILPIN as Irene
BARCELONA
Geffen Playhouse
***LILY NICKSAY as May
SEE ROCK CITY
Rubicon Theatre Company
ANGELLE BROOKS as Ruth Younger
A RAISIN IN THE SUN
Ruskin Group Theatre Co
STARLETTA DUPOIS as Mama Lena Younger
A RAISIN IN THE SUN
Ruskin Group Theatre Co
KATE MORGAN CHADWICK as Holly
BED
The Echo Theater Company
CONNOR KELLY-EIDING as Ester
DRY LAND
The Echo Theater Company
DANIELLE TRUITT as Camae
THE MOUNTAINTOP
The Matrix Theatre Company

Featured Actor in a Musical

RYAN DRISCOLL as Cain/Japheth
CHILDREN OF EDEN
Cabrillo Music Theatre
LEIGH WAKEFORD as Man #2
FIRST DATE
La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts
JUSTIN MICHAEL WILCOX as Man #1
FIRST DATE
La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Art
***STANTON MORALES as Barfee
THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE
Sierra Madre Playhouse
ELIJAH ROCK as Cab Calloway
I ONLY HAVE EYES FOR YOU
The Al Dubin Musical/Corky Hale
WILKIE FERGUSON III as Jesse Belvin
RECORDED IN HOLLYWOOD
Theatre Planners
MATT MAGNUSSON as Huggy Boy
RECORDED IN HOLLYWOOD
Theatre Planners

Featured Actress in a Musical

NATALIA VIVINO as Yonah
CHILDREN OF EDEN
Cabrillo Music Theatre
KELLY LESTER as Marion Woolnough
THE BOY FROM OZ
Celebration Theatre
***BESS MOTTA as Judy Garland
THE BOY FROM OZ
Celebration Theatrere
JESSICA PENNINGTON as Liza Minnelli
THE BOY FROM OZ
Celebration Theatre
BETTY BUCKLEY as Edith Bouvior Beale
GREY GARDENS
Center Theatre Group
MICHELE SPEARS as Ensemble
SONDHEIM UNSCRIPTED
Impro Theatre
CRISTINA GERLA as Olive
THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE
Sierra Madre Playhouse

Featured Actor in a Play

***MICHAEL SHEPPERD as Actor 4
BOOTYCANDY
Celebration Theatre
JAMES GREENE as Nagg
ENDGAME
Center Theatre Group
MICHAEL MCKEAN as Colonel
FATHER COMES HOME FROM THE WARS (PARTS 1, 2 & 3)
Center Theatre Group
LARRY POWELL as Homer
FATHER COMES HOME FROM THE WARS (PARTS 1, 2 & 3)
Center Theatre Group
RAY FORD as Gene Jefferson
AMERYKA
Critical Mass Performance Group
ROBERT GOSSETT as Oz
WATCHING O.J.
Ensemble Studio Theatre/LA
MATTHEW HANCOCK as Carson
HIT THE WALL
Los Angeles LGBT Center

Featured Actress in a Play

***PAULA CHRISTENSEN as Nicky
COLONY COLLAPSE
The Theatre @ Boston Court
CHARLOTTE RAE as Nell
ENDGAME
Center Theatre Group
SAMEERAH LUQMAAN-HARRIS as Penny
FATHER COMES HOME FROM THE WARS (PARTS 1, 2 & 3)
Center Theatre Group
PATRENA MURRAY as Fourth/Odyssey Dog
FATHER COMES HOME FROM THE WARS (PARTS 1, 2 & 3)
Center Theatre Group
ROBIN PEARSON ROSE as Aoife
OUTSIDE MULLINGAR
Geffen Playhouse
SHARON SHARTH as Mrs. Gill
SEE ROCK CITY
Rubicon Theatre Company
VIVIS as Tita
MOJADA: A MEDEA IN LOS ANGELES
The Getty Villa & The Theatre @ Boston Court

Lighting Design (Intimate Theatre)

KARYN LAWRENCE
COLONY COLLAPSE
The Theatre @ Boston Court
***ELIZABETH HARPER
THE GOLDEN DRAGON
The Theatre @ Boston Court
MATTHEW DENMAN
BOOTYCANDY
Celebration Theatre
TIM SWISS
DREAM BOY
Celebration Theatre
ELIZBETH HARPER
AMERYKA
Critical Mass Performance Group
MATT RICHTER
HIT THE WALL
Los Angeles LGBT Center
KATELAN BRAYMER
THE HAIRY APE
Odyssey Theatre Ensemble

Lighting Design (Large Theatre)

JARED SAYEG
ENDGAME
Center Theatre Group
JAPHY WEIDEMAN
BARCELONA
Geffen Playhouse
LAP CHI CHU
GUARDS AT THE TAJ
Geffen Playhouse
DANIEL IONAZZI
OUTSIDE MULLINGAR
Geffen Playhouse
STEVEN YOUNG
AMERICAN IDIOT
La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts
MIKE BILLINGS
SEE ROCK CITY
Rubicon Theatre Company
***KC WILKERSON
WICKED LIT 2015
Unbound Productions

Scenic Design (Intimate Theatre)

SARA RYUNG CLEMENT
SEVEN SPOTS ON THE SUN
The Theatre @ Boston Court
STEPHEN GIFFORD
DREAM BOY
Celebration Theatre
JOHN IACOVELLI
KINGDOM OF EARTH
Dance On Productions in assoc. w/Linda Toliver & Gary Guidinger
JOHN IACOVELLI
THE MONEY FI$H
Cox Productions
PETE HICKOK
RIO HONDO
Theatre of NOTE
MICHAEL NAVARRO
MY MAÑANA COMES
Fountain Theatre
***JOHN VERTREES & ERIN WALLEY
DEATHTRAP
Sierra Madre Playhouse

Scenic Design (Large Theatre)

JOHN IACOVELLI
ENDGAME
Center Theatre Group
MARK WENDLAND
BARCELONA
Geffen Playhouse
DEREK MCLANE
BIG SKY
Geffen Playhouse
TOM BUDERWITZ
GUARDS AT THE TAJ
Geffen Playhouse
***TOM BUDERWITZ
CASA VALENTINA
Pasadena Playhouse
MIKE BILLINGS
SEE ROCK CITY
Rubicon Theatre Company
JEFF COWIE
THE CITY OF CONVERSATION
Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts

Sound Design (Intimate Theatre)

JOHN NOBORI
COLONY COLLAPSE
The Theatre @ Boston Court
***JOHN NOBORI
THE GOLDEN DRAGON
The Theatre @ Boston Court
JOSEPH CALARCO
THE SPARROW
Coeurage Theatre Company
RANDY TICO
AMERYKA
Critical Mass Performance Group
CHRISTOPHER MOSCATIELLO
THE HAIRY APE
Odyssey Theatre Ensemble
DAVID B. MARLING
BIRDER
The Road Theatre Company
MATT RICHTER
A GULAG MOUSE
Sacred Fools Theater Company

Sound Design (Large Theatre)

CRICKET MYERS
ENDGAME
Center Theatre Group
VINCENT OLIVIERI
BARCELONA
Geffen Playhouse
VINCENT OLIVIERI
GUARDS AT THE TAJ
Geffen Playhouse
PHILIP ALLEN
EMPIRE
La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts
CRICKET MYERS
I ONLY HAVE EYES FOR YOU
The Al Dubin Musical/Corky Hale
BRUNO LOUCHOUARN
MOJADA: A MEDEA IN LOS ANGELES
The Getty Villa & The Theatre @ Boston Court
***DREW DALZELL & NOELLE HOFFMAN
WICKED LIT 2015
Unbound Productions

Costume Design (Intimate Theatre)

KERRY HENNESSY & LORI MEEKER
WOOD BOY DOG FISH
Bootleg Theater & Rogue Artists Ensemble
ALLISON DILLARD
BOOTYCANDY
Celebration Theatre
***MICHAEL MULLEN
THE BOY FROM OZ
Celebration Theatre
LENA SANDS & SARAH BROWN
AMERYKA
Critical Mass Performance Group
HALEI PARKER
THE HAIRY APE
Odyssey Theatre Ensemble
CANDICE CAIN
THE GLASS MENAGERIE
Sierra Madre Playhouse
A. JEFFREY SCHOENBERG
CLOUD 9
The Antaeus Company

Costume Design (Large Theatre)

MAGGIE MORGAN
ENDGAME
Center Theatre Group
ANN CLOSS-FARLEY
WOMEN LAUGHING ALONE WITH SALAD
Center Theatre Group
DENITSA BLIZNAKOVA
GUARDS AT THE TAJ
Geffen Playhouse
JESSICA FORD
THESE PAPER BULLETS! A MODISH RIPOFF OF WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE'S MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING
Geffen Playhouse
KATE BERGH
CASA VALENTINA
Pasadena Playhouse
***CHRISTINE COVER FERRO
WICKED LIT 2015
Unbound Productions
VICKI CONRAD
THE IMAGINARY INVALID
Will Geer's Theatricum Botanicum

Video/Projection Design

***MATTHEW HILL
MAN COVETS BIRD
24th Street Theatre
DALLAS NICHOLAS
WOOD BOY DOG FISH
Bootleg Theater & Rogue Artists Ensemble
STEPHEN EPSTEIN & RON WOOD
SPACE
Crooked Arrow Productions
JONATHAN INFANTE
AMERICAN IDIOT
La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts
DAVID GALLO & BRAD PETERSON
EMPIRE
La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts
ADAM FLEMMING
WICKED LIT 2015
Unbound Productions
HANA KIM
THE CITY OF CONVERSATION
Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts

Ovation Honors Recipients

Composition for a Play:

GREGORY NABOURS
THE SPARROW
Coeurage Theatre Company

Fight Choreography:

EDGAR LANDA
THAT PRETTY PRETTY; OR, THE RAPE PLAY
Son of Semele Ensemble

Puppet Design:

GREG BALLORA, SEAN CAWELTI, CHRISTINE PAPALEXIS, JACK PULLMAN, BRIAN WHITE
WOOD BOY DOG FISH
Bootleg Theater & Rogue Artists Ensemble
Recipient of the 2017 Richard E. Sherwood Award
PABLO SANTIAGO