SALTs Get Shaking
Let’s hear the applause for Kasey McHale, Trevor Hill and Henry Wilson. Their nomination for the 2011 Syracuse New Times Syracuse Area Live Theater (SALT) Awards refutes the cliché charge that the anonymous SALT Academy, whose members never meet and don’t know each other’s names, always favors the well-known. McHale played the nasty little lead in Encore Presentations’ The Bad Seed, Trevor Hill was in Baldwinsville Theatre Guild’s Othello and Henry Wilson was in the latest iteration of Salt City Center for the Performing Arts’ long-running Jesus Christ Superstar. Academy voters loved them and nearly 20 other first-time nominees. They are what make the SALT Awards more unpredictable than any other awards show you might want to name.
This does not mean favorites were rebuffed. Academy voters love Joe Pierce, Moe Harrington, Bob Brown, Cathleen O’Brien, Dan Tursi, Stephfond Brunson, Christine Lightcap and Bill Molesky, and they showed it. Molesky, already the top trophy winner, was nominated for his farewell performance in Yasmina Reza’s Art. Steve Braddock, another favorite, saw his Gifford Family Theatre collapse in the spring for lack of funding. As a farewell kiss the SALT Academy nominated his show 13 for best musical, and him twice, for Best Director of a Musical and for Lifetime Achievement.
For breakthrough recognition Terry LaCasse’s new CNY Shakespeare is already a winner, regardless of how it does at the May 20 SALT ceremony. The company’s summer 2011 show was an innovative reconstruction of Henry V known as Henry V x 7. It’s up for three awards: Best Play of the Year in Community Theater, Best Director for Matt Chiorini of the Le Moyne College faculty, and Lauren Pisano as Best Supporting Actress.
Some names appearing in these nominations for the first time probably reflect a regard for a lifetime of admirable work as much as for a single performance. Robb Sharpe has always been good but in Rarely Done’s Exonerated his portrayal of pain and humiliation nailed you to the chair. Similarly, Dan Bostick’s plaintive, diffident lead in Appleseed Productions’ A Year With Frog and Toad might have been terrific, but voters remember that he was one of our best players in the years before the awards were established.
The biggest innovation in this year’s ballot is that voters may now choose to honor best actress and actor in professional theater, whereas previously only the show and director were recognized. For a professional the SALT Award carries more weight than for a community theater player, lovely as it may be to win. Given that, the choices are ironic. Jacqueline Baum as Helen in The Miracle Worker is a non-professional. Marie Eife in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe is a drama student. And Marie Kemp, although an Equity Player, is a Syracuse University Drama Department faculty member.
Striking in the Summer Theater nominations is the complete exclusion of Ithaca’s Hangar Theatre, which once dominated the awards, one year taking all of them. Part of this can be attributed to the excellent summers enjoyed by Hangar’s rivals, Merry-Go-Round of Auburn and Cortland Repertory Theatre. Equally important is Hangar’s retreat from reaching out to Syracuse audiences, including SALT Academy voters.
To be sure you have enough time to think about your selections, we’re giving you two weeks to decide who you’d like to see win the People’s Choice Awards, always a popular portion of the festivities. Consider your selections in the following three categories: Production of the Year; Actress of the Year; and Actor of the Year. The official ballot for the People’s Choice Awards will appear in the April 25 edition of the Syracuse New Times, and deadline for balloting is May 4.
The SALT Awards, with a newly redesigned trophy, take place Sunday, May 20, at the Palace Theatre, 2384 James St. Tickets will be available soon.
Just when it seemed scandal season had ended in Syracuse University basketball nation, one more city-dividing controversy has reared its head. The latest Orange debacle landed not atop University Hill nor anywhere on Tiffany Circle in DeWitt, but on campus-adjacent Meadowbrook Drive. The culprit in this latest controversy: a basketball-shaped birdhouse.
The ’Cuse-inspired birdhouse recently ruffled a few feathers in the quaint family neighborhood. The birdhouse—on the corner of Meadowbrook Drive and Euclid Avenue—is one of four “endcap” decorations installed by members of the Meadowbrook Drive Neighborhood Association. Their mission: to spruce up some Onondaga County-owned property along Meadowbrook with flowers, mulch and decorative pieces. The other three endcap displays include a church, a house and a jet plane. Less than a week after the Orange-themed birdhouse went up, however, a few neighbors began griping about its appearance and size.
“We’ve never had any complaints before,” said David Kirby, one of the organizers of the neighborhood association. “And, honestly, most people really seemed to like it.”
The birdhouse in question mimics a giant basketball with a Syracuse “S” painted on either side. The great orange sphere is nested atop a 12-foot blue pole bolted into concrete (that’s a little less than two Scoop Jardines tall). While many see it as a point of pride in the neighborhood, others see it as an eyesore.
After a particularly persistent resident complained to the offices of the mayor and the county executive, Kirby received a call from Joanie Mahoney’s office. “They said it’s gotta come down,” Kirby said. He pleaded his case (“Come on, it’s just a birdhouse!”) but the county insisted. The birdhouse was, after all, on county property.
Kirby delivered the bad news to Tim Robinson, the architect of the controversial bird dorm. “He asked for a few days to find somewhere else to put it,” Kirby said. After all, Robinson had spent several months and nearly $500 building the birdhouse. He hoped to find it a new home somewhere on campus, preferably outside the Carmelo Anthony Center, attached to Manley Field House.
But the avian foreclosure was avoided at the 11th hour, preventing the impending demolition. Apparently word about the county’s huffing and puffing had reached the Hill. Eric Persons, associate vice president at SU’s Office of Government & Community Relations, heard the structure was being removed and began looking for a place for it on campus. He made a call to the county inquiring about the birdhouse, which apparently was enough to change their mind. Kirby received word from Mahoney’s office the next day that the birdhouse could remain.
For the time being, the spherical orange house still looms over the quiet intersection. Residents of the multi-family home could not be reached for immediate comment, but it can be assumed (for liability reasons) that they won’t be making a peep about the whole thing.
Crescent City Crooner
For 90 minutes, New Orleans singer-songwriter Allen Toussaint entertained a full house at Onondaga Community College’s Storer Auditorium to bring to a close this season’s Arts Across Campus Legends of Jazz concert series. Plumbing his own impressive catalog—from “Working in a Coal Mine” and “A Certain Girl” to “What Do You Want the Girl to Do?” to “Mother-In-Law”—Toussaint’s performance was a walk down memory lane for the boomers in attendance. For those younger than 40, his body of work proves that you don’t get to be a 74-year-old legend by resting on laurels. In addition to writing, Toussaint fashioned a second career out of producing some of the music world’s biggest talents—Lee Dorsey anyone? Joining him at the close of the show was series producer Frank Malfitano (above, left), who presented Toussaint with a plaque commemorating his maiden visit to Syracuse. “I’ve never been here before,” Toussaint gushed, “it’s just beautiful country.”