Updated: Apr 30, 2022
Big winners are Maverick’s The Crucible and Chance’s Fun Home, but the biggest winners are anyone and everyone who loves theatre and wants to continue to make Orange County a destination for theatre devotees.
By Eric Marchese
April 25, 2022 – Costa Mesa, California – Not only has live theatre not been killed off by the pandemic; it came roaring back Monday night during the inaugural OC Theatre Guild Awards ceremony at the Samueli Theater at Segerstrom Center for the Arts, which was nearly filled to capacity.
The big winners were Chance Theater, capturing eight awards from its 34 nominations, and Maverick Theater, whose production of The Crucible snagged six awards, including Outstanding Ensemble and Outstanding Production of a Play.
The biggest winner, though, was the Orange County theatre community, whose presence was vocal, nearly raucous. During the pre-awards reception in the Samueli lobby, the noise level was a virtual din, the atmosphere was festive and the buzz was electric.
It was as though this collection of actors, directors, producers, designers, and all manner of theatre personnel were finally allowed to joyously release two years of pent-up emotion and excitement.
Keeping the energy level high were the lively, personable hosts, Deanna Anthony and Chris Chatman, who were joined onstage by pianist Kim Le, whom Chatman joked would “keep the thank-you speeches short and sweet – like me” before he and Anthony got the audience on their feet for a dance party to kick off the night.
OC Theatre Guild’s President Amanda DeMaio took the microphone to give a few brief remarks and to praise the audience – and the entire theatre community – by saying “the support you’ve shown each other has been unique, touching and heartwarming” before bringing on the first presenter.
Awards were given for 16 categories. The four gender-neutral acting categories honored two recipients each for a grand total of 20 OC Theatre Guild Awards handed out during the evening.
Broken down by theatre company, Chance Theater received eight awards (4-Fun Home, 2-Yellowman, 2-Striking 12), Maverick Theater received six awards (The Crucible), Costa Mesa Playhouse received three awards (Silent Sky), and one award apiece went to P3 Theatre Company (Day After Day), The Wayward Artist (The Nether), and Curtis Theatre (All Shook Up).
Chance’s production of Fun Home, the seriocomic musical about Alison Bechdel and her dysfunctional early family life, captured four trophies for Outstanding Production of a Musical, Outstanding Direction of a Musical (Marya Mazor), Outstanding Lead Performance in a Musical (Ron Hastings) and Outstanding Supporting Performance in a Musical (Madelyn Velazquez-Heywood).
Mazor had a couple of chances to shout out heaps of praise – when she won for Outstanding Direction of a Musical, she thanked Bechdel for writing “a story about identity and being true to yourself,” and when she returned with the cast and crew of Fun Home to accept Outstanding Production of a Musical, she thanked everyone at Chance Theater “for its incredible hard work in celebrating theatre” and the OC Theatre Guild “for recognizing live theatre.”
Chance Theater captured four more awards – Julanne Chidi Hill won Lead Performance for a Play for her portrayal of Alma in Yellowman; Andrea Heilman won for Outstanding Lighting Design for Yellowman; Laura Leo Kelly received the Outstanding Supporting Performance prize for their seven roles in Striking 12; and Lex Leigh won Outstanding Music Direction for Striking 12.
Maverick Theater’s revival of the classic American drama The Crucible was the biggest winner of the night, with a mini-sweep of six awards. The first recipient was Celestina Hudson for Outstanding Costume Design, followed minutes later by Mark Coyan winning the Outstanding Supporting Performance Award for his portrayal of Reverend Hale. Coyan related the “long process” of bringing the show to fruition – more than 18 months from pre-pandemic to the show’s ultimate live run in fall of 2021. He dedicated his award to fellow cast member Kathleen Fabray, who passed away during rehearsals.
Another individual Crucible acting accomplishment occurred when Nathan Baesel won the Outstanding Lead Performance in a Play Award for his portrayal of John Proctor. In accepting his award, Baesel said that in bringing The Crucible to the stage during a pandemic, he and the company “were unknowingly telling the story of a pestilence sweeping the land,” referring to a seemingly new age of misinformation.
When Maverick Theater co-founder and artistic director Brian Newell received the Outstanding Direction of a Play Award, he called it “a huge honor” and noted that the advantage of doing strings of “unusual, cultish shows” is that it allows him the luxury “to do incredible shows like The Crucible.”
When The Crucible received the awards for Outstanding Ensemble and Outstanding Production of a Play, the entire cast and other members of the production team took the stage. Margaret Dean spoke on behalf of the ensemble while Christopher Spencer accepted the Production Award, stating “Audiences were so important – because of COVID, the pandemic, and how nervous everyone was. I want to thank all the audiences that came out to support us and all the productions. Now it’s up to us to keep them coming back.”
Costa Mesa Playhouse snagged three awards out of its nine nominations for the historical women-in-science drama Silent Sky – Jennifer Walquist for Outstanding Supporting Performance in a Play, Steve Endicott for Outstanding Scenic Design, and Victoria Serra received the Outstanding Notable Achievement Award for her Video Design.
To ensure that OCTG Member Theatres had their moment to shine, individual members of theatre companies in attendance served as the presenters. Before announcing the nominees and winner, each presenter spoke about their company’s history and mission, inviting all in attendance to venture out and explore all that OC theatre has to offer.
OC Theatre Guild’s Award Committee Coordinators Kristin Campbell and Katie Chidester took the stage and explained the voting process for the awards, extended a sincere thanks to the voters, and wrapped it all up with an open invitation to other theatre companies and artists to join the Guild.
DeMaio returned to the stage to introduce two special presenters, without whom the OC Theatre Guild “would not have been possible” – founders Sharyn Case and Brian Page, whose appearance onstage elicited a roar of approval from the audience.
Case briefly outlined her and Page’s original vision for an all-encompassing county theatre guild. Together, they agreed that the evening’s ceremony was confirmation of the importance of that vision, as well as the need to advocate and amplify the high caliber of art being produced onstage in Orange County.
After the house lights came up and the theatre was being cleared, DeMaio was jubilant over the success of the evening, noting the impressive attendance, the excitement surrounding each and every award handed off from presenter to recipient, the thank-you speeches, and the overall level of optimism for the future of theatre in this corner of the U.S.
OC Theatre Guild Awards ceremony production team: Michael Serna (director), Deanna Anthony and Chris Chatman (hosts), Kim Le (piano), Bret Simmons (music director), Kristin Campbell (projection designer),Wade Williamson (stage manager), and Calvin Ballard (assistant stage manager).
OC Theatre Guild Awards presenters and speakers: Amanda DeMaio (OCTG President, STAGEStheatre) Tamiko Washington (OC-Centric), Kerri Helmuth (The Curtis Theatre), Bob Berman (Camino Real Playhouse), Jocelyn Brown (Chance Theater), Enrique Munoz (Maverick Theater), Brooke Aston Harper (The Wayward Artist), Peter Kreder (Costa Mesa Playhouse), Anna Jennings (OCTG Board, Awards Committee Chair, South Coast Repertory), Katie Chidester (OCTG Board, Award Committee Coordinator, Project La Femme), Kristin Campbell (OCTG Board, Award Committee Coordinator), Craig Tyrl (OCTG Board, The Wayward Artist), Cucu Chanel (Laguna Playhouse), Steven Biggs (STAGEStheatre), Tucker Boyes (Alchemy Theatre Company), Andrea Marie Freeman (Project La Femme), Sharyn Case (OCTG Founder), Brian Page (OCTG Founder), and David Ivers (South Coast Repertory).
OC Theatre Guild was founded in 2015 and officially organized in 2019 as a not-for-profit 501(c)3 to serve Orange County’s vital artistic community with a mission to nurture, support and promote live theatre in greater Orange County. That stated goal is supported by the long-held beliefs of the guild’s founders and leaders that theatre and the performing arts are an essential part of what creates a healthy, passionate and multicultural society that enriches communities while providing opportunities for personal growth and fulfillment. Through the last several years, the guild has made a commitment to answer the question “What can we do together that we can’t do on our own?
Outstanding Production of a Play
The Crucible, Maverick Theater
Outstanding Production of a Musical
Fun Home, Chance Theater
Outstanding Direction of a Play
Brian Newell, The Crucible, Maverick Theater
Outstanding Direction of a Musical
Marya Mazor, Fun Home, Chance Theater
The Crucible, Maverick Theater
Outstanding Lead Performance in Play (two recipients)
Julanne Chidi Hill (Alma), Yellowman, Chance Theater
Nathan Baesel (Proctor), The Crucible, Maverick Theater
Outstanding Lead Performance in a Musical (two recipients)
Deborah Robin (Doris Day), Day After Day, P3 Theatre Company
Ron Hastings (Bruce Bechdel), Fun Home, Chance Theater
Outstanding Supporting Performance in a Play (two recipients)
Jennifer Walquist (Williamina Flemming), Silent Sky, Costa Mesa Playhouse
Mark Coyan (Rev. Hale), The Crucible, Maverick Theater
Outstanding Supporting Performance in a Musical (two recipients)
Laura Leo Kelly (Craig/Space Invader Girl/Lydia/Grandma/Erica/Happy Foley/Drums), Striking 12, Chance Theater
Madelyn Velazquez-Heywood (Medium Alison), Fun Home, Chance Theater
Outstanding Scenic Design
Steve Endicott, Silent Sky, Costa Mesa Playhouse
Outstanding Costume Design
Celestina Hudson, The Crucible, Maverick Theater
Outstanding Lighting Design
Andrea Heilman, Yellowman, Chance Theater
Outstanding Sound Design
Maddi Deckard, The Nether, The Wayward Artist
Kelsie Blackwell, All Shook Up, Curtis Theatre
Outstanding Music Direction
Lex Leigh, Striking 12, Chance Theater
Outstanding Notable Achievement
Victoria Serra, Video Designer, Silent Sky, Costa Mesa Playhousec
Eric Marchese has written about numerous subjects over more than 38 years as a freelance and staff journalist for a wide variety of publications, but is best known as a critic, feature writer and news reporter covering theater and the arts throughout Orange County and beyond.