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Small troupes win big at St. Louis Theater Circle Awards

Small troupes win big at St. Louis Theater Circle Awards

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Little won big at Monday night's St. Louis Theater Circle Awards, with small and midsize companies outscoring some of their bigger brethren.

Topping the winners' list were Stray Dog Theatre, which took home six awards for "Ragtime" and one for "A Doll's House," and Max & Louie Productions, honored five times for its "Souvenir."

"Ragtime," the musical about African-American life at the turn of the 20th century, was the most-nominated of all shows and won in six of its nine categories. Comedy "Souvenir" is the two-person story of would-be singer Florence Foster Jenkins and her loyal accompanist.

Stray Dog artistic director Gary Bell, who accepted the award for musical ensemble for "Ragtime," praised the 26-member ensemble's work — "homegrown, in our own city, all working together as one creative, beautiful force."

The Muny and the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis weren't overlooked. The Muny received four awards for three shows (two for "The Little Mermaid" and one each for "Newsies" and "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum"). The Rep's four were split two-and-two for "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" and "The Royale."

The St. Louis Theater Circle was formed in 2013 by theater critics to honor the performers and productions they most admired in the previous year. Awards recognize outstanding work both onstage and behind the scenes from the nearly three dozen professional companies in the metropolitan area.

Teresa Doggett, who won as costume designer for "Souvenir" at Max & Louie Productions, became the first person to win awards in both acting (supporting actress, "Season's Greetings," 2013) and design. She praised independent costume designers working in St. Louis theater. "If you ever need anything, call me," she said, offering support. 

2018 St. Louis Theater Circle Awards

Paul Cereghino accepts the award for outstanding actor in a comedy for his role in "Souvenir" during the St. Louis Theater Circle Awards at the Loretto-Hilton Center for the Performing Arts in Webster Groves on Monday, March 26, 2018. Photo by Jon Gitchoff

Other winners acknowledged St. Louis theater's sense of community.

Jacqueline Thompson, who won for lead actress in a drama for New Jewish Theatre's "Intimate Apparel," said: "After graduate school, I didn't want to come home. I didn't think I'd get work. Thank you for proving me wrong."

Andrew Michael Neiman, who won for lead actor in a drama for "Uncle Vanya" at Rebel and Misfits, thanked critics who have been reviewing his work for many years. He also gave a shout out to members of the theater community who have been "more faithful to St. Louis than you meant to be, like Tennessee Williams."

Accepting the award for outstanding musical director for her work on "Ragtime" at Stray Dog Theatre, Jennifer Buchheit said, "A year ago I quit my day job and started to do what I love." 

This year's outstanding new play was actually two plays. "First Impressions," produced by SATE (Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble), adapts Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice" via readers' first impressions. It tied in the category with Carter Lewis' "Percentage America," produced at St. Louis Actors' Studio and delving into fake news and the power of truth.

Accepting the award for SATE, managing director Ellie Schwetye noted that more than 70 "writers" contributed to its show, which is made up of impressions of "Pride and Prejudice" from around the world. The troupe also won the award for outstanding ensemble in a comedy. 

The awards were handed out Monday night at Webster University's Loretto-Hilton Center for the Performing Arts, where both the Rep and Opera Theatre of St. Louis perform. A special achievement award went to Jan Albus and Lara Teeter for their work with Variety Theatre, established nine years ago to include children with physical and learning challenges in its annual production.

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