Past Post-Gazette Performers of the Year
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Here is the much fuller list promised in the paper, with a small historical essay to follow on the PG's changing definition of the theater year.
• 2008 -- John Shepard: Willy Loman, "Death of a Salesman" (Playhouse Rep).
• 2007 -- David Whalen: George W. Bush in "Stuff Happens," Padraic in "The Lieutenant of Inishmore," Darcy in "Pride & Prejudice" and Mark Antony in "Julius Caesar" (all at PICT).
• 2006 -- Douglas Rees: the cancer-stricken cellist in "Opus" (City) and Sir Peter Teazle in "The School for Scandal" (PICT).
• 2005 -- Sheila McKenna: Mistress Quickly in "Henry IV" (PICT), ex-con in "Kimberly Akimbo" (Playhouse Rep), widow in "The Underpants" (City Theatre) and father in "Dog Face" (Quantum).
• 2004 -- Billy Porter: Booth in "Topdog/Underdog" (City) and James Thunder Early in "Dreamgirls" (CLO).
• 2003 -- Scott Ferrara: Hamlet in "Hamlet" and Cusins in "Major Barbara" (both PICT).
• 2002 -- Martin Giles: J.P.W. King in "The Gigli Concert" (PICT); also the quasi-deranged Millet in "Fuddy Meers," the obsessively sunny Bob Cratchit in Christopher Durang's new parody of "A Christmas Carol" and the manipulative art critic in "Inventing Van Gogh" (all City).
• 2001 -- Lisa Harrow: "Medea" (Public).
• 2000 -- Heath Lamberts: Marquis de Sade, "Quills" (Playhouse Rep).
• 1999 -- Etta Cox: "Sophisticated Ladies" (Gargaro); also extensive work in previous years at City, Public and Gargaro.
• 1998 -- Robin Walsh: Title role in "Hapgood' (Quantum), Stella in "Streetcar Named Desire" (Starlight), Hippolyta in "Midsummer" (Public), Maureen in "Pig" (Playhouse) and Mrs. Cratchit in "Christmas Carol" (CLO).
• 1997 -- Tom Atkins: Thomas Dunne in "The Steward of Christendom" and James Tyrone in "A Long Day's Journey into Night" (both Public).
• 1995-96 -- Doug Mertz (first non-Equity; Labor Day '95 to Dec. '96): 4 shows.
• 1994-95 -- Maria Becoates-Bey: Tiger Lily in "Peter Pan," Motown trio in "Little Shop of Horrors," "Beehive" (all Gargaro); "Blues in the Night" (Hartwood); "Spunk" (City).
• 1993-94 -- David Butler: Gideon in "Playland" (City Theatre).
• 1992-93 -- Don Marshall: Title role in "The Man Who Lived Underground" (City) and Slow Drag, "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" (Public).
• 1991-92 -- Larry John Meyers: Kulygin, "Three Sisters," and Phil, "Moon for the Misbegotten" (both Public).
• 1990-91 -- Elisabeth Orion: Miss Helen, "Road to Mecca" (City).
• 1989-90 -- Richard McMillan: Hamlet (Shakespeare Festival) and The Chairman, "Mystery of Edwin Drood" (Playhouse).
• 1988-89 -- Bingo O'Malley: Artie Shaughnessy, "House of Blue Leaves" (City at Hartwood) and "Clarence Darrow" (City at Allegheny County Courthouse).
• 1987-88 -- Jim Abele: Title role in "The Hairy Ape," Karl-Heinz in "Edith Stein" and Felix in "The Normal Heart" (all Public).
• 1986-87 -- Lenora Nemetz: La Mome Pistache, "Can-Can" (CLO); Ilona, "She Loves Me" (Public); and Lois, "Perfect Party" (City).
• 1985-86 -- Jennifer Harmon: Mrs. Alving, "Ghosts," and Grace, "The Philanderer" (both American Ibsen Theater).
• 1984-85 -- Helena Ruoti: Portia, "Merchant of Venice" (Shakespeare Fest); Meg, "Crimes of the Heart" (City); Marjorie, "Extremities" (Playhouse); and ensemble in "Becoming Memories" (Public).
• 1984 (see note below) -- Daniel Southern: Hotspur in "Henry IV," Benedict in "Much Ado about Nothing" and Cassio in "Othello" (all Shakespeare Fest) and Richard in "Hay Fever" (Public).
The traditional theater year has long been Memorial Day to Memorial Day, usually formalized as June 1-May 31. That's the year followed for 80-some years by the "Best Plays" theater yearbook, for example. And it's the year followed by the Tony Awards, although practically speaking, they set the end of each Broadway year at some date in early May that allows enough time for nominations and voting, so the awards can be handed out in early June.
Around here, Labor Day (or Sept. 1, if you want to be more precise) has always seemed to me the de facto start to the theatrical year. That's how most theater companies figure it, at least those (Public, City, Broadway series, Playhouse Rep, etc.) that tend to shut down for part of the summer. Obviously this definition has a lot to do with the educational calendar, and since I've spent most of my life in college, it makes sense to me -- for such theaters, summer is more an appendage to the previous year than the start of the next one.
But there has always been a large group of "summer" theaters that keep each season within a calendar year, starting as early as spring and continuing sometimes as late as Christmas. That also describes Pittsburgh CLO's year, even with the addition of its year-round cabaret.
It also includes PICT, which used to start its season in the summer but gradually expanded to use the whole calendar year. In contrast, Quantum, which also started in the summer and expanded into the fall and winter, now observes something like that traditional June 1-May 31 year.
Confused? If so, stop reading now, because the rest of this is probably of interest only to theater historians.
Here at the PG, we have gone through some changes over the years in chronicling all this. When I arrived on the scene in 1983, theater critic/entertainment editor George Anderson faithfully observed the June 1-May 31 year, running his annual theatrical Top 10 article in early June. When I took it over in 1986, I published it that June, as usual. But the Arts & Entertainment department then decided all the critics should follow the calendar year, so I did another Top 10 in December 1986 (meaning shows from the first half of 1986 had two chances to make the list). The Top 10 has run at the end of the year ever since.
Meanwhile, at the end of 1983 I published the first Performer of the Year piece, covering calendar 1983. But for the second Performer of the Year, published in June 1985, we went to the June 1-May 31 year, meaning Jan.-May 1984 shows never were considered. (Don't ask me why.)
Note that the date of Dan Southern's Performer of the Year award, originally 1983, has been altered in subsequent lists to fit in with the new way of dating the others -- all this for neatness sake.
The Performer of the Year article continued to appear in June until the newspaper strike year of 1992, when it moved to December -- so Larry John Meyers' award appeared only in the PG's 1992 Fax edition, but it covered some 18 months (a better decision than that one in 1985).
With the paper publishing again in 1993, it seemed wrong to name a new Performer of the Year so soon, so I took the chance to switch to the Sept. 1-Aug. 31 theater year that seemed to me to make more sense. We continued naming the Performer of the Year each fall until 1996, when we moved it to the end of the year, just like the Top 10. As a result, Doug Mertz' 1996 award covered a 16-month period.
First Published January 6, 2010 12:00 am