The state’s theatre community gathered together this past Saturday night at the Capitol Center in Concord for the 17th Annual New Hampshire Theatre Awards. NHPR’s Sean Hurley was at the show and sends us this.
As the crowd streams into the lobby of the Capitol Center, the New Hampshire Theatre Alliance’s Justin Voshell - who’s worked all year to make this night happen - gives himself a moment to take it all in.
“My favorite moment is actually right after the door's open,” he says, “like it's really crowded in the foyer of the theater. Everyone's so happy to see each other. Maybe they haven't seen each other in a year.”
A young man in a bright red suit bows to an older woman with a sparkling tiara. A man in a top hat embraces a woman in a sequined gown. Yes, awards will be given out, Voshell says as the show begins, but tonight is really about community.
While the awards are divided into three categories – professional, community and youth –the winner of this year’s Kevin Riley Theatre Hero Award, Michael Curtiss, tells me most of the professionals won’t be here.
“They're professionals,” Curtiss says, “they're off doing theatre somewhere else in the country. We're really here for the community awards and the youth awards. We really love it when the kids win.”
The crowd duly erupts as the first local kid, Jackson Rogers, wins a best supporting actor award for his performance as Tigger in Nashua’s Peacock Players production of Winnie the Pooh.
“Thank you so, so much!” Rogers says to the crowd of 800, “I am so extremely humbled to have been given this prestigious award. Sarah Evans, thank you for putting up with us. I don’t know how you handle 30 kids running around every second of the day…”
After Elliot Owens wins the next two supporting actor awards, the cast from the Community Players of Concord production of Annie race onto the stage.
“One of the great things about the performances at the Theatre Awards is it's a cast reunion for everyone,” Justin Voshell says, “It's something that they did maybe six months ago. It's their one chance to do that number again on stage. So everyone's really selling it and really feeling it.”
Going by awards alone – 7 in this case - the big community winner of the night was the Actorsingers production of Pippin.
At the aftershow party, actress Katie Collins says that while getting glimpses of all the shows you might have missed is one of the pleasures of the evening, more importantly, the awards handed out speak to a shift in the New Hampshire theatre landscape.
“There's an amazing breadth of work in this state,” Collins says, “And I think tonight we saw a lot of companies who have been the company that always wins - not win. The story for me of tonight is Andy’s Summer Playhouse and to a certain extent Amplified Arts out of Claremont which performed their Laramie Project piece.”
Gina Carballo, who helped produce tonight’s show, says highlighting new companies like Andy’s Summer Playhouse and Amplified Arts alongside old stalwarts like Actorsingers and the Peterborough Players, gives the sprawling New Hampshire theatre community a chance to see itself in full - in person, and in action.
“That is that spirit of community that I think that we've built and sort of fostered,” Carballo says,“And we now have built this amazing network of artists who probably would not have known each other otherwise.”
The artists who probably wouldn’t have known each other otherwise put on their coats and hats and gloves and embrace for a last time before heading out into the cold and snowy Concord night.