Playwright Paula Vogel and director Andrei Serban were specially honored at the 1999 Elliot Norton Awards, held June 14 at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Ballroom in Boston, MA. Sponsored by the Boston Theatre Critics Association, the Norton Awards, which honor excellence in Boston-area theatre, were founded in honor of critic Elliot Norton at his retirement in 1982. Former critic Norton, age 96, attended the event.
Vogel, author of How I Learned To Drive and The Mineola Twins, won for Outstanding Achievement in Playwriting, for her exploration of "the dark, the difficult and the daring, through the charming, the crotchety and the comical." Serban, whose collaboration on Fragments of a Greek Trilogy was recently revived to much acclaim at NYC's La Mama, was honored for Sustained Excellence. Serban could not attend the ceremony because he's at San Francisco Opera directing Wagner's Ring Cycle, but he sent a videotaped speech which was played at the gala along with video clips from his works selected by the Norton Award organizers.
Other 1999 Norton Award winners included:
Outstanding Production by a Large Resident Company: Jitney (Huntington Theatre Company).
Outstanding Production by a Visiting Company: Ragtime (tour at Colonial Theatre) Outstanding Production by a Small Resident Company: Dealer's Choice (Gloucester Stage Company).
Outstanding Production by a Local Fringe Company: Sing Me To Sleep (Coyote Theatre).
Outstanding Musical Revival: Hair (North Shore Music Theatre).
Outstanding Director - Large Resident Company: Michael Bloom (Gross Indecency at Huntington Theatre Company).
Outstanding Director - Small Resident Company: Spiro Veloudos (Lost In Yonkers, Assassins and Never The Sinner at Lyric Stage Company).
Outstanding Designer - Small Company: J. Hagenbuckle (sound for Marisol at Coyote, The SantaLand Diaries at SpeakEasy Stage, The Swan at Nora and Sing Me To Sleep at Coyote.
Outstanding New Script In Its Local Premiere: Valparaiso by Dom De Lillo (at American Repertory Theatre).
Outstanding Actress - Large Resident Company: Ellen McLaughlin as Jenny in Trinity Rep's Threepenny Opera.
Outstanding Actor - Large Resident Company: Jonathan Epstein as Theseus in Phaedra and Antonio in The Merchant of Venice, both at American Repertory Theatre.
Outstanding Actress - Small Resident Company: Sheila Ferrini as Grandma Kurnitz in Lyric Stage's Lost In Yonkers.
Outstanding Actor - Small Resident Company: Ronald Hunter as Ash in Gloucester Stage's Dealer's Choice.
Special Citation: Theatre Offensive for "challenging homegrown productions and cutting-edge imports" on lesbian and gay themes.
Selecting the Norton Awards winners this year (as they did for the past two years) were critics Skip Ascheim, Terry Byrne, Carolyn Clay, Iris Fanger, Arthur Friedman, Joyce Kulhawik, Jon Lehman, Bill Marx, Ed Siegel and Caldwell Titcomb. The reviewers comprise the Boston Theatre Critics Association.
"We strive for excellence and professionalism in the arts," Norton Awards spokesperson Movesesian told Playbill On-Line. According to committee member Titcomb, playwright Bill Alfred and translator-scholar Paul Schmidt were remembered at the 1999 Norton ceremony.
-- By David Lefkowitz