The OCies Yeeeee-ha!

Time flies at speeds measured in light-years when you're awarding laurels to the finest theater in Orange County (with Long Beach tossed in just because our hearts are so damn big). How else can we explain the fact that OC Weekly is already in its sixth year of hosting the OC Weekly Theater Awards? Why, it was just a few years ago that some 30-odd thespians were crammed into a Laguna Beach restaurant as a wacky ukulele player named King Kukulele serenaded the winners of the very first OC Weekly Theater Awards, the OCies—pronounced “Okies,” as in denizens of Oklahoma (the state, not the Broadway show).

The event has grown until it almost feels legit. This year, for the second straight year, we invited more than 100 people from the local theater community to the Grove Theater Center in Garden Grove to rub shoulders, lift their elbows and clap their hands to celebrate the best and the brightest of 2001.

The awards presentation, held Feb. 25, were well-attended and muchly enjoyed. Food courtesy of Mark's Restaurant was consumed, and music courtesy of the Todd Oliver Quartet was enjoyed. And then no one's favorite theatrical curmudgeon, Joel Beers, presented the awards.

We've never made a distinction between big and small theaters, and this year, smaller theaters claimed as many nominations—and earned as many awards—as the big venues. Here's who was nominated, who won and what our reviewers thought were the best of the class of Orange County Theater 2001.

WINNER: Stalag 17, Stages.
“Jim Book and Brian Newell spearheaded the sets and lighting for this on-the-money production of this World War II POW tale.” (Joseph Sirota) BEST ENSEMBLE ACTING
Unrelenting Relaxation, The Chance Theater. “The best ensemble acting of the year, period.” (Dave Barton)
NOMINEES: Angels in America, Cal State Long Beach; American Buffalo, Laguna Playhouse; Romeo Hall N Juliet Oates, Troubadour Theater Co. at Grove Theater Center; Shopping and Fucking, Rude Guerrilla. BEST NEW PLAY
WINNER: Cold/Tenderby Cody Henderson, Cypress College.
“Henderson pieced together this story with a puzzle-master's skill. Unique and constantly engaging, even at this embryonic stage.” (Joel Beers)
NOMINEES: The Beard of Avon by Amy Freed, South Coast Repertory; For Pete's Sake by J.R. Sussman, Chance Theater; Grasmere by Kristina Leach, Cal State Fullerton; Nostalgia by Lucinda Coxon, South Coast Repertory; Octoberby Brook Stowe, Empire Theatre. BEST COLLEGE PRODUCTION
Angels in America, Cal State Long Beach.“This Ashley Carr-directed production, which starred an undergraduate cast, showed convincingly that, 10 years after it first captivated a world, Tony Kushner's play can still break your heart in 100 different ways.” (Joel Beers)
NOMINEES: Grasmere, Cal State Fullerton; Sly Fox, Golden West College. BEST MALE PERFORMANCE
WINNER: Robert Dean Nunez, The Elephant Man, Stages.
“No makeup—just a change in voice and body—Nunez gave an 'actor's actor' performance as the tragically deformed John Merrick.” (Dave Barton)
NOMINEES: J. Todd Adams, The Lonesome West, SCR; Evan Brashier, Rocky Horror Show, UC Irvine; Chris Fowler, Eastern Standard, Orange Coast College; W. Morgan Sheppard, The Homecoming, SCR. BEST FEMALE PERFORMANCE
WINNER: Kimberly K. King, Hold Please, SCR.
“King's portrayal of the desperate conscience for an aging generation was a finely measured balance between professional restraint and emotional ketchup burst.” (Joel Beers)
NOMINEES: Kandis Chappell, A Delicate Balance, SCR; Rachel Davenport, House of Yes, Rude Guerrilla; Lily Jha, Beast on the Moon, Long Beach Playhouse; Liz Simmons, Therese Raquin, Chance Theater. BEST DIRECTION
WINNER: Michael Serna, Charge and the Exploded View, 6 Chairs and a Couple of Artists.
“Serna's direction of Erik Ramsey's dazzlingly smart, powerful and off-center diagram of life, The Exploded View, was far and away the best small theater production of the year.” (Joseph Sirota)
NOMINEES: Joseph Arnold, Grasmere, Cal State Fullerton; Andrew Barnicle, American Buffalo, Laguna Playhouse; Gavin Carlton, Elephant Man, Stages; Amanda DeMaio, Unrelenting Relaxation, Chance Theater. BEST PRODUCTION
WINNER: American Buffalo, Laguna Playhouse.
“Andrew Barnicle and his excellent cast enabled David Mamet's cynical take on business ethics and the American Dream to slice as sharply today as it did 25 years ago.” (Joel Beers)
NOMINEES: The Circle, SCR; The Homecoming, SCR; Shopping and Fucking, Rude Guerilla; Soon, Philharmonic Society of Orange County; The Exploded View, 6 Chairs and a Couple of Artists. THE HELENA MODJESKA CONTRIBUTION TO ORANGE COUNTY THEATER AWARD
Jim Book.
Our version of a lifetime achievement award always seems to go to a person still very much involved in local theater. Consider Book. As set and light guru at Fullerton College for the past 20 years, he has had an immense impact on that school's fertile theater department. But his influence stretches far beyond those walls. He helped build the Chance Theater from the ground up, was intimately involved in the formation of Stages, and has volunteered his time and expertise to more than a dozen other theaters.

Bob Jensen, a Fullerton theater instructor and longtime friend and colleague of Book's, delivered a humorous yet sincere speech, recounting the first time Book introduced himself in a college classroom: he said, “Hello, I'm Jim Book, and I like to blow things up.”

“There's nothing Jim can't take apart or put back together,” Jensen said.

What did he think of his award? Who knows—he's vacationing in Hawaii, wearing corduroy pants on the beach, no doubt.

Theater reviewers who participated in theOC Weekly Theater Awards include Joel Beers, Dave Barton, Joseph Sirota, Roz Taucher and Chris Ziegler.

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