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“Four Star Theater Alliance honors six Ventura County theaters

Cecil Sutton Taylor Kasch The Night Alive Photo by Brian Stethem
It may be an increasingly electronic world, but the eclectic world of live theater is proving it has staying power in Ventura County, culminating in a gala Tony-like affair of awards on February 26th.

Offering over 1,000 seats on any given weekend, the County’s six community theaters – part of the unique Four Star Theater Alliance -- tap into local talents presenting comedies, dramas, musicals and dramedies.

The gala affair is at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 26 at the High Streets Art Center, 45 E. High Street in Moorpark. A limited amount of tickets ($15 in advance, $20 at the door) are available for the public at:www.HighStreetArtsCenter.com.
Veteran Ventura County actors Cecil Sutton and Taylor Kasch in a poignant scene from "The Night Alive," which won the most Oustanding Production Award for Santa Paula Theater Center from the Four Star Theater Alliance. Photo Credit: Brian Stethem

Adams Family Dance Photo Courtesy High Street Arts Center
 Morticia oversees a dance in "The Addams Family." Photo courtesy of High Street Art Center Theater.
As an example of diversity produced by Ventura's vibrant theater scene, the Alliance’s judges in December chose the most outstanding productions of 2016 from its six theaters, each of which produce 5-6 plays per year.

They are: “Nunsense” (Camarillo Skyway Playhouse), “Amadeus” (Conejo Players Theatre), “All My Sons” (Elite Theatre Company), “The Addams Family” (High Street Arts Center), “Skylight” (Ojai ACT ~ Art Center Theater) and “The Night Alive” (Santa Paula Theatre Center).

Judging by audience numbers, live theater in the county must be doing something right.

The Four-Star Awards are the county’s local equivalent of the Tonys. The six theaters are judged by five people from the other theaters, which helps foster fairness. The Alliance was formed in 2009 to encourage cooperation between the theaters by sharing resources, such as sets, props, costumes, tech crews and actors. It also filled an awards gap left when a newspaper stopped giving critics’ awards.

“The seriousness of the Four-Star Alliance has been proved” over those seven years, said Dean Johnson of Camarillo Skyway Playhouse. “Ventura County is a very heavy theater community, heads and shoulders above a lot of Los Angeles (community) theaters,” Johnson said.

Besides the six Alliance theaters, the county is home to the professional Rubicon Theater, various improv companies, traveling pros, colleges and smaller venues under 100 seats.
home cooked meal Buddy Anna Photo by Brandi Crockett RESIZED
Trying to revitalize a long ago affair, Anna Kotula cooked a full aromatic meal on stage for Buddy Wilds in "Skylight,"
the drama that won the most Outstanding Production of Ojai ACT's 2016 season from the Four Star Theater Alliance.
Photo Credit: Brandi Crockett
The awards show on Feb. 26 at the High Street Theater includes short performances from each theater’s season and a popular slide show created by Steve Grumette of Ojai ACT.

Notably, the Alliance does not judge performances as “Best,” but rather as the most “Outstanding,” a subtle but critical distinction. Here’s the list of winners for the 2016 season:
Camarillo Skyway Playhouse

Lead Performances: Dale Alpert as Morrie Schwartz in “Tuesdays With Morrie” and Lauren Moore as Suzette in “Don't Dress for Dinner.”
Featured Performances: R. Shane Bingham as Mitch Albom “Tuesdays With Morrie” and Caroline J. Smith as Suzanne in “Don't Dress for Dinner
Set Design: Ed Salas for “Don't Dress for Dinner
Sound Design: Dean Johnson for “Curtains
Lighting Design: William Carmichael for “Tuesdays With Morrie
Costume Design: Laura Comstock for “Curtains
Music Direction: Susan Calkins for “Nunsense
Choreography: Miriam Durrie-Kirsch for “Curtains
Direction: Dean Johnson for “Nunsense
Overall Production: Kaelia Franklin for “Nunsense
Judges’ Choice: Sharon Gibson, Aileen-Marie Scott, Mary Zastrow, Dawn Notagiacomo, Angelica Smith for the “Best Little Convent in Hoboken

Conejo Players Theatre
Lead Performances: Alan Waserman as Salieri in “Amadeus,” and Blythe Renay & Randi Saxer Redman as Daisy and Violet Hilton in “Side Show.”
Featured Performances: Daniel Egan as the Scarecrow in “The Wizard of Oz” and Timorah Brown as Constanze in “Amadeus
Set Design: John Eslick for “Farragut North
Sound Design: Tim Reese for “The Wizard of Oz
Lighting Design: Jim Diderrich for “The Wizard of Oz
Costume Design: Barbara Mazeika, Lorna Bowen for “Side Show
Music Direction: Lisa Yaldezian for “Side Show
Choreography: Miriam Durrie-Kirsch for “The Wizard of Oz
Direction: Deidre Parmenter for “Amadeus
Overall Production: Priscilla Losey for “Amadeus
Judges’ Choice Award: Kurt Raymond as The Wicked Witch of the West & Miss Gulch for “Best featured Female Performed by a Male!” in “The Wizard of Oz

Elite Theatre Company
Lead Performances: Jim Seerden as Joe Keller in “All My Sons,” and Courtney Potter for many characters in “I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change
Featured Performances: Adam Womack as Allan in “Men of Tortuga” and Hanna Mitchell as Miss Casewell in “The Mousetrap
Set Design: John Eslick, Will Shupe and Sheryl Jo Bedal for “All My Sons
Sound Design: Emily Heulitt in “I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change
Lighting Design: Sam Thomas in “Men of Tortuga
Costume Design: Beth Glasner in “The Mousetrap
Direction: Brian Robert Harris for “All My Sons
Overall Production: Vivien Latham for “All My Sons
Judges’ Choice Award: Vivien Latham for “A Year That Feels Like a Lifetime Achievement

High Street Arts Center
Lead Performances: Jim Seerden as Norman in “On Golden Pond” and Dawn Notagiacomo as Nancy in “Oliver”
Featured Performances: Andy Mattick as Bill Sykes and Mr. Sowerberry in “Oliver” and Autumn Bodily as Alice in “The Addams Family
Set Design: Ken Rayzor and Scott Armstrong “On Golden Pond
Sound Design: Rick Pratt for “The 39 Steps
Lighting Design: Patrick Duffy for “Oliver
Costume Design: Penny Krevenas, and Laurel Marion for “The Addams Family
Music Direction: John Gaston for “Oliver
Choreography: Amie Woolweber for “The Addams Family
Direction: Rebecca Davey for “On Golden Pond
Overall Production: Kathee Boyer, Ken Rayzor for “The Addams Family
Judges’ Choice Award: Jeff Raum, the “Monet of Moorpark for Outstanding Scenic Painting” for “The Addams Family,” “On Golden Pond” and “Oliver

Ojai Art Center Theater ~ Ojai ACT
Lead Performances: Buddy Wilds as Tom in “Skylight” and Holly Sewell as Annie Oakley in “Annie Get Your Gun
Featured Performances: Antonio Royuela as Harold in “Black Comedy” and Nancy Jane Smeets as Miss Furnival in “Black Comedy
Set Design: Kenny Dahle for “Black Comedy
Sound Design: Steve Grumette for “Skylight
Lighting Design: Claire Cleary for “Black Comedy
Costume Design: Tiffany Smith, Carmen Smith and Haley Weed for “Annie Get Your Gun
Music Direction: Tracey Williams Sutton and Kieran Culliton for “Annie Get Your Gun
Choreography: Anna Kotula for “Annie Get Your Gun
Direction: Steve Grumette for “Skylight
Overall Production: Ruby Pronovost, Shed Behar, Ezra Eells for “Skylight
Judges’ Choice Award: John Hankins, the “Town Crier of Ojai ACT” for 14 years as Publicity Director and serving on the board.

Santa Paula Theatre Center
Lead Performances: Taylor Kasch as Tommy in “The Night Alive” and Marilyn Lazik as Vera in “4000 Miles
Featured Performances: Brian Robert Harris as Ken in “The Night Alive” and Susan Lucas as Amanda in “4000 Miles
Set Design: Mike Carnahan for “4000 Miles
Sound Design: Kathleen Bosworth for “The Other Place
Lighting Design: Gary Richardson for “The Other Place
Costume Design: Barbara Pedziwiatr for “The Unexpected Guest
Direction: Larry Swerdlove for “4000 Miles
Overall Production: Leslie Nichols for “The Night Alive
Judges’ Choice Award: Rena Petrello and Bets Lastort for “Outstanding Promotional Material” for the play “Calendar Girls

Here is an amazing montage of all the shows put on by the six theaters:
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