Two Marshalls win Governor's Awards for the Arts

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The 2007 Governor's Awards for the Arts, just announced, are topped by Distinguished Arts Awards to a theatrical brother and sister duo who are Squirrel Hill natives -- Rob and Kathleen Marshall.

Director of "Memoirs of a Geisha" and the Oscar-winning "Chicago" (for which he won the Director's Guild Award), Rob (with his partner, John DeLuca) is now in pre-production for a film adaptation of the musical "Nine." He conceived, directed, executive-produced and choreographed "Tony Bennett: An American Classic" (now up for eight Emmys), and his "Annie" for ABC/Disney won a Peabody Award.

On Broadway, Rob was six times a Tony nominee for directing and/or choreographing such as "Cabaret," "Little Me," "Kiss of the Spider Women," "She Loves Me," "Victor/Victoria," "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" and "Company." And I could go on.

The Tony-winning choreographer of Broadway's "Wonderful Town" and "The Pajama Game," both of which she also directed, Kathleen is director/choreographer of the new revival of "Grease" and served also as a principal judge on NBC-TV's "Grease: You're the One That I Want." For ABC/Disney, she directed and choreographed "Once Upon a Mattress" and choreographed "The Music Man."

She started her Broadway career as Rob's assistant on his early shows, then moved on to choreograph "Follies," "Little Shop of Horrors," "Kiss Me, Kate," "Ring Round the Moon," "1776" and "Swinging on a Star." She was artistic director for the Encores! Series of musical revivals, and off-Broadway she directed and/or choreographed "Two Gentlemen of Verona," the premiere of Stephen Sondheim's "Saturday Night," "Violet" and more.

How big a deal is this? Well, the Distinguished Arts Award recognizes Pennsylvania artists of international fame. Previous winners include Jimmy Stewart, Andrew Wyeth, Marian Anderson, Marilyn Horne, James Michener, John Updike, Chaim Potok, M. Night Shyamalan and Judith Jamison!

Other Governor's Awards:

Artist of the Year (the Hazlett Award): artistic director, choreographer, and director Lorenzo "Rennie" Harris, the "Basquiat of hip-hop dance." Previous winners include Andre Previn, Gerald Stern, Thaddeus Mosely and the Dixie Hummingbirds.

Pennsylvania Creative Community Award: Pike County Arts & Crafts, founded in 1950, which helps local artists of all ages learn, teach, and exhibit their work. Previous winners include the Point Breeze Performing Arts Center and Vernell A. Lillie.

Patron Award: Jennifer and David LeVan, catalysts for cultural change in Adams County and Gettysburg. Past winners include The Heinz Endowments, Francois Bitz and PNC Bank Foundation.

Outstanding Leadership & Service to Youth: Philadelphia's Settlement Music School, 100 years old, and Cumberland County's Marcia Dale Weary, artistic director and founder of the Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet.

Pennsylvania's first lady, Judge Marjorie O. Rendell, announced the nominations. Hubby Gov. Rendell will present the awards at 6:45 p.m. Oct. 4, at The Majestic Theater in Gettysburg. Admission to the ceremony is free.

In Edinburgh with barebones

Patrick Jordan reports that barebones' staging of Jim McManus' "Cherry Smoke" at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival "has gotten a pretty amazing following. ... It's crazy over here but a great experience. ... [And] Autumn [Ayers] was busking with her guitar when Amanda Palmer of the band The Dresden Dolls asked her to sit in on her set at her concert." Jordan includes these press snippets:

The Scotsman: "Its not unusual at the Fringe for a show to trumpet itself as raw, realist and minimalistic, but this justifies such bluster better than most, as it sweeps us viscerally through a desperate corner of Irish-American Pittsburgh using a cast of just four, and little else besides. ... a genuinely heart-breaking story."

The Stage: "CRITICS CHOICE ... Insightful and attractive."

Three Weeks: "Superb performances ... fantastic ... Go see this show, this young company is the one to watch."

Fest Magazine: "'Cherry Smoke' takes place with nothing else but a bench, a couple of beers and the four actors on stage. In a festival that has enough spectacle to keep half the jaws of the city glued to the floor for a month, this play ... manages to simultaneously shock and charm in a production that could, if given more space, grow into something big."

Call board personals

Kimberly Ellis and friends are back with "Dr. Goddess Goes to Jail," her spoken-word musical satire/revue, to be revived Sunday at 1 p.m. at Wesley Center AME Zion Church, 2701 Centre Ave. (admission by free-will offering). Loosely based on the "Raise Your Hand! No Casino on the Hill Campaign," the show is being seen for the first time on the Hill. A national tour is planned.

Carrie Tillis, the younger daughter of new Country Music Hall of Famer Mel Tillis, plays a member of another famous country music family, Janette Carter, in a Carter family bio-musical, "Keep on the Sunny Side" (through Sept. 2) at the Mountain Playhouse. Earlier this season, she played Dorothy Brock in the Playhouse's "42nd Street."

Incoming Point Park freshman Shalane Larango competes in Friday's 2007 Miss Teen USA competition in swimsuit, evening gown and interview categories, broadcast live on NBC at 8 p.m. A Vancouver, Wash., native, Larango plans to study broadcast journalism and dance at Point Park. But if she wins, she'll spend a year "building relationships with organizations committed to education and action," which might slow up her studies.

The bottom line

Paid admissions at city's pro theaters for the week ending Aug. 19:

Loot/Mt. Playhouse (38%) ................. 1,199
Private Lives/PICT (86%) ................... 664
Grand Meaulnes/Quantum (84%) ............... 580
Patsy Cline/CLO (28%) ...................... 419
Male Intellect/City (78%) .................. 346

Post-Gazette theater editor Christopher Rawson can be reached at crawson@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1666.


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