Boston Conservatory Community Shines at the 2020 Elliot Norton Awards

May 12, 2020 Madison Spahn

Boston Conservatory at Berklee students, alumni, and faculty proved to be an integral part of Boston’s theater scene at the 38th Annual Elliot Norton Awards, Boston’s largest theater awards ceremony. This year’s event, held on May 11, was presented virtually due to the coronavirus, and featured members of the Boston Theater Critics Association announcing the winners of Boston’s most coveted theater accolades.

Boston Conservatory dominated the musical production categories, with top awards for musical performance going to Conservatory students and alumni. Rising senior Aaron Patterson (B.F.A. '21, musical theater) won the award for Outstanding Musical Performance by an Actor for his performance as Jim Conley in Moonbox Productions’s Parade. Meanwhile, alumna Katrina Z. Pavao (M.F.A. '19, musical theater) received the award for Outstanding Musical Performance by an Actress for her portrayal of Audrey in Lyric Stage Company’s Little Shop of Horrors. Also nominated in these categories were Haley K. Clay (M.F.A. '20, musical theater) for her portrayal of Lucille Frank in Parade, Yewande Odetoyinbo (M.F.A. '18, musical theater) for her performance in Moonbox Productions’s Caroline, or Change, and Rashed Alnuaimi (M.F.A. '20, musical theater) for his performance in New Repertory Theatre’s Oliver!.

“I am so grateful to have played this role for the incredible way in which I relate to him,” Patterson says of playing factory janitor Jim Conley in Parade, an exploration of racial and political tensions in the early-20th-century American South. “Being a black man in the history of America, no matter how close to the present you get, has been no walk in the park. A lot of theater has to be light and easy to swallow, but being able to give audiences a sliver of inlet into what it is like to be in the margins was an honor for me. I can only pray that the audience left changed and inspired.”

Parade, one of the top-winning productions of the night with four nominations and three wins, including a win for Outstanding Musical Production, boasted a cast and production team that included seven Boston Conservatory at Berklee students and alumni. The production, directed by Jason Modica (B.F.A. '10, musical theater), was first conceptualized and workshopped during Modica’s time at the Conservatory. In addition to Patterson and Clay, the cast included current students Lilli Jacobs (B.F.A. '21, musical theater) and Gable Kinsman (B.F.A. '22, musical theater) and alumni Angela Syrett (B.F.A. '20, musical theater), Yewande Odetoyinbo (M.F.A. '18, musical theater), and Phil Tayler (B.F.A. '10, musical theater). 

The appearance of so many current Boston Conservatory students in professional productions is remarkable, but not limited to Parade. Boston Conservatory at Berklee Dean of Theater Scott Edmiston commented, “More than 25 Conservatory theater students appeared in Boston area productions this season. It's unprecedented for a junior in college, Aaron Patterson, to be recognized by the Boston theater critics in this way. It’s a testament to the spectacular talent and hard work of our students.”

Modica was nominated for Outstanding Direction, Small or Fringe Theater, for his work on Parade, but this prize would go to another Conservatory thespian—theater faculty member Igor Golyak—for his direction of The Stone at Arlekin Players Theatre. The Stone took home three awards, including Outstanding Production, Small or Fringe Company. Other theater faculty winners were David R. Gammons, whose scenic design on Vanity Fair at the Underground Railway at Central Square Theater won the award for Outstanding Design, Midsize Theater; and Brandon Green, who was nominated for Outstanding Actor, Midsize Theater for his role in the Underground Railway Theater and the Front Porch Arts Collective’s black odyssey boston. The production won the award for Outstanding Ensemble, Midsize Theater. 

Edmiston, a recipient of the 2011 Elliot Norton Prize for Sustained Excellence, praised the Conservatory’s representation in this year’s nominees and winners. "The remarkable number of award recipients demonstrates the high level of artistic accomplishment by our faculty and how professionally active our theater students are—even while they are pursuing their degrees,” he said. “It's evidence that Boston Conservatory at Berklee, including our exceptional alumni, is helping to transform and elevate Boston into one of the top theater cities in the country."

In all, more than ten Conservatory students, alumni, faculty, and staff were individually nominated for 2020 Elliot Norton Awards, and more than 20 were involved in nominated productions across 24 categories. The full list of winners can be found below.

Outstanding Musical Production: Parade, Moonbox Productions

Cast: Haley Clay (M.F.A. '20, musical theater), Lilli Jacobs (B.F.A. '21, musical theater), Gable Kinsman (B.F.A. '22, musical theater), Aaron Patterson (B.F.A. '21, musical theater), Angela Syrett (B.F.A. '20, musical theater), Yewande Odetoyinbo (M.F.A. '18, musical theater), Phil Tayler (B.F.A. '10, musical theater)
Director: Jason Modica (B.F.A. '10, musical theater)

Outstanding Production, Small or Fringe Company: The Stone, Arlekin Players Theater

Artistic Director: Igor Golyak (theater faculty)

Outstanding Direction, Small or Fringe Theater: Igor Golyak (theater faculty), The Stone, Arlekin Players Theater
Outstanding Musical Performance by an Actor: Aaron Patterson (B.F.A. '21, musical theater), Parade, Moonbox Productions
Outstanding Musical Performance by an Actress: Katrina Z. Pavao (M.F.A. '19, musical theater), Little Shop of Horrors, Lyric Stage Company of Boston
Outstanding Ensemble, Large Theater: Sweat, Huntington Theatre Company

Cast: Brandon Green (theater faculty), Marianna Bassham (theater faculty)

Outstanding Ensemble, Midsize Theater: black odyssey boston, Underground Railway at Central Square Theater and the Front Porch Arts Collective

Cast: Brandon Green (theater faculty)

Outstanding Design, Midsize Theater: Vanity Fair, Underground Railway at Central Square Theater

Scenic Design: David R. Gammons (theater faculty)

Outstanding Visiting Production, Non-Musical: Indecent, Huntington Theatre Company

Cast: Adina Verson (B.F.A. '05, musical theater)