Robert G. Leigh, That Which Remains, the Chance Theater
Resisting the temptation to conceptualize this paragon of conceptual theater, Leigh's production of four short Samuel Beckett pieces was a great illustration of trusting the playwright. He performed Beckett to the letter, paying homage to that visionary, but also imbuing the show with a life all its own. He showed that there are worlds of possibility in Beckett if the director follows the playwright's demanding technical stage directions, pauses, repetitions and wholly unique vision.

Cockfighters, Johnna Adams
A contemporary drama with the feel of Greek tragedy, plus a little Shepard and Tarantino. It was a Rashomon-like mystery that was intensely captivating from start to finish. One reviewer called it a West Texan white-trash Twin Peaks. It featured cockfighting, brutalizing, simple-minded dead people and a sheriff named Hump. Adams is perhaps OC's hardest-working playwright, and this play's ability to operate on so many tracks is ample proof of her drive and talent. (Kudos to the Hunger Artists for mounting the play as the first piece in its new Fullerton space.)

Major Barbara, South Coast Repertory
Our host for this year's event ushered in its new theater complex with this revival of George Bernard Shaw's masterpiece about the conflict between private duty and the public good. The acting, the direction and jaw-dropping technical elements helped deliver the fascinatingly complex and interrelated arguments in Shaw's play. Director Martin Benson sacrificed nothing in length or pacing. It was a long production that cut against the grain of most quick-cut MTV entertainment. We applaud him—and his theater—for doing it Shaw's way.

Jerry Patch, dramaturge, South Coast Repertory
Patch has worked in the literary department for SCR since 1967, serving as dramaturge since 1972. Along with literary manager Jennifer Kiger, he oversees all of SCR's new play development programs. There are a lot of them, from the Pacific Playwrights Project and New Script reading series to the boatload of commissions and new plays the theater has worked on for the past 35 years. He's also the playwright of SCR's annual Dickens homage and most recently helped create the musical Education of Randy Newman.

Rude Guerrilla Theater Co.
Once again, this Santa Ana-based troupe lived up to its self-appointed role as the county's most adventurous theater. Keith Curran's Walking the Dead, Mark Ravenhill's Sleeping Around, Ping Chong's Truth & Beauty, and most notably, the West Coast premiere of Sarah Kane's intensely grim and challenging Cleansed are great examples of a theater living up to its mission.

Jon Gaw, Stages
As the principal designer and the guy who oversees the building of most of the sets at Orange County's longest-running storefront theater, Gaw is most responsible for, as Dave Barton wrote, creating small miracles on a shoestring budget. Every theater has someone like Gaw, the person who puts in weeks of work but is rarely saluted, the one who's always there with an idea, a solution, a hammer or a ladder. This award is in his name, but it honors all those folks in Orange County theater who are the problem solvers. Theater would not get done if it weren't for them.

Joel Beers wrote this, but Dave Barton, Kelly A. Flynn, Rich Kane, Andrew Nienaber and Chris Ziegler sure helped out.
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