Seattle Times theater critic Misha Berson reveals the annual Footlight Awards, honoring the best in Seattle-area theater, 2010.

Share story

In a year when many small businesses went bust, and many a stage buff was counting pennies, the Seattle theater scene managed to hold steady and continue to deliver a profusion of shows — and quite a few worth cheering for.

Not everyone fared equally well, of course. While Seattle Repertory Theatre recovered its fiscal balance after a wobbly 2009, and ACT Theatre happily posted gains, Intiman Theatre revealed details of a debt much larger and more dangerous to its operation than generally known.

But all our leading theater companies (knock wood) are still standing, still producing, and two are under determined, energetic new artistic leadership — Kate Whoriskey at Intiman, and Jerry Manning at Seattle Rep. Intiman hosted the more adventurous roster, but its two world premiere shows (“The Thin Place,” “The Scarlet Letter”) were disappointing. Seattle Rep played it safer and earned more praise, with works by well-known dramatists (Wilson, Albee, Mamet, etc.) Among the mid-sized troupes, Seattle Shakespeare Company had a banner year with both Shakespearean and ancient Greek (“Electra”) winners.

Meanwhile, our smaller companies were the robust pipelines for some of the freshest new American playwriting. And if it wasn’t an exciting annum for musicals new and/or revived (with a few exceptions, most notably 5th Avenue Theatre’s glorious resurrection of Leonard Bernstein’s “Candide”), tuners were plentiful and polished.

Most Read Entertainment Stories

Unlimited Digital Access. $1 for 4 weeks.

Finding funding will likely be as daunting for nonprofit theaters in 2011 as it was in 2010, as the country struggles out of recession and with a new political order. And the creative gambles for artists will be as perilous, yet also as essential.

But even in lean times, we’ve seen positive trends — most happily, the deepening pool of accomplished, imaginative local directors to match the region’s wealth of excellent actors and designers.

So trumpet fanfare, please, for our bountiful drama scene, and its individual and collective achievements. The Footlight Awards for theatrical excellence in 2010, named by Seattle Times drama reviewers (and in no particular order in each category) are:

Marvelous Mainstage Shows (Drama): “Ruined” (Intiman Theatre); “The Iliad” and “Fences” (Seattle Repertory Theatre); “The Cider House Rules, Parts One and Two” (Book-It Repertory Theatre); “Hamlet” and “Electra” (Seattle Shakespeare Company); “The Trip to Bountiful” (ACT Theatre)

(Local) Musical Treats: “Candide” (5th Avenue Theatre); “42nd Street” and “Meet Me in St. Louis” (Village Theatre). Runner-Up: “Camelot” (Seattle Musical Theatre)

Best Big Touring Treats: “In the Heights” (5th Avenue Theatre); “August: Osage County” (Paramount Theatre)

Cream of the Smaller Houses: “Edmond” (Balagan Theatre); “Fat Pig” (Artattack Theater Ensemble); “Pageant Play” (Theater Schmeater); “Mauritius” (Seattle Public Theater); “Red Light Winter” (Azeotrope Theatre); “Hunter Gatherers” (Washington Ensemble Theatre); “Breaking the Code” (Strawberry Theatre Workshop)

Hail, Super Hero/Villain!: “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog” (Balagan Theatre); “Robopop!” (WET)

Friskiest Shakespeare Frolics: “Two Gentlemen of Verona” and “Much Ado About Nothing” (Seattle Shakespeare Company)

Worthy World Premiere: “An Iliad,” adapted from the Robert Fagles translation of the Homeric epic, by Lisa Peterson and Denis O’Hare

Acting Kudos (Plays, Mainstages): Darragh Kennan (“Hamlet”); Hans Altwies (“The Iliad”); R. Hamilton Wright (“Glengarry Glen Ross”); Marya Sea Kaminski and Susannah Millonzi (“Electra); Estelle Parsons (“August: Osage County”); William Hall and James A. Williams (“Fences”); Connor Toms and Peter Crook (“The Cider House Rules, Parts One and Two”); Portia, Russell G. Jones and Condola Rashad (“Ruined”); Marianne Owen and Paul Morgan Stetler (“The Trip to Bountiful”)

Acting Kudos (Plays, Smaller Stages): Bradford Farwell (“Breaking the Code”); Richard Nguyen Sloniker (“Red Light Winter”); Amanda Williams and Daniel Reaume (“Pageant Play”); Rachel Permann (“Fat Pig”)

Ensemble Acting Excellence: The entire casts of “The Cider House Rules, Parts One and Two,” “Ruined,” “Hamlet,” “Glengarry Glen Ross” and “The Two Gentlemen of Verona”

Top Turns (Musicals): Eric Ankrim (“The Gypsy King”); John Bolton and Clarke Hallum (“A Christmas Story”); Laura Griffith and Stanley Bahorek (“Candide”); Krystle Armstrong and John Bogar (“42nd Street”); Kasey Nusbickel (“Anne of Green Gables”) and Ryah Nixon (“Meet Me in St. Louis”)

Design Dazzle (Multiple Shows): Set designer Andrea Bryn Bush and lighting designer Andrew D. Smith

Victorian Dream Houses: Designed by Scott Fyfe (“Anne of Green Gables”) and Steven Capone (“Meet Me in St. Louis”)

Avant-garde Afterglow: Site-specific “Winky” (The Satori Group), and Ralph Lemon’s haunting “How Can You Stay in the House All Day and Not Go Anywhere?” (On the Boards)

Kudos for Kids’ Shows: “Pero,” “The Borrowers” and “Lyle the Crocodile” (Seattle Children’s Theatre)

Guilty Pleasure: “Xanadu” (Paramount Theatre)

Smartest Hire: New Seattle Rep artistic director (and longtime Rep staffer) Jerry Manning

Classy Clowns: Daniel Breaker and Allen Gilmore in “A Doctor In Spite of Himself” (Intiman Theatre)

Meanie with the Mostest: Richard Ziman as the heavies in “Hamlet,” “The Gypsy King” and “Pullman Porter Blues” (Seattle Rep)

Pinter Done Right: Shadow and Light Theatre’s “Two By Pinter” and the Pinter Fortnightly Series (ACT); “Pinter and Beckett” (New City Theatre)

Comeback Kid: Greenwood’s Taproot Theatre, repaired and reopened after a major fire

Deserved Distinction: Frank Corrado wins a Fox Foundation Resident Actor Fellowship

Highest Body Count After “Hamlet”: Martin McDonagh’s gallows romp, “The Lieutenant of Inishmore” at ACT

Best Bar Snacks: Café Nordo’s noir cabaret drama, “Sauced”

Best Nonhuman Characters: The frilly dresses as child beauty-pageant queens in “Pageant Play”

Boys in High Heels: Michael Oaks (“Ham for the Holidays”)

Sloshed Prize: The cast of “Sextet,” who performed in a pool of water at (where else?) WET (Washington Ensemble Theatre)

Most Dismal Dystopia: “Her Mother Was Imagination” (Annex Theatre)

More Of a Pale Pink: “The Scarlet Letter” (Intiman)

Best/Worst Trend: An explosion of performing-arts fests. We love ’em, but could we space them out better?

Rest in Peace: Majorie Nelson, Charles Canada, Paul Herlinger and Jack Sydow

Misha Berson: mberson@seattletimes.com