Seattle Times theater critic honors standout actors, theaters and stage productions with the 2011 Footlight Awards. The list includes best new plays "Pilgrims Musa and Sheri in the New World" (ACT Theatre) and "Ghost Light" (Oregon Shakespeare Festival).

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Perseverance keeps honor bright, according to William Shakespeare.

2011 was, artistically, a bumpy year for Seattle theaters. In the case of one prominent company, it was also financially disastrous.

But it was a time when most of our drama institutions scrimped and sacrificed and persevered, despite the uncertain economy and the keener than ever competition for arts patrons and financial contributions.

The alternative? In April, Intiman Theatre, dangerously high on debt and low on cash, laid off its staff and cut short its 2011 season after one show. Subscribers, artists, funders and observers around the U.S. were stunned by the Tony-honored company’s sudden shut-down. Now Intiman hopes to return for a 2012 summer season under new leadership, but its fundraising outlook is clouded by a mood of wary disgruntlement from its subscribers and former funders. If the money isn’t there by February, the company intends to shut up shop permanently.

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The Intiman closure sent a chill through the arts community. And it was a wake-up call for theaters to get their fiscal acts together in a fragile period of very gradual economic recovery.

But most Seattle-area theater companies are hanging tough. And if it wasn’t a stellar year on the boards (with a couple of exceptions, most prominently ACT Theatre’s vital showing) there were more new creations (of varying quality), and enough vivid productions and potent performances (by well-known and newcomer thesps) to keep the scene lively.

Looking at our list of the most laudable productions in local theater, it’s striking that most of our top picks happened to be recent plays and new adaptations that zone in on compelling characters coping with immigration, poverty, racial relations, global outsourcing, religious identity and other immediate concerns. These weren’t somber, didactic screeds, but emotion-charged, often witty, aspirational human stories.

We live in such dynamic, trying times, which theaters can artistically exploit and help us better comprehend and — hurrah! — even laugh at. So here, with the customary drum roll, are The Seattle Times Footlight Awards for theatrical accomplishments:

Top Mainstage Productions: “Border Songs” and “Sense and Sensibility” (Book-It Repertory Theatre); “Pilgrims Musa and Sheri in the New World,” “Mary Stuart” and “Double Indemnity” (ACT Theatre); “All My Sons” (Intiman Theatre); “The Brothers Size” (Seattle Repertory Theatre); “My Wonderful Day” (Seattle Public Theatre); “Brownie Points” and “The Odyssey” (Taproot Theatre)

Fab Fringe: “Suffering Inc.” (Pony World Theatre); “Hardball” (Live Girls); “Crooked” (Theater Schmeater)

Best World Premiere Play: “Pilgrims Musa and Sheri in the New World,” by Yussef El-Guindi (ACT). Runner-Up: “Ghost Light” by Tony Taccone (Oregon Shakespeare Festival)

Touted Tuners: “The Threepenny Opera” (Seattle Shakespeare Company); “Guys and Dolls” (5th Avenue Theatre); “Iron Curtain” (Village Theatre)

Scintillating Shakespeare: “Cymbeline” (Seattle Shakespeare Theatre)

Tops for Tots: “Harold and the Purple Crayon” and “The Man Who Planted Trees” (Seattle Children’s Theatre); “Cinderella” (5th Avenue Theatre)

Delectable Dinner Theater: “Bonjour, Liliane!” (Teatro ZinZanni) and Café Nordo

In a Class By Itself: Mike Daisey’s timely, provocative monologue “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs” (Seattle Rep)

Acting Kudos (Plays): Patrick Allcorn and Jim Gall (“Border Songs”); Kjerstine Anderson (“Sense and Sensibility”); N’Tasha Anders (“My Wonderful Day”); Teagle Bougere, Sean Griffin and Jim Gall (“Of Mice and Men,” Seattle Rep); Mark Chamberlin (“The Odyssey”); Jane Jones (“Great Expectations,” Book-It Rep); Aaron Lamb (“An Ideal Husband,” Taproot Theatre); Jeanne Paulsen and Connor Toms (“Cymbeline”); Adam Standley (“Love Horse”); Mariah Caine Ware and Zoey Cane Belyea (“Crooked’); Terri Weagant, Kevin McKeon and Todd Jefferson Moore (“A Midsummer Night’s Dream”)

Acting Kudos (Musicals): Carolee Carmello (“Saving Aimee”); Vicki Noon (“Annie Get Your Gun”); Don Darryl Rivera (“Harold and the Purple Crayon”); Billie Wildrick and Brandon O’Neill (“Guys and Dolls”); Bobbi Kotula and John Dewar (“Iron Curtain”)

Acting Kudos (Entire Ensemble): The casts of “The Brothers Size”; “Suffering Inc.;” “Mary Stuart;” “Pilgrims Musa and Sheri in the New World;” and “Brownie Points”

Royal Highnesses: The regal, warring Suzanne Bouchard and Anne Allgood duking it out in “Mary Stuart” (ACT)

Prince of Clowns: Lorenzo Pisoni, a master of gags, shtick and acrobatics in his limber and poignant solo show, “Humor Abuse”

Hardest working actors in Seattle: Excellent thesps Michael Patten in “O Lovely Glowworm (New Century Theatre Company); “Circle Mirror Transformation” (Seattle Rep), “In the Next Room” (ACT) and “Great Expectations”; Reginald Jackson in “All My Sons,” “Inherit the Wind” (Strawberry Theatre Workshop), “Macbeth” (Wooden O) and “Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

Men (and Women) in Tights: The nimble actors romping through “Robin Hood” at Seattle Children’s Theatre

Boys in High Heels Prize: Darragh Kennan in “Sylvia” (Seattle Rep)

Delectable Dinner Theater: “Bonjour, Liliane!” (Teatro ZinZanni) and “To Savor Tomorrow” (Café Nordo)

Best Theater Parody of Theater: “Double-Wide Indemnity,” a riotous sendup in Dos Fallopia’s “Ham for the Holidays” (Theatre Off Jackson)

Mullet Mania: “Rock of Ages” (Paramount Theatre)

Evangelical Overkill: “Saving Aimee” (5th Avenue)

Cheerless Cheerleaders: “Vanity, the Musical” (ACT and 5th Avenue Theatre)

Splendid Scenic Effects: Tom Lynch’s versatile setting of emerald-green faux marble for “Double Indemnity”; Carol Wolfe Clay’s boardwalk kingdom for “Cymbeline”; Bill Forrester’s spy vs. spy motif for “Iron Curtain”; Jennifer Zeyl’s big sky California for “Of Mice and Men”; Jennifer Lupton’s adventure playground-style Sherwood Forest in “Robin Hood”

Best Props: The office tchotchkes in “Suffering Inc.”

Worst Prop: The flightless flying carpet in “Aladdin” (5th Avenue)

Trends du Jour: Big bird costumes, religion-themed musicals.

Best Show about Butoh and Biology: “Love Horse” (Washington Ensemble Theatre)

New Broadway Plays We’d Like to See Here: “Jerusalem” by Jaz Butterworth, “Good People” by David Auburn and “The Motherf**ker with the Hat” by Stephen Adly Guirgis

Angels Sing Thee to Thy Rest: RIP set designer Edie Whitsett; esteemed actors Mark Chamberlin, Philip Davidson and Ted D’Arms; playwrights Lanford Wilson, Arthur Laurents and Vaclav Havel; theater scholar Ruby Cohn.

Misha Berson:

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