At last count, Sonoma County had over twenty active theatre companies, ranging from the nomadic Pegasus Theatre Company to the theatre departments of the two local institutions of higher learning. From Petaluma to Cloverdale, from Monte Rio to Sonoma, the options available for those interested in live theatre in this county are plentiful.
Two years ago, four Sonoma County based theatre critics – including your host – gathered to discuss the possibility of celebrating the best of local theatre through an awards process. All were members of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle, an organization that has for the past 41 years recognized excellence in theatre produced in the nine bay area counties with an annual awards ceremony. Theatre Bay Area, the largest regional theatre service organization in North America, started their own awards program four years ago, also for productions throughout the Bay Area.
While Sonoma County has made a respectable showing in these awards over the past few years – including two wins for Santa Rosa’s Left Edge Theatre at the recent TBA Awards – the local critics thought there was enough theatre produced in this county to warrant their own honors.
Thus was born the Marquee Theater Journalists Association and the MTJA Awards, named for the legendary Marquee Theatre of Santa Rosa where many local artists began their theatrical careers. Awards are given in fifteen categories that recognize outstanding work in Sonoma County productions that opened from September of the previous year to August of the current year. One major difference with the MTJA Awards is that the performance categories are non-gender specific. There are awards for outstanding lead performances and awards for outstanding supporting performances – all performers are considered for each award. The terms “actor” and “actress” are nowhere to be found on the Award certificates. The awards are separated by genre, with categories recognizing the differences between dramas, comedies, and musicals.
Nominations for the 2nd Annual MTJA Awards were announced in mid-September with the awards ceremony scheduled for mid-October. Wellllll, that didn’t happen but this past Monday the Sonoma County theatre community had the opportunity to gather at the Confluence Taproom & Lounge in Santa Rosa and celebrate the past year in theatre.
Here are the recipients of this year’s MTJA Awards:
Outstanding Poster/Program Design
Pagliacci (Victoria Von Thal, Cinnabar Theater)
Outstanding Set Design
Peter Crompton (In the Heights, SRJC)
Outstanding Costume Design
Maci Cae Hosler (Fairyworlds!, 6th Street Playhouse)
Outstanding Light Design
Eddy Hansen (The Sugar Bean Sisters, Spreckels Theatre Company)
Outstanding Sound Design
Doug Faxon (The Birds, Main Stage West)
Sam Browne, Casandra Hillman, Anakarina Swanson (In the Heights, SRJC)
Outstanding Supporting Performance in a Drama
Rose Roberts (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Main Stage West)
Outstanding Supporting Performance in a Musical
Erik Weiss (You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, 6th Street Playhouse)
Outstanding Supporting Performance in a Comedy
Heather Gordon (The Money Shot, Left Edge Theater)
Outstanding Lead Performance in a Musical
Daniela Innocenti-Beem (Gypsy, Sonoma Arts Live)
Outstanding Lead Performance in a Comedy
Melissa Claire (Becky’s New Car, Sonoma Arts Live)
Outstanding Lead Performance in a Drama
Alan Kaplan (Visiting Mr. Green, 6th Street Playhouse)
Outstanding Musical Production
In the Heights (John Shillington, director; Janis Wilson, musical director; SRJC)
Outstanding Comedy Production
Becky’s New Car (Carl Jordan, director; Sonoma Arts Live)
Outstanding Drama Production
Visiting Mr. Green (David L. Yen, director; 6th Street Playhouse)
Congratulations to these artists and the entire Sonoma County theatre community.