This is what theater gave to Tucson in 2019:
Love. Tragedy. Grace. Death. Music. Insight. Laughter. Hope. Understanding. Truth.
The list goes on.
Whether it was a musical about chasing a dream (“[title of show]”) — yes, that’s the actual name of the production; a drama about family (“Things I Know to be True”); or a comedy about drag queens (“The Legend of Georgia McBride”), there was much that informed, enthralled and entertained.
Some of the productions did that more than others, and it is those that we present with the Star’s annual Mac Awards. Now in its 19th year, the award is named after Mary MacMurtrie who, through her Tucson Children’s Theatre, spent much of the last century turning local youth into actors, directors and audience members. She stressed that heart, honesty and intent were as necessary as excellence.
These productions had those and more.
BEST ACTOR, DRAMA Marc David Pinate, who is generally in the director’s chair, showed his very fine acting chops in Scoundrel & Scamp’s “Cloud Tectonics.”
Edwin Lee Gibson, the fighter’s trainer in Arizona Theatre Company’s “The Royale” had the best moment on stage last year when he took to center stage and, for a long, long time, was silent as he looked the audience over. That look told us we bore some responsibility for the injustices hurled at people of color.
Roger Owen’s Big Daddy in The Roadrunner Theatre’s production of “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” had a fierceness and a fury.
Ryan Parker Knox’s John Dodge in The Rogue Theatre’s “Middletown” was an out-of-work handyman who can’t make sense of the life he is in. Knox crawled into the skin of the character.
Guillermo Francisco Raphael Jones had the audience in his hands in Something Something Theatre Company’s production of “The Hall of Final Ruin.” His flippant attitude and the moments he addressed the audience made his Doña Sebastiana a joy to watch and listen to.
Christopher Younggren played a photographer grappling with guilt, a quick temper, an injured-in-the-war girlfriend and writer’s block in Live Theatre Workshop’s “Time Stands Still.” He nailed the role.
Connor McKinley Griffin was spellbinding as the title character in Arizona Repertory Theatre’s “Richard III.”
Matt Bowdren was powerful and poignant in The Rogue Theatre’s “The Crucible.” He owned the role of John Proctor, a farmer who had a sexual encounter with young Abigail, who was once a servant in his house.
Bechir Sylvain was Jay, big, powerful and a man with a deep longing to make the world right for those who look like him in Arizona Theatre Company’s “The Royale.” Sylvain is a master of subtext — he makes his pain, his hunger, palpable without ever overdoing it. He was a magical presence and he takes the Mac for best actor in a drama.
BEST ACTRESS, DRAMAIn Arizona Theatre Company’s “Silent Sky,” Veronika Duerr gave her character, the astronomer Henrietta Leavitt, a deep-seated curiosity and a warm humor.
Bryn Booth’s portrayal of Abigail in The Rogue Theatre’s “The Crucible” made clear the horror and the tragedy that can result from lies and betrayals.
Azúl Galindo was both awkward and ethereal as Celestina in Scoundrel & Scamp’s “Cloud Tectonics.”
In Scoundrel & Scamp’s “The Little Prince,” Kathleen Cannon played the Aviator with a sense of wonder that felt organic.
Susan Arnold’s Mother of the Bridegroom in Scoundrel & Scamp’s “Blood Wedding” had a deep sorrow, regal dignity and a powerful presence.
In ATC’s “Things I Know to Be True,” Jordan Baker beautifully and honestly portrayed the matriarch of a family dealing with all that life throws at it.
Roseanne Couston’s character in Something Something Theatre Company’s “The Hall of Final Ruin” was fearless and smart.
Cynthia Jefferey had two roles in 2019 that are memorable: Her Big Mama in Roadrunner’s “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” was tragic and silly, and she imbued the mother and wife in Winding Road Theater Ensemble’s “The Big Meal” with pride and tenderness.
Carley Elizabeth Preston played Sarah, a photographer who is injured in the war in Live Theatre Workshop’s “Time Stands Still.” She allowed the character’s inner life to inform her portrayal and that translated into a deeply moving performance, winning her the Mac for best actress.
BEST DIRECTOR, DRAMA Lou Bellamy is king when it comes to directing August Wilson’s plays, and he didn’t fail us with Arizona Theatre Company’s “Two Trains Running.” He made sure audiences feasted on the joy, the humor and the weight of the play.
Bryan Rafael Falcón wasn’t afraid of the magic realism in Scoundrel & Scamp’s production of “Cloud Tectonics.” Though time is a jump-around thing in the play, and the unlikely happens throughout, he made sure the audiences did not get lost.
Brent Gibbs’ direction of Arizona Repertory Theatre’s “Richard III” was rich with pace and detail, which made watching a play about a really awful human being an engrossing experience.
Eva Tessler’s “Time Stands Still” at Live Theatre Workshop had an immediacy and tension that served the play well.
Christoper Johnson directed two plays for The Rogue Theatre. His “Middletown” had a rhythm and a pace that gave the story about small town life full breath. And his direction in “The Crucible” was riddled with tension and insightful performances.
The Rogue’s Cynthia Meier also wowed us with her direction of the packed-with-fairy-tales “The Secret in the Wings.” While the tales switched, she effectively used costumes and props to keep us engrossed as she took us from one story to the other.
Mark Clements direction of the heartbreaking family drama “Things I Know to Be True” made that Arizona Theatre Company play one of the best of the year.
Holly Griffith used mime, dance and props to take us on a joyful journey with Scoundrel & Scamp’s wonderful “The Little Prince.”
ATC’s “The Royale,” about the “Negro Heavyweight Champion of the World” and his quest to fight the white champion, was a highlight of the year. Michael John Garcés spiked it with tension and grace. He takes the Mac for best direction.
BEST DRAMA Scoundrel & Scamp’s “The Little Prince” was packed with imagination and adventure.
Arizona Theatre Company’s “Things I Know to Be True” shook with heart and honesty.
The Rogue Theatre’s “Middletown” and “The Secret in the Wings” both captured imaginations. And its production of “The Crucible” was illuminating and terrifying.
Arizona Repertory Theatre’s “Richard III” was mesmerizing.
The story, the language and the performances in ATC’s “The Royale” blended together to create a piece of art that is impossible to forget. It takes the Mac.
BEST ACTOR, COMEDY Naphtali Curry and Jax Wujek were outrageous and graceful and hysterical as the drag queens in Arizona Repertory Theatre’s production of “The Legend of Georgia McBride.”
Steve Wood was a man grappling with the end of his marriage and Stephen Frankenfield was his divorced neighbor in the very funny “Things Being What They Are” at Live Theatre Workshop. The two brought out all the humor and heartbreak in the play.
Matt Walley took on the role of Shakespeare’s clown Dogberry in The Rogue Theatre’s “Much Ado About Nothing” and he made him as funny as the Bard intended.
Keith Wick was deliciously over the top in several roles he had in Live Theatre Workshop’s “Stage Kiss.”
In Invisible Theatre’s “Dancing Lessons,” Damian Garcia’s portrayal of the touch-adverse Ever, a man with Asperger’s syndrome who needs to learn to dance, is sensitive and sweet and never over-played. He takes the Mac.
BEST ACTRESS, COMEDY Shanna Brock showed her well-honed comedic skills as the actress who is in a play with her ex-lover in Live Theatre Workshop’s “Stage Kiss.”
Invisible Theatre’s production of “Now and Then” included a talented Gabriella de Brequet in the role of Abby, who, with her boyfriend, meets an older man who could change their lives. She gave Abby a sweetness and innocence that rang true.
Claire Marie Mannle’s solo turn in Scoundrel & Scamp’s “Every Brilliant Thing” was honest and deeply rooted.
The tenderness, anger and frustration in Senga, an injured dancer in Invisible Theatre’s “Dancing Lessons,” were clear and painful in Samantha Cormier’s hands.
Cynthia Meier’s medium in The Rogue Theatre’s “Blithe Spirit” was deliciously outrageous.
China Young gave us a Mash who is near helpless in her unrequited love in Winding Road Theater Ensemble’s “Stupid F#!*ing Bird.”
In the same play, a comedic adaptation of Chekhov’s “The Seagull,” Samantha Severson so owned the character’s desperation, fury at his mother and soul-wrecking love for Nina, that we barely noticed that she was playing a he. She takes the Mac.
BEST DIRECTOR, COMEDY Samantha Cormier gave heft to the Live Theatre Workshop comedy “Things Being What They Are.”
Michelle Milne’s direction of Scoundrel & Scamp’s “Every Brilliant Thing” smacked of warmth and humor.
Maria A. Caprile was gutsy and sly with her direction of the very funny “Stupid F#!*ing Bird” at Winding Road.
Sabian Trout let the humor fly in Live Theatre’s “Stage Kiss.”
Joseph McGrath used a light touch and lots of physical humor in The Rogue Theatre’s production of “Much Ado About Nothing” and his production of “Blithe Spirit” danced with humor and rhythm.
Susan Claassen’s sensitive direction of Invisible Theatre’s “Dancing Lessons” resulted in a production that was tender and insightful. She takes the Mac.
BEST COMEDYLive Theatre Workshop’s “Things Being What They Are” was about an unlikely friendship and life-changing conundrums. It had dark humor and insight.
“Every Brilliant Thing” at Scoundrel & Scamp was full of heart, despair and hope.
“Dancing Lessons” was sweet without being cloying and insightful without being preachy. The Invisible Theatre production served the story well.
Live Theatre’s “Stage Kiss” was outrageously funny and a perfect antidote to dark days.
Winding Road Theater Ensemble’s “Stupid F#!*ing Bird,” this adaptation of Chekhov’s dark and brilliant “The Seagull,” clipped along at a hilarious pace.
The Rogue Theatre’s “Blithe Spirit” was jaunty and sophisticated and grand fun. Playwright Noël Coward,’s wit was given full breath by the talented cast. It takes the Mac.
BEST ACTOR, MUSICALSean Patrick Doyle strutted on stage as the Emcee in Arizona Theatre Company’s production of the classic musical, “Cabaret.” His voice is exquisite and his portrayal of the character was both chilling and soul wrenching.
Tristan Caldwell was a highlight in Arizona Repertory Theatre’s production of “Pippin.” His Emperor Charlemagne burst with sass and savvy.
Tyler Wright and Andrew Miller were a complete hoot as the two playwrights in Southern Arizona Performing Arts Company’s “[title of show].” They had a chemistry that sparked on stage and both showed us the joy in being musical theater geeks who just want to create.
Michael Schulz gave Melchior in Arizona Repertory Theatre’s “Spring Awakening” all the swag and earnestness that defined his 14-year-old character.
And it was in that production of “Spring Awakening” that we found our Mac winner for best actor in a musical: Zach Zupke, who played Moritz, a troubled student, bored by the Latin he must learn, terrified of his father, and confused by the sex dreams that visit him in his sleep. Zupke has a riveting voice, and he made the character’s fear and confusion painfully clear.
BEST ACTRESS, MUSICAL Robin Bousel put her gorgeous voice and pristine comedic timing on full display in Southern Arizona Performing Arts Company’s “[title of show].”
Amanda Gremel caught the heart and personality of the title character in Live Theatre Workshop’s production of “Always ... Patsy Cline,” which isn’t a traditional musical but had so much music we’ve decided to call it one.
Lori Wilner played Fräulein Schneider in Arizona Theatre Company’s production of “Cabaret.” When she sang “What Would You Do” the pain and resignation about breaking her engagement and the plight of the world was palpable.
The terrible angst that comes with being a teenager was in full force in Rachel Franke’s performance as the confused Wendla in Arizona Repertory Theatre’s “Spring Awakening.” She takes the Mac.
BEST DIRECTOR, MUSICAL Carson Wright mined all of the comedy out of Southern Arizona Performing Arts Company’s “[title of show],” and there was plenty there.
Annette Hillman made the humor as present as the music in LTW’s “Always ... Patsy Cline.”
Sara Bruner gave us a beautiful, and terrifying, “Cabaret” at ATC.
It is Hank Stratton who takes the Mac for his direction of Arizona Repertory Theatre’s “Spring Awakening.” In his hands, the musical about teens grappling with unwanted pregnancy, suicide and confusion about life had clarity and an expansive heart.
BEST MUSICAL ATC’s “Cabaret” was dark and disturbing, just as it should be.
Southern Arizona Performing Arts Company’s “[title of show]” was a low-budget production with high-budget results.
A play packed with Patsy Cline’s music? What’s not to love about Live Theatre Workshop’s “Always ... Patsy Cline.”
Arizona Repertory Theatre’s production of “Spring Awakening” was near flawless and always engrossing. It takes the Mac.
Kathleen Allen covered theater for the Star for more than 20 years.