The Tony Awards landed in Las Vegas on Monday night. Not really, but for the local theater community, the inaugural Las Vegas Valley Theatre Awards provided the same sort of deserved recognition for the directors, actors and designers responsible for Southern Nevada’s top independent productions.
Founded and organized by Jacob Coakley, the Weekly’s theater critic, the event brought together reps from area companies Asylum Theatre, British National Theatre of America, Cockroach Theatre, Las Vegas Little Theatre, Off-Strip Productions, Poor Richard’s Players, Quadra-Nine Productions, Super Summer Theatre and Table 8 Productions for a celebration Coakley hopes will grow into much more. “The Valley Awards started as a way to promote theater here, and part of that promotion extends beyond awards,” Coakley says. “Creating a vital, sustainable and exciting theater community is more than marketing the work. Theaters need more than an audience; they need fundraising and spaces, and they need to be connected to larger theater ecosystems across the country.”
With those goals in mind, the Awards will solicit suggestions from local theater contributors, while continuing to scope out Valley productions with an eye to the 2015 ceremony. Performances opening between June 1, 2014 and May 31, 2015 will be eligible, with Coakley and his team attending and then recommending selected productions for further evaluation.
It’s a rigorous process, which resulted in strong Year 1 showings for Table 8’s Anton Chekhov’s Cherry Orchard of the Living Dead, which picked up six awards (Best Ensemble, Principle Actress Kellie Wright, Supporting Actor Brandon Burk, Supporting Actress Taliesin McEnaney, Isaiah Urrabazo for Costume Design and David Sankuer for Scenic Design) and Poor Richard’s Red, which snagged four (Best Production, Director Benjamin Loewy, Principal Actor Taylor Hanes and Thomas Chrastka for Sound Design). Ginny Adams won for Lighting Design on LVLT’s Picnic, and BNTA’s Stones in His Pocket picked up the Audience Choice award.
The night also featured performances from current and upcoming productions—Super Summer’s Ayler Evan, Amanda Kaiser and Coree Davis harmonized on “Who I’d Be” from Shrek the Musical, and 10-year-old Bella Zoila Smith sang the title cut from LVLT’s Really Rosie—along with favorites from the past year, highlighted by Jacquelyn Holland Wright’s spirited “All About Me” from 2013 Best of Fringe winner Sudoku the Musical.