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Surprises and sentiment dominate the 10th annual SALT Awards, and stage critic James MacKillop covered it all from the balcony

Streamlining kept the 10th annual Syracuse New Times Syracuse Area Live Theater (SALT) Awards under two hours, but still packed in more gags, skits and episodes than ever. The event was held Sunday, Oct. 26, at Syracuse Stage, on the set of the current production of August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson.

Carlos Clemenz and Rita Worlock. Co-hosts of the 2014 SALT Awards.  Michael Davis Photo | Syracuse New Times

Carlos Clemenz and Rita Worlock. Co-hosts of the 2014 SALT Awards.
Michael Davis Photo | Syracuse New Times

Co-hosts Rita Worlock, in three gowns, and formally dressed Carlos Clemenz cut short long-windedness and digressions. Seven musicians from retro rockers The Coachmen warmed up the crowd, followed by “One Day More” warbled by cast members of the Baldwinsville Theatre Guild’s Les Misérables. Companies projected video clips, like the Syracuse Shakespeare Festival’s Twelfth Night and Covey Theatre Company‘s Bonnie and Clyde. Covey also included a live scene from its forthcoming original drama, Lincoln’s Blood, opening Saturday, Nov. 1, at the Mulroy Civic Center’s BeVard Studio. And there was a taped greeting from a local boy made good, producer Richard Jay-Alexander. Strangely, all these moments made the evening feel shorter rather than long.

Darian Sundberg and Maya Dwyer perform a scene from Covey Theatre Company's 'Lincoln's Blood.'  Michael Davis Photo | Syracuse New Times

Darian Sundberg and Maya Dwyer perform a scene from Covey Theatre Company’s ‘Lincoln’s Blood.’
Michael Davis Photo | Syracuse New Times

The major local news story of the day could have derailed the evening but for a prudent decision by showrunner Ty Marshal. Longtime producer-actress Christine Lightcap succumbed to cancer earlier in the afternoon, as most revelers did not know. It would have been upsetting to announce this first, and so Worlock waited until about 20 minutes into the action.

She abruptly switched tone and asked for 15 seconds of silence, and the house lights dimmed.

Emotion remained in check until the end of the evening when, coincident with the news of the day, Lightcap won the Hall of Fame Award. Receiving the award were Lightcap’s two children, Kerry Lightcap and Kelly Daley, and longtime pals Marlene Raite and Brenda Neuss. Arguably, this made for the peak moment in 10 years of SALT ceremonies.

Brenda Neuss, Kerry Lightcap, Kelly Daley and Marlene Raite accept the Hall of Fame Award in honor of Christine Lightcap.  Michael Davis Photo | Syracuse New Times

Brenda Neuss, Kerry Lightcap, Kelly Daley and Marlene Raite accept the Hall of Fame Award in honor of Christine Lightcap.
Michael Davis Photo | Syracuse New Times

Amid the consistently high spirits, the best spontaneous gag came from Robb Sharpe, who won Best Actor for Appleseed ProductionsThe Prisoner of Second Avenue. He said it really helped to sleep with the director, wife Tina Lee, who also won a SALT Award. Obviously surprised and moved. Sharpe also delivered the evening’s most touching line. He admitted that he had been a fallback casting for the role when the original choice, Patrick Pedro, was stricken with Lou Gehrig’s Disease. His voice cracking with emotion, Sharpe held up the trophy and offered, “This is for you, too, Patrick.”

Robb Sharpe and Tina Lee

Robb Sharpe (Actor of the Year, Play) and Tina Lee (Director of the Year, Play)

This year’s SALT competition took several new directions. The new voters of the SALT Academy do not include anybody with Syracuse New Times connections. Even your ever-vigilant New Times reviewer, even though he sees everything, is not included. The new calendar now runs seasonally, September to September, instead of January to January. This conflates the professional summer companies with those of the winter, which means that Syracuse Stage no longer dominates the Professional category. Timothy Bond, however, was still the new SALT Academy’s choice for Best Director, for The Glass Menagerie.

Cortland Repertory Theater's Kirby Thompson. Michael Davis Photo | Syracuse New Times

Cortland Repertory Theater’s Kirby Thompson.
Michael Davis Photo | Syracuse New Times

Professional trophies were divided two each among four companies: Syracuse Stage, the Redhouse Arts Center, Cortland Repertory Theatre and Merry-Go-Round Playhouse. Ithaca’s Hangar Theatre, which sometimes dominated the summer-only category, did not make this year’s final cut, also true of the always competitive Kitchen Theatre Company of Ithaca. Cortland Repertory artistic director Kerby Thompson, on stage to accept the Musical of the Year award for Les Misérables and Director of the Year (Musical) award for Sam Scalamoni, offered an emotional shoutout to summertime colleague Ed Sayles, the former artistic director of Auburn’s Merry-Go-Round Playhouse.

The names of perennial favorites Kate Huddleston, Anne Fitzgerald and Navroz Dabu, as well as previous winners like Carmen Viviano-Crafts and David Minikheim, had scored again in nonprofessional competition. The lineup of producing companies, however, was entirely different. Christine Lightcap’s Talent Company was missing because of her confinement, while companies that have dominated the awards in the past were absent from the winners’ list, such as Garrett Heater’s Covey Theatre, whose Bonnie and Clyde was performed last summer at the Mulroy Civic Center.

Kate Huddleston

Kate Huddleston

Emerging with laurels this year was Dustin Czarny’s Central New York Playhouse, with five trophies, many of them for Spamalot, and C.J. Young’s Appleseed with four. Eugene Taddeo’s TheatreFirst took home four awards with only one competitive production, The Drowsy Chaperone.

Dustin Czarny

Dustin Czarny

And former Syracuse New Times publisher Art Zimmer, the Hamiltonian force of nature who got the SALT ball rolling 10 years ago, was on hand to accept a Founder‘s Award from the SALT Academy. “There will be only one Founder‘s Award,” announced New Times publisher Bill Brod, and that‘s a good thing because there will always be only one Art Zimmer.

Art Zimmer awarded the SALT Founder's Award, with New Times publisher Bill Brod

Art Zimmer awarded the SALT Founder’s Award, with New Times publisher Bill Brod

2014 SALT AWARD RECIPIENTS

SALT 2014

Left to right: Laura Austin, Simon Moody, Tony Vadala, Tina Lee, Robb Sharpe, Navroz Dabu, Peter Irwin (accepting for Michael Riecke and Carmen Viviano-Crafts), Ceara Windhausen, David Minikhiem, C.J. Young, Eugene Taddeo, Luke Tarnow-Bulatowicz (MVP Recipient), Anne Fitzgerald, Abel Searor, Kate Huddleston, Stephfond Brunson, Bob Lamson, Dustin Czarny, Kerby Thompson.

Professional Category

MUSICAL OF THE YEAR
Les Miserables, Cortland Repertory Theater

DIRECTOR OF THE YEAR (MUSICAL)
Sam Scalamoni, Les Miserables, Cortland Repertory Theater

PLAY OF THE YEAR
The Glass Menagerie, Syracuse Stage

DIRECTOR OF THE YEAR (PLAY)
Timothy Bond, The Glass Menagerie, Syracuse Stage

LEADING ACTRESS OF THE YEAR
Laura Austin, Next to Normal, Redhouse Arts Center

LEADING ACTOR OF THE YEAR
Brian Detlefs, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, Redhouse Arts Center

COSTUMER OF THE YEAR
George T. Mitchell, Mary Poppins, Merry-Go-Round Playhouse

CHOREOGRAPHER OF THE YEAR
Brian Collier, Mary Poppins, Merry-Go-Round Playhouse

NON-PERFORMING PERSON OF THE YEAR
Tony Vadala, Next to Normal, Redhouse Arts Center

David Minikhiem, Ceara Windhausen and Eugene Taddeo

David Minikhiem, Ceara Windhausen and Eugene Taddeo

Non-Professional Category

PLAY OF THE YEAR
The Prisoner of Second Avenue, Appleseed Productions

DIRECTOR OF THE YEAR (PLAY)
Tina Lee, The Prisoner of Second Avenue, Appleseed Productions

LEADING ACTRESS IN A PLAY
Kate Huddleston, Death of a Salesman, Central New York Playhouse

SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A PLAY
Anne Fitzgerald, On Golden Pond, Appleseed Productions

LEADING ACTOR IN A PLAY
Robb Sharpe, The Prisoner of Second Avenue, Appleseed Productions

SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A PLAY
Michael Riecke, The Normal Heart, Rarely Done Productions

MUSICAL OF THE YEAR
The Drowsy Chaperone, TheatreFirst Productions

DIRECTOR OF THE YEAR (MUSICAL)
Dustin Czarny, Spamalot, Central New York Playhouse

MUSICAL DIRECTOR OF THE YEAR
Abel Searor, Les Miserables, Baldwinsville Theatre Guild

LEADING ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL
Ceara Windhausen, The Drowsy Chaperone, TheatreFirst Productions

SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL
Carmen Viviano-Crafts, Company, Rarely Done Productions

LEADING ACTOR IN A MUSICAL
David Minikhiem, The Drowsy Chaperone, TheatreFirst Productions

SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A MUSICAL
Simon Moody, Spamalot, Central New York Playhouse

CHOREOGRAPHER OF THE YEAR
Anthony Wright & Stephfond Brunson, Spamalot, Central New York Playhouse

COSTUMER OF THE YEAR
Eugene Taddeo, The Drowsy Chaperone, TheatreFirst Productions

NON-PERFORMING PERSON OF THE YEAR
Navroz Dabu, Central New York Playhouse

HALL OF FAME
Christine Lightcap

LIFETIME ACHIVEMENT AWARD
Bob Lamson

Bob Lamson

Bob Lamson

2014 SALT Award MVP’s

The SALT MVP (Most Valuable Player) Award is selected by each theater company and recognizes individuals who have given of their time, energy and talent throughout the year.

SALT 2014

Luke Tarnow-Bulatowicz – Appleseed Productions

Joshua Reid, Redhouse Arts Center

David Minikhiem, TheatreFirst Productions

Natalie Wilson, ACME Mystery Company

Jay Burris, Baldwinsville Theatre Guild

Dan Randall, Central New York Playhouse

Peter Irwin, Rarely Done Productions

Bob and Denise Heater, Covey Theatre Company

Jamie Bruno, Syracuse Shakespeare Festival

***

For a photo gallery of the 2014 SALT Awards – CLICK HERE

Vote for your favorite of Rita Worlock’s gowns and support the Vera House! HERE

For a list of the 2014 SALT Award Nominees, CLICK HERE

To learn more about the SALT Award process – CLICK HERE

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