Natchez Little Theatre honors year’s best

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 18, 2010

NATCHEZ — Some of the Miss-Lou’s most talented residents got a standing ovation Saturday night.

Natchez Little Theater gave its annual best of awards during the seventh annual Standing Ovation Awards gala.

While the awards show highlights the best of the best, NLT executive and creative director Layne Taylor said the gala is about more than just the winners.

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He said the gala is a big ‘thank you’ to all of the people it takes to produce the plays each season.

“Every person, no matter the role or job, puts in on average 100 hours per show to put that show on,” Taylor said. “There is something for everyone in theater, and our productions have proven that. We have people of all types that participate in our productions and everyone works so well together. Everyone here appreciates each other’s gifts and talents.”

The awards show is organized by Lynn Mann, vice president of production at NLT and chairman of the gala planning committee.

“We are celebrating everyone that it took to put together this entire season,” she said. “We have a great group of volunteers that work hard on every production to make sure we have a successful season.

“This night is just a time to celebrate them and celebrate the season.”

Mann received the award for Volunteer of the Year for the 2009-2010 season.

Every person who participates in a production is listed in the appropriate category on the ballot. The list of names is then narrowed down by a vote from board of director’s member who have attended all eight show.

The narrowed down ballot then is give to NLT grand benefactors or sponsors who have attended every show of the season who vote for four people in each category.

Those ballots are then turned in to Mann, who had a committee to count the votes twice and then produce a second list of ideally four candidates per category. Sometimes more people appear in each category because of ties.

“We don’t make any decisions,” Taylor said. “It is all at the will of the voters and we abide by that very strictly.”

Those ballots are then delivered to NLT members who have seen a live presentation of each show.

“If someone hasn’t seen every one of the productions live and not at a dress rehearsal, they do not vote,” Taylor said. “Attendance is very important because otherwise it becomes a popularity contests and we like the artistic credibility the vote gives to the awards.”

The lifetime achievement award is determined through a write-in ballot through the same process as the other nominees.

Alethea Stewart Shelton, winner of best actress in a musical and best supporting actress in a musical said being nominated was enough to make her feel like a winner.

“I used to sit in front of the television and act out everything that was on television,” she said. “When I started watching plays, I thought ‘that is what I want to do,’

“I never thought, though, that I’d be nominated for an award. It is just fun to be on stage.”

Mease Banks, who is a first year board member and actor said being nominated along with other talented actors is humbling for him and a win is just a testament to all the hard work everyone puts in during the season.

Banks was named Best Cameo Actor in a play.

“You have to have enthusiasm and energy on stage,” he said. “You have to be willing to put in all the hours and be excited about your role. I think everyone shares that enthusiasm.”

The full list of award winners for the 2009 – 2010 season include:

– Best Play, “A Raisin in the Sun”

– Best Musical, “The King and I”

– Best Director for a play, Layne Taylor for “A Raisin in the Sun”

– Best Director for a musical, Layne Taylor for “The King & I”

– Best Actor in a play, Jay Underkofler for Calhoun Callaway in “The Importance of Bein’ Earnest”

– Best Actor in a musical, Layne Taylor for Earl of Dorincourt in Fauntleroy

– Best Actress in a play, Beverly Adams as Ruth Younger in “A Raisin in the Sun”

– Best Actress in a musical, Alethea Stewart Shelton, as Zeke/ Cowardly Lion in “The Wizard of Oz”

– Best Supporting Actor in a play, Brandon Ayer as Joseph Asagai in “A Raisin in the Sun”

– Best Supporting Actor in a musical, James Wesley Forde as Melvin P. Thorpe in “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas”

– Best Supporting Actress in a play, Rhoshawnda Baker as Benethea Younger in “A Raisin in the Sun”

– Best Supporting Actress in a musical, Alethea Stewart Shelton as Lady Thiang in “The King & I”

– Best Cameo Actor in a play, Mease Banks as George Murchison in “A Raisin in the Sun”

– Best Cameo Actor in a musical, Bo Allen as Governor in “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas”

– Best Cameo Actress in a play, Luvina Williams as a tourist in “Southern Exposure”

– Best Cameo Actress in a musical, Leigh Anne Mason as Mona’s Girl in “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas”

– Best Debut by an actor, James Wesley Forde as Melvin P. Thorpe in “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas”

– Best Debut by an actress, Rhoshawnda Baker as Benethea Younger in “A Raisin in the Sun”

– Best Youth Actor, Colby Passman as Cedric Errol/ Lord Fauntleroy in “Fauntleroy”

– Best Youth Actress, Giovanna Little as Mary in “Fauntleroy”

– Best Sets, “A Raisin in the Sun” by Layne Taylor, set designer and Don Vesterse, set decoration

– Volunteer of the Year, Lynn Mann

– Dawn Taylor Memorial Youth Scholarship award winner, Giovanna Little.

– Lifetime achievement Award, Layne Taylor

Taylor said receiving the lifetime award is an honor, but he said his achievements are made possible only by hard work of all other involved at NLT.

“I certainly intend to spend my life here and would love to be here at the theater for as long as there is a need for me,” I have nothing but pride here for what has been created through everyone’s hard work.

“I’m so proud of the number of African-American actors we have involved and the number of young people that are here and sticking with it. Everyone here gets along wonderfully. It is kind of life a Utopian society we have going on here.”