Collecting Their Oscars

It’s official. Anne Arundel County has some of the region’s best amateur theatrical troupes, as was proven again this year at the 14th Annual Washington Area Theatre Community Honors — WATCH — Awards. With 500 thespians and designers from 33 theaters gathered at the Birchmere in Alexandria for their version of the Oscars, Colonial Players and 2nd Star Productions took home a quarter of the awards. If you saw 2nd Star’s Camelot or Colonial’s Shipwrecked, Trying or 177 — four of the night’s most nominated shows — you know why.
    Founded in 1999 to recognize artistic and technical excellence in community theater, WATCH encompasses companies from Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia. WATCH theaters review one another’s productions, sending multiple volunteer adjudicators throughout the region. Thus some excellent smaller troupes, among them Dignity Players, choose not to participate.
    In 2013, 114 productions were judged (42 musicals and 72 plays), generating 20,850 score sheets and 14,060 individual acting evaluations. Anne Arundel County’s three member troupes — 2nd Star, Colonial Players and The Bowie Playhouse — received nearly one-third of all nominations. Only the Port Tobacco Players of Charles County compared in the race for nominations, though Kensington Arts Theatre took home the most trophies — or promises. Due to a manufacturing delay, award winners had to settle for toy watches until the real trophies arrive in the mail.
    Chief among this year’s design honorees was 2nd Star, whose founder, Jane B. Wingard, continued her winning streak with three awards: Outstanding Set Design, Painting and Decoration in a Musical (Camelot), bringing her personal total to 11 awards over the past three years. Gail Bagaria shared honors for set decoration, with Joanne D. Wilson and Linda Swann winning for props and costumes. Colonial Players’ Beverly Hill van Joolen was awarded Outstanding Hair Design in a Musical for 1776.
    The performing stars of the evening were Colonial Players, with Karen Grim winning Outstanding Lead Actress for her portrayal of Sarah Schorr in Trying. Christina Enoch Kemmerer and Robert Tucker won Featured Actress and Actor for their supporting roles in Shipwrecked. Their wins were unusual because they were competing in the largest category, in the first show of the season, indicating that the strength of their initial impressions withstood competition throughout the entire year. That’s an outcome as rare as the first Olympic skater scoring a perfect 10. Colonial Players — winner of last year’s Outstanding Play — received nominations for Outstanding Director of a Play and/or Outstanding Play again this year for Shipwrecked, Trying and Communicating Doors.
    The winners were elegant and eloquent in their acceptance, with Grim expressing surprise and Tucker marveling at the challenges and rewards of his versatile role in Shipwrecked. His castmate, Kemmerer, could not attend due to a prior engagement in her role as a new mother.