Boston Conservatory Makes Big Showing at Recent Theater Awards

June 08, 2017 Alison Arnett

Boston Conservatory at Berklee theater students, alumni, and faculty swept up an impressive array of awards at three recent ceremonies—the Elliot Norton Awards and the Independent Reviewers of New England (IRNE) Awards in Boston, and the Helen Hayes Awards in Washington, D.C. Two theater companies established by Conservatory faculty were strongly represented in a range of categories—SpeakEasy Stage Company, founded by Paul Daigneault, and the Actors’ Shakespeare Project, whose founders include Jennie Israel, John Kuntz, Doug Lockwood, and Sara Stackhouse.

The critically acclaimed musical The Scottsboro Boys (SpeakEasy Stage Company), which deals with the infamous true story of nine African American boys who were jailed for a crime they did not commit, won the 2017 Elliot Norton Award for Outstanding Musical Production, Midsize, Small or Fringe Theater, as well as awards in 11 IRNE categories, including Best Musical, Midsize. Directed by producing artistic director and Conservatory faculty member Paul Daigneault, with musical direction by faculty member Matthew Stern, the show prominently featured six Boston Conservatory alumni and students in the cast.

In contemporary theater, faculty member David R. Gammons won the Elliot Norton Award for Outstanding Director, Midsize Theater for both Hand to God (SpeakEasy Stage Company) and Edward II (Actors’ Shakespeare Project). On the national stage, alumnus Liam Forde (B.F.A. '11, musical theater) won a Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Play for his role in Hand to God (Studio Theatre).

“We are thrilled to have so many Conservatory faculty, alumni, and student recognitions this year,” said Sara Stackhouse, chair of theater. She linked the awards to the teaching excellence of the Conservatory: “Our theater faculty are among the most celebrated artists in Boston, and for good reason. They are doing bold, inspired, important artistic work, and are nurturing a new generation of developing artists,” Stackhouse said. “They do this in their classrooms every day, and also year-round as directors, choreographers, music directors, producers, and performers with professional theater companies.”

The 35th annual Elliot Norton Awards, Boston’s largest theater awards program, were presented on May 15, and Boston Conservatory faculty, student, and alumni contributions were recognized in six categories, ranging from outstanding musical production to outstanding acting and design. Small or fringe theater awards also went to Boston Conservatory faculty members: John Kuntz won the outstanding director award for Blasted (Off the Grid Theatre Company) and Christopher James Webb was named outstanding actor for the same production. Sunday in the Park with George (Huntington Theatre Company), which earned the award for Outstanding Musical Performance by an Actress, featured Berklee faculty member Eric Stern as musical director and conductor as well as Conservatory students as part of the ensemble.

The Conservatory also brought home many awards at the IRNE 2017 ceremony on April 24. Faculty member Rachel Bertone won the award for choreography, large stage, for Carousel (Reagle Music Theatre), and the small stage ensemble prize went to The Scottsboro Boys. Two alumni, Alison McCartan (B.F.A. '12, musical theater) and De’Lon Grant (M.F.A. '09, musical theater), won awards for best actress and actor, respectively, for Violet and The Scottsboro Boys, both by the SpeakEasy Stage Company. Faculty members Paul Daigneault and Matthew Stern also won awards for direction and musical direction for The Scottsboro Boys.

A full listing Conservatory winners, contributors, and recognitions is below.

Elliot Norton Awards

Outstanding Musical Production, Midsize, Small or Fringe Theater: The Scottsboro Boys (SpeakEasy Stage Company*)
Director, Paul Daigneault (theater faculty)
Music Direction, Matt Stern (theater faculty)

De'Lon Grant (M.F.A. '09, musical theater)
Darren Bunch (B.F.A. '15, musical theater)
Wakeem Jones (B.F.A. '19, musical theater)
Darrell Morris, Jr. (M.F.A. '17, musical theater)
Aaron Michael Ray (M.F.A. '16, musical theater, Boston Conservatory; B.M. '14, professional music, Berklee College of Music)
Isaiah Reynolds, Jr. (B.F.A. '18, musical theater)

Outstanding Director, Midsize Theater: David R. Gammons (theater faculty), Hand to God (SpeakEasy Stage Company) and Edward II (Actors’ Shakespeare Project)

Outstanding Design, Midsize Theater: Edward II (Actors’ Shakespeare Project*)

Outstanding Actor, Small or Fringe Theater: Christopher James Webb (theater faculty), Blasted (Off the Grid Theatre Company)

Outstanding Director, Small or Fringe Theater: John Kuntz (theater faculty), Blasted (Off the Grid Theatre Company)

Outstanding Musical Performance by an Actress: Jenni Barber, Sunday in the Park with George (Huntington Theatre Company)
Music Director/Conductor, Eric Stern (Berklee faculty)

Jessica Kundla (B.F.A. '17, musical theater)
Morgan Kirner (B.F.A. '16, musical theater)
Jordan McLaughlin (B.F.A. '16, musical theater)
Andrew O'Shanick (M.M. '16, musical theater)

IRNE Awards

Small Stage

Ensemble: The Scottsboro Boys (SpeakEasy Stage Company)

Best Supporting Actor, Musical, Midsize: Isaiah Reynolds, Jr. (B.F.A. '18, musical theater), The Scottsboro Boys (SpeakEasy Stage Company)

Best Actress, Musical, Midsize, and Fringe: Alison McCartan (B.F.A. '12, musical theater), Violet (SpeakEasy Stage Company)

Best Actor, Musical, Midsize, and Fringe: De'Lon Grant (M.F.A. '09, musical theater), The Scottsboro Boys, (SpeakEasy Stage Company)

Music Director: Matthew Stern (theater faculty), The Scottsboro Boys (SpeakEasy Stage Company)

Best Director, Musical: Paul Daigneault (theater faculty), The Scottsboro Boys (SpeakEasy Stage Company)

Best Musical, Midsize: The Scottsboro Boys (SpeakEasy Stage Company)

Best Musical, Fringe: The Wild Party (Moonbox Productions)
Director, Rachel Bertone (theater faculty), and featuring several Conservatory students and alumni.

Large Stage

Choreography: Rachel Bertone (theater faculty), Carousel (Reagle Music Theatre)

Helen Hayes Awards

Robert Prosky Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Play: Liam Forde (B.F.A. '11, musical theater), Hand to God (Studio Theatre)

*Founded by Conservatory faculty members.