By Joseph Pratt
Last week, Portsmouth Little Theatre (PLT) held its annual PLT Marlowe Awards, which was held in conjunction with its annual public meeting and reading of a current financial report. The event was slightly smaller and more intimate this year, mostly inhabited by cast members from a year of performances.
The season was composed of four shows, but two dominated the awards ceremony.
The season opening show “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and the season closing show “Clybourne Park” ended the night with all of the awards, leaving the annual musical and Guinevere Mercer’s “An O. Henry Christmas” out of the mix.
Theatre officials said it is rare that drama productions outweigh musical adaptations at the awards, but attributed a smaller musical cast and phenomenal drama productions to the occurrence.
The Marlowe Awards were presented in seven categories.
The following awards were given, Best Production was awarded to Kasie Leightenheimer, for her show “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Next;” Best Actress was awarded to Leigh Anne Smith, for her role as Nurse Ratched in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest;” Best New Performer was awarded to Billy Allard, for his role in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest;” Best Supporting Actor was awarded to Michael Stapleton, for his role as Billy Bibbit in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest;” Best Actor was also awarded to Michael Stapleton, for his roles in “Clybourne Park;” Best Supporting Actress was awarded to Aundrea Perkins, for her roles in “Clybourne Park;” and Best Director was awarded to Jason Chaney and Heather Meadows, for their work with “Clybourne Park.”
Director Kasie Leightenheimer cried as she recited her acceptance speech for Best Product, clearly not expecting the win.
“I am so pleased to have won. Historically, straight dramatic plays are usually passed over for the honor in favor of shows which are lighter or purely entertaining,” Leightenheimer said. “Cuckoo was a difficult show to perform and, at times, to watch due to its dramatic content, but it is so rewarding to know that our patrons rewarded the efforts of our incredibly hard working cast and crew. We couldn’t be more proud.”
Vice President Leigh Anne Smith directed the musical this past season, but was happy to see the award for best show go to the drama, in which she also won an award for her role in.
“It was very interesting that the drama won over the musical, which, in my memory, hasn’t happened,” Smith said. “It was quite a surprise for the director and cast of the show. Everyone was kind about the award winning individuals and congratulations were being given all around. I am very proud of our actors and crew.”
The celebration was held as an honor to an entire production year and made note to thank and honor all involved in making the year a positive one.
“I feel like the Marlowe Awards wrapped up the year very well, in that it was a very diverse disbursement of the awards, which is how the season went,” Smith explained. “It wasn’t planned, and I am unsure of how it happened, but I believe it was a great statement of how well we planned our season.”
Smith said that the night went over well as a whole. The ceremony was centered around the theme of movies, being named “A Night at the Strand,” which was the name of the movie house that originally inhabited the PLT building. The awards typically pay homage to the theatre and local history, however, with the Marlowe Awards themselves being named after local celebrity Julia Marlowe, who was a renown Shakespearean actress in her time.
“It was just a fun night. We had actors, crew, board members, and representation from every show at the celebration,” Smith said. “Without these people, we wouldn’t have our consistency of tech, direction, and beauty that is PLT.”
Portsmouth Little Theatre ended its season months back, but finalize it now, as the dedicated volunteers enter their upcoming season. They are currently rehearsing for a comedy titled “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike,” which will hit the Portsmouth Little Theatre stage the end of September and the beginning of October.
“We are gearing up for a very, very, very exciting season and we have some excellent shows; one is already in production,” Smith said. “We have rearranged the season to accommodate shows better. I feel like we wrapped up last year well and we are starting next season off on the right foot.”
Reach Joseph Pratt at 740-353-3101, ext. 1932, or by Twitter @JosephPratt03.