If dinner and a show sound like an ideal date night but you’re reluctant to drive to the city and drop $75 a ticket, consider that some of the area’s best theater is right in your own back yard at a fraction of the price. Such was proven last month for the 10th time in as many years when three troupes from Anne Arundel County nearly swept highest honors at the 45th Annual Ruby Griffith Awards.
The 2016-’17 award for All Round Production Excellence went to The Producers at Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre. 2nd Star Productions in Bowie won Outstanding Achievement in a Musical for HMS Pinafore. The Colonial Players of Annapolis Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf earned first runner-up for Outstanding Achievement in a Play, with the award going to the Providence Players of Fairfax Amadeus.
The Ruby Griffith Awards, sponsored by The British Players in affiliation with the British Embassy, recognize amateur theaters throughout the D.C.-Metro area, from NOVA to LaPlata to Baltimore. Over the past decade, with 33 groups participating, nearly a third of the 30 awards granted went to local favorites: Summer Garden, 2nd Star and Colonial.
What makes for a winning show?
Who better to answer than the local song and dance man featured in more recent winners than anyone else? Nathan Bowen of The Producers, HMS Pinafore, Guys & Dolls and Hello Dolly, the last two being 2nd Star’s All Round Winners in 2014 and 2015.
“Certain shows are just crafted better,” says Bowen, who can “usually,” he adds, gauge potential “by the read-through and first few rehearsals.” Given all the factors that make up a production — costumes, sets, lights, microphones, etc. — “the manner in which they coalesce can sometimes surprise even a seasoned performer,” he says.
In community theater, where everyone is a volunteer doing it because of a shared passion, people sometimes come together in such a way that a show really stands out.
“That love leads to a lot of camaraderie,” Bowen adds, which is what it’s all about: performers pushing themselves and their friends to be the best they can be — for the love of it, as The Colonial Players often say.