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


The Winners at the 50th Annual 'LA Drama Critics Circle' Awards Ceremony Held at the Pasadena Playhouse

The 50th Annual LA Drama Critics Circle Awards at the Pasadena Playhouse, Monday, April 8, 2019. (Photo by Better Lemons)

The LA Drama Critics Circle (LADCC) held their 50th Annual Awards ceremony at the landmark Pasadena Playhouse where Better Lemons was in attendance to live tweet the evening's festivities and entertainment, Monday, April 8, 2019.

Wenzel Jones presided over the festivities, and Christopher Raymond served as music director with musical performances by Kristin Towers Rowles, Constance Jewell Lopez, and Zachary Ford.

There were four recipients of the 2018 Production award: Cambodian Rock Band (South Coast Repertory), Come From Away (Center Theatre Group/Ahmanson Theatre), Cry It Out (Echo Theater Company), and Sell/Buy/Date (Geffen Playhouse / Los Angeles LGBT Center).

Better Lemons' Chief Operating Officer Stephen Box (Left,) Publisher Enci Box, and Playwright & Screenwriter Steven Vlasak at the 50th Annual LA Drama Critics Circle Awards at the Pasadena Playhouse, Monday, April 8, 2019.

The Antaeus Theatre Company received the most awards, with three of its productions winning a combined seven trophies. Celebration Theatre's Cabaret took home six awards, the most awards for a single production, including one for Revival. Tom Hanks received a lead actor award for his performance as Falstaff in The Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles production of Henry IV in a competitive category. 17 awards were presented in other categories with 17 productions taking home the honors.

In its inaugural this year, the Theater Angel award was presented to Yvonne Bell in recognition of her "long career devoted to fostering theater in Los Angeles ... [and] successful fundraising campaigns" to help open several cultural institutions, such as The Museum of Contemporary Art and the California Science Center.

Eight previously announced special awards were presented, including the Margaret Harford Award for sustained excellence in theater to Sacred Fools Theater Company and the Ted Schmitt Award for the world premiere of an outstanding new play to Lauren Yee for Cambodian Rock Band.

The LADCC was established in 1969  “to foster and reward merit in the American Theater and encourage theater in Los Angeles,” the LADCC site quotes from an announcement in the L.A. Times of that year.

Here is the list of award recipients as announced during Better Lemons' live coverage on Twitter:

Featured photo by Enci Box - Theatre patrons in the courtyard of the Pasadena Playhouse for the 50th Annual LA Drama Critics Circle Awards, Pasadena, California, Monday, April 8, 2019. Enci Box contributed to this story and photos.


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