The 34th Annual 'Robby Award' Winners Announced


The 34th Annual Robby Awards show scheduled for March 23, 2020, has been canceled due to the Coronavirus and social distancing.

Here is the list of the winners for the best in Los Angeles area theatre for 2019.  With the Robby Awards, a few categories resulted in a tie vote, even with critic Rob Stevens as the only voter.

The Pasadena Playhouse’s production of "Ragtime" won Best Musical as well as three other awards. The Ahmanson Theatre’s production of "Indecent" also won four awards, including Best Drama. Best Comedy was awarded to Odyssey Theatre Ensemble’s "Loot" which also won two other awards.

A Noise Within led all producing companies with five awards spread over three of their productions—"Argonautika," "The Glass Menagerie," and "Frankenstein." The Geffen Playhouse won three awards, one each for their productions of "Key Largo," "Skintight," and "Witch."

Among 99-seat theatres, Celebration Theatre won two awards for its production of "The Producers," Boston Court Pasadena won two awards for "The Judas Kiss," and Antaeus Theatre Company won two awards for "The Cripple of Inishmaan," while two awards were given to shows at the annual Hollywood Fringe Festival.


The Robby Awards


Teri Ralston Award for Best Musical
Ragtime, Pasadena Playhouse

Virginia Capers Award for Best Director of a Musical
David Lee, Ragtime, Pasadena Playhouse

Michael G. Hawkins Award for Best Actor in a Musical
Marc Ginsburg, Ragtime, Pasadena Playhouse

Michelle Nicastro Award for Best Actress in a Musical
Shannon Warne, Ragtime, Pasadena Playhouse

Gary Beach Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Musical
Michael A. Shepperd, The Producers, Celebration Theatre

Lisa Robinson Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Musical
Lauren Van Kurin, Earth to Karen, Hollywood Fringe Festival

Dom Salinaro Award for Best Choreography
Christine Negherbon, Holiday Inn, Musical Theatre West

Elan McMahan Award for Best Musical Direction
Gregory Nabours, Scissorhands, The Fuse Project

John Raitt Award for Best Music and Lyrics
Brooke deRosa, Gunfight at the Not-So-OK Saloon, Trial Run Productions

Nan Martin Award for Best Drama
Indecent, Ahmanson Theatre

Martin Benson Award for Best Director of a Drama (Tie)
Julia Rodriguez-Elliott, Argonautika, A Noise Within
Rebecca Taichman, Indecent, Ahmanson Theatre

Ray Stricklyn Award for Best Actor in a Drama
Rob Nagle, The Judas Kiss, Boston Court Pasadena

Sally Kemp Award for Best Actress in a Drama
Deborah Strang, The Glass Menagerie, A Noise Within

Richard Doyle Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Drama
Kasey Mahaffy, The Glass Menagerie, A Noise Within

Belinda Balaski Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama
Jenny O’Hara, Daniel’s Husband, The Fountain Theatre

Carole Cook Award for Best Comedy
Loot, Odyssey Theatre Ensemble

Ron Link Award for Best Director of a Comedy
Bart DeLorenzo, Loot, Odyssey Theatre Ensemble

Tom Troupe Award for Best Actor in a Comedy (Tie)
Harry Groener, Skintight, Geffen Playhouse
Evan Jonigkeit, Witch, Geffen Playhouse

Lu Leonard Award for Best Actress in a Comedy
Elizabeth Arends, Loot, Odyssey Theatre Ensemble

Albert Lord Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy
JD Cullum, The Cripple of Inishmaan, Antaeus Theatre Company

Dee Croxton Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy
Anne Gee Byrd, The Cripple of Inishmaan, Antaeus Theatre Company

Michael Devereaux Award for Best Playwriting
David Hare, The Judas Kiss, Boston Court Pasadena

John Iacovelli Award for Best Scenic Design
John Lee Beatty, Key Largo, Geffen Playhouse

Best Projection Design
Aaron Rhyne, Anastasia, Hollywood Pantages Theatre

Paulie Jenkins Award for Best Lighting Design
Christopher Akerlind, Indecent, Ahmanson Theatre

Garland Riddle Award for Best Costume Design
E. B. Brooks, The Producers, Celebration Theatre

Steve ”Canyon” Kennedy Award for Best Sound Design
Robert Oriol, Frankenstein, A Noise Within

Lies and Legends Award for Best Ensemble Award
Matt Darriau, Elizabeth A. Davis, Joby Earle, Patrick Farrell, Harry Groener,
Lisa Gutkin, Mimi Lieber, Steven Rattazzi, Richard Topol, Adina Verson,
Indecent, Ahmanson Theatre

Billy Barnes Award for Best Cabaret Performance
Daniel Thomas Bellusci, Brittney Bertier, Ellie Birdwell, Bruce Kimmel,
Kerry O’Malley, Jenna Lea Rosen, Robert Yacko,
L’Wonderful, L’Marvelous, Legrand, Kritzerland at Vitello’s

Special Award for Props and Puppet Design
Erin Walley and Dillon Nelson, Argonautika, A Noise Within

Robby Living Legend Award
Teri Ralston


A Contemporary Glass Menagerie: Five Questions for Actor Rafael Goldstein

Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie is as classic and American a drama as they come. Most of us have had to study it – perhaps in drama school or high school literature class. It exists in a place somewhere between venerable literary text and dramatic playscript. Like memory, as Williams invokes it in the script, our perspective on the play is often-times romantic, soft, nostalgic. However, what has always fascinated me about the play as it appears on the page (particularly in Tennessee Williams' stage directions) is how experimental, meta-theatrical, and innovative the piece wanted to be. Fourth wall address, projections of imagery and text, and expressionistic music are prominently featured as narrative devises. Sounds like something out of a Paula Vogel text. But it was Williams. Rest assured.

Now, more than 70 years since The Glass Menagerie first appeared on Broadway, A Noise Within is reviving the work. Recently, I interviewed actor Rafael Goldstein, who is playing Tom Wingfield in the Geoff Elliot-helmed production. We could not help but gush over what it means to return this play to its technologically and meta-theatrically adventuresome roots in A Noise Within's current production.

Roger Q. Mason (RQM): The Glass Menagerie is noted for innovating the contemporary memory play. Playing Tom, what was your process navigating his memories of his family and his dilemma in the present?

Rafael Goldstein (RG): That is the primary challenge of playing Tom. He is, at once, something of an omniscient narrator, while also being helpless in the riptide of his own memories. He is capable of looking back on his earlier life and analyzing the circumstances of his departure from his family with the benefit of years of experience, but when he is inside the action of the play he is completely overwhelmed, living it, victimized by it. Williams, like Proust, knew about the incredible potency of memory. In the final monologue of the play, Tom says that “a bit of familiar music” or “a piece of transparent glass” can make his long-lost sister manifest physically. Whether this is meant poetically or not, I have found it helpful, in the playing of it, to take Williams at his word.

RQM: I love director Geoff Elliot's notion that Amanda's protection of her children is the very thing that is decaying them and preventing them from growing. Do you think Tom made the right move walking away from his mother and sister? What do you think happened to Laura afterwards?

RG: The tragedy of the Wingfield family is that they love each other desperately but don't know how to navigate their individual priorities or desires without hurting one another. I don't know if Tom's decision to leave his mother and sister can be couched in terms of “right” or “wrong”. I think it is a necessity.

Animals gnaw off limbs to get themselves out of traps. Kasey Mahaffy and Erika Soto, who play Jim the Gentleman Caller and Laura Wingfield, came up to me after a recent run-through and said it's clear, in our production, that Tom has to get out in order to survive, but the price to pay is everlasting regret - a piece of him will always be missing. I'm not sure what might have happened to Laura after Tom leaves, but I don't think it could have been good. Their mother has left them nearly incapable of living in the real world. When Amanda dies, where does Laura go? She has no friends, no family. It is not a pleasant thought.

RQM: The piece is unapologetically autobiographical. What can you share about the real-life story which inspired the play?

RG: According to a couple of biographies I've read on Williams, this play is very close to the bone. Apparently, his mother Edwina Williams was as verbally expansive and as cutting as Amanda is in the play. Their relationship was close, but fraught. She was in the theater on opening night of the original production. His father, unlike Tom's, did not leave the family and headed to Mexico, but was emotionally absent and hard-drinking. A year before The Glass Menagerie premiered, Williams' sister, Rose, underwent a lobotomy at the urging of her mother. She was in her early thirties. She spent the rest of her life in institutions, paid for by Williams and then, after his death, by his estate.

RQM: Another thing I am obsessed with in this play is how experimental it actually is on the page - slides of images, sub textual quotes meant for projection, movement in front of and behind screens and fourth wall address. Are you guys embracing those more expressionistic elements of the play in your production?

RG: We are. When Glass first premiered in the mid-1940s, the technology didn't exist that would have honored Williams' stage directions, which are extensive. Now, as Tom, I can motion to the stage manager in the booth in the middle of a direct-address monologue and, as if by magic, a slide will appear with an image of blue roses, or a basketball star, etc. When I first encountered The Glass Menagerie, I thought it was burdened with the “Great American Play” designation, which, in my mind, meant that it was concerned with realism and subtlety. While those things are present in the actual playing of scenes, the framework that Williams sets up in the very beginning of the play keeps it from being a simple “kitchen sink drama.” The fact that Williams was dismayed at the technical limitations of the original production speaks to how far ahead of his time he was, as well as his high ambitions for the theatre-making world generally.

RQM: This production marks the return of ANW legend Deborah Strang to the role of Amanda. What is one thing you learned working with her?

RG: I learn something from Deborah every time I work with her. She is a tremendously generous actor - diligent, curious, always looking for new ways to work scenes. Sometimes actors who have played a role previously feel they can get away with repeating choices that they made in the past. Not so with Deborah. It's a rare joy to be on stage with someone you know so well who is looking at you as if for the first time, every time. I strive to have that kind of in-the-moment discovery that she brings to every role she assays.

For more information about this production, visit ANoiseWithin.org/play/glass-menagerie

Featured image: Raphael Goldstein as Tom Wingfield and Deborah Strang as Amanda Wingfield. Photo: Craig Schwartz


Jeremy Rabb & Deborah Strang CAROL-ing & Making NOISES Together

A Noise Within continues its annual Christmas tradition of presenting A CHRISTMAS CAROL. The sixth edition of ANW's Producing Artistic Directors Geoff Elliott and Julia Rodriguez-Elliott's distinctive take on the Charles Dickens classic has already opened earlier this month. Many cast members return to perform in the same roles they've inhabited before. We had the chance to chat with two of them - Deborah Strang, who's currently playing Ghost of Christmas Past and Charwoman and Jeremy Rabb, alternating as Marley.
Thank you for taking the time for this interview, Deborah and Jeremy!
How long have you two been Resident Artists of ANW?
Deborah Strang: 26 years!
Jeremy Rabb: I was asked to join the company in 2014.
How did your becoming a Resident Artist come about?
DS: Total luck and chance. I was in the process of switching careers and had gone back to school to pursue a biology degree to get into environmental science. My husband, Joel Swetow, was doing a couple of shows with ANW. So I met everyone, and Joel dropped off a resume. I auditioned, not really expecting there to be any openings, and the rest is history. My first three years at ANW, I continued my science studies, but eventually theatre won out.
JR: I can't speak to what ultimately put me over the top since Geoff and Julia alone determine what that is, but becoming an RA was something I aspired to ever since my first show back in 2009. I've always loved the idea of a repertory ensemble that works together so closely and for so long that they bring a level of artistry to their work that doesn't exist elsewhere. I've loved working on plays elsewhere, but once a production finishes, there's usually a let-down since the cast will most likely never work together again. The idea of having an artistic home and developing connections with a professional family is much more gratifying. When I did my first ANW show, there hadn't been a new RA added to the roster in years, so it felt like a pipe dream. I decided not to worry about the result, but instead to focus on the process, figuring that even if it never came to pass, the journey itself would be worth it. My hope was to just keep getting cast in one more show. I brought a strong work ethic to each production, striving not only to be open to direction, but to actually embrace it as well. I loved Geoff and Julia's aesthetic, so that wasn't particularly difficult. I think the degree to which I expressed how much I cared about ANW, how deeply I embraced the theater's culture and community, and how eager I was to take on a variety of disparate roles, all contributed to my receiving the honor.
As Resident Artists, do you get dibs on a role before 'general auditions'?
JR: We do receive casting priority and are either offered or given the opportunity to read for roles in the season before the postings go public. There's no guarantee that any of us will be cast in the season, but it's the rare show at ANW that doesn't have at least a few of us in it. I've been fortunate to be cast in five of the seven shows produced at the theater for the past two seasons, so I have very much benefitted from the leg up, which I hope to exploit for as long as I can. 
DS: Geoff and Julia make the play selections and offer casting suggestions to the various directors. They always try to take care of the Resident Artists, but casting is always subject to director approval and the needs of the production. I have found that I just say, "Yes!" They are much more imaginative in how they have cast me than I could ever be.
How many productions have you two worked together on?
DS: Oh gee, I'll bet Jeremy will be able to answer this, but my brain doesn't work that way, I'd have to look at a list and add them up. I'm going to guess between 12 and 14. Let's see how close I get.
JR: NOISES OFF in the Spring will be our tenth production together.
Can you name the shows and your characters off the top of your head?
DS: No way! Once a show is over, my memory gets wiped clean for lines and characters. But two come to mind immediately because we had such fun together in our scenes: YOU NEVER CAN TELL and ALL MY SONS.
JR: I can, partly because I'm a huge fan of Deborah, and partly because I'm a bit of a weirdo: Queen Margaret & Buckingham in RICHARD III, Maria & Aguecheek in TWELFTH NIGHT, Prospero & Stephano in THE TEMPEST, Mrs. Peachum & Tiger Brown in THE THREEPENNY OPERA, Kate Keller & Jim Bayliss in ALL MY SONS, Mrs. Clandon & Finch McComas in YOU NEVER CAN TELL, Toinette & Dr. Purgeon in THE IMAGINARY INVALID, Christmas Past & Marley in A CHRISTMAS CAROL (twice).
Jeremy, one of my all-time favorite productions I've seen in the past years has got to be ANW's MAN OF LA MANCHA, in which you played Padre and Paco. Would you tell me some fun memories you had in that show?
JR: That was a very special show to be a part of. Sharing in the emotional outpouring from our audiences during the final moments of the play and through the curtain call was always so beautiful and moving. I had a lot of fun messing around with the other muleteers as we jumped into those fearsome characters head first. To switch back and forth so quickly between the unsavory Paco and the kind and gentle Padre was a blast, even though trying to juggle all the costume changes and myriad props could be tricky. Getting Cassandra Murphy (Aldonza) to laugh at me as Paco in rehearsal was also very entertaining. I'd express my lust for her character by getting on the ground and imitating a panting dog in heat, which always cracked her up. She finally figured out a way to keep a straight face... she stopped looking at me during the scene. She also never backed away from the aggressive fight choreography, urging her "assailants" to really go for it: "You can hit me harder!" I was so inspired by her ferocity during the final note of "It's All the Same" that I nearly blew out my voice during the guys' final cry of "Aldonza!" Even though I knew it might make my later solo a little harder to pull off, I didn't care because it was so fun.
This is the sixth year A Noise Within has presented A CHRISTMAS CAROL. How many times have you had a role in it?
DS: All six. We had done different versions of the play a few times in earlier years, and I was in those as well.
JR: This is only my second year, but I did play the same role in another production at Indiana Repertory Theatre years ago as well. 
 Deborah, did you always play Ghost of Christmas Past, and/or Charwoman?
DS: For the past six years, those are the roles I have always played. In our earliest version in the late 90s, I was Mrs. Cratchit. But in our next version in 2000, I was Christmas Past and that was actually when they built the dress I wear now – which makes that costume 17 years old. Each year they seem to add an extra layer of petticoat – it feels like it weighs about 50 pounds, but I'm sure that's an exaggeration.
Jeremy, did you always play Marley?
JR: I have. I guess there must be something about me that reads "eternity of regret and agony." I do also get to play some other fun characters like Fezziwig and Old Joe, but Marley's the most memorable and far and away the most exhilarating to play.
Must be nice to be able to 'step into' a familiar role, much like putting on comfortable slippers?
DS: I do hope that I get a little closer to being word perfect each year, but remember I'm the one whose memory is wiped clean when the show ends.
JR: It's definitely comforting, not just in terms of picking up the lines more quickly, but also in the added luxury of relaxing into a part while making new discoveries. Because Geoff and I have done the show before, and have acted together in many other plays, the ease and chemistry we have in the Marley scene is a delight. That said, I have to admit that familiarity can also breed concern. This particular production is a major workout with quick costume changes, warp-speed character switches and races to make entrances while avoiding a crush of other actors flying by. The first day of rehearsal invariably brings with it the question, "Am I really going to be able to pull this off this year?" So far, so good.
What tricks of the trade do you utilize to keep your portrayals fresh from year to year?
DS: Geoff and Julia keep us pretty honest. Each year they approach the play with new eyes and give us new direction and tweaks. The cast changes a bit each year as well, so there's new blood and energy. But it's the audience that really keeps it fresh. When I first enter, I have a perfect vantage point to gaze out at those wonderful faces – both the young and the young at heart – and they are looking up at me in awe and wonder, totally accepting the stage magic. No matter how cynical I might have felt before my entrance, the audience delivers me right into Charles Dickens' timeless tale of hope and redemption and I invest anew in delivering the story.
JR: They're not exactly secret tricks of the trade: I listen actively to my scene partners, and reinvest in what my character needs to accomplish. No two live performances are the same, so that moment-to-moment uncertainty and not knowing how an audience might respond, keep the performance fresh. We have a saying at the theater: don't try to be perfect, just try to be present. The more present I can be, the more alive the performance feels, so I don't have to try to make things fresh. Plus, new cast members this year bring their own rhythms and energy to the piece, which also helps transform it into something new and exciting.
What satisfying response from a past audience of ANW's A CHRISTMAS CAROL just warms the cockles of your heart?
JR: An adorable little girl once came up after a performance to comfort me. She said she was sorry that Marley was so sad, but that he was a good person because he helped his friend, Scrooge, live a happier life.
DS: After the show, we stay and meet the audience and take pictures. One little girl just clung to me. She couldn't even speak – just kept looking at me, touching my dress – as if she couldn't believe I was real.
What's the most surprising response to ANW's A CHRISTMAS CAROL you've experienced?
DS: What's most surprising is how many people return each year. One family has taken pictures with me each time they come. The children keep changing and growing in each picture, and I remain the same.
JR: Kids and adults alike are often startled by my first entrance, which is intended to shock. I've heard screams, curses and even seen some people jump in their seats. The most memorable response came from a boy who was so freaked out that he started yelling. It became so intense that he had to be taken out of the theater by his mom to help calm him down. I found him after the performance and was relieved to find that he not only felt a lot better, but actually loved the show and the character of Marley as well. He explained that I was very scary, but that he liked being scared.
Any particular role you are looking forward to in tackling in ANW's upcoming season?
DS: We're bringing back NOISES OFF this year – one of the funniest plays ever written. We laugh rehearsing it, the audience laughs, we're backstage laughing – we laugh so much and run so much that we all lose weight. Laughing must adjust your body chemistry because I'm always happier when we do that show.
JR: I'm really looking forward to playing Freddy in NOISES OFF. Having been in the audience for each of the previous mountings of the production and wanting desperately to be a part of it, I'm thrilled that I finally get to share in the fun. Freddy will be particularly fun to tackle, not just because he has great lines and hilarious moments of slapstick, but because he'll be a nice contrast to the more aggressive and less sympathetic characters I've played as of late (Crofts in MRS. WARREN'S PROFESSION, Cornwall in LEAR). I've also had the pleasure of working previously with everyone in the cast, so I know just how wildly talented and funny they all are. I can't wait!
Deborah, is being a part of ANW's A CHRISTMAS CAROL, the most Christmas-y thing you're doing this Holiday season? Or is there a much more Christmas-y tradition you will be partaking in?
DS: This is my tradition, otherwise I'm afraid I'm much more of a Scrooge in real life. Getting together with the cast and the play each year brings me right into the holiday spirit. Some of the young people in the play have been in it every year, we've watched them grow up. Rigel Pierce-English has been Tiny Tim, then Turkey Boy, and now Scrooge's sister Fan. I imagine that one day she will be the Ghost of Christmas Past. It's a beautiful thing.
Thank you again to you both! I look forward to experiencing your CHRISTMAS CAROL magic!
For available tickets and A CHRISTMAS CAROL scheduling through December 23, 2017; log onto www.anoisewithin.org