Local theater companies take home NH Theatre Awards

  •  Nora Fiffer, right, directs actress Laura Carden in Firelight Theatre’s production of “Body Awareness.”  Courtesy photos

  • Andy’s Summer Playhouse Producing Artistic Director, Jared Mezzocchi and Administrative Director, Katerina Klavon pose with the “Excellence in Playwriting” award given to playwright Jennifer Barclay Newsham, who wrote “Ripe Frenzy” for an Andy’s premiere.  Courtesy photo

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    Firelight Theatre’s  Jason Lambert, Laura Carden, Sarah Sandback and Braeden Hatfield. All four actors were nominated as actors in their roles in "Body Awareness” by the New Hampshire Theatre Awards.  Courtesy photos—

  • Greg Wood (NHTA nominee), Kraig Swartz (NHTA nominee), Kathy Manfre, Dale Hodges (NHTA Winner), Becky London (NHTA Winner), Lisa Bostnar (NHTA nominee), Ken Sheldon, and Tom Frey (NHTA Nominee) perform in the Peterborough Player’s production of “Morning’s at Seven​​”. Scenic and Costume Design by NHTA Winners Campbell Baird and Jane Alois Stein. Lighting Design by NHTA nominee Kevin Frazier. Courtesy photos

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 1/28/2020 2:25:54 PM

The Peterborough Players and Firelight Theatre Workshop of Peterborough along with Andy’s Summer Playhouse of Wilton were recognized Saturday at the New Hampshire Theatre Awards in Concord with numerous awards including for acting, scriptwriting, set and costume design.

“It’s a very good feeling to have your work recognized, and recognized by your peers. It’s a huge compliment and it gets your energy up,” said Players’ artistic director Gus Kaikkonen Monday.

The Peterborough Players took home four awards for its production of “Morning’s at Seven.” Actress Becky London was awarded best actress in a drama or comedy in a professional production for her role as Aaronetta and Dale Hodges won best supporting actress in a professional production, for her role as Ida.

“Morning’s at Seven” was also recognized in the professional production category for best scenic design, won by Campbell Baird, and best costume design, won by Jane Alois Stein.

Also taking home awards in the professional production category Saturday was Firelight Theatre Workshop winning best production of a drama or comedy, best director and the theater hero award and Andy’s Summer Playhouse winning excellence in scriptwriting.

Kaikkonen said “Morning’s at Seven” is a play with its ups and downs in popularity among the theater set, but after seeing a particularly good Broadway production of the play in during its heyday, he’s always loved it, he said.

London and Hodges play two of four sisters who must deal with messy family drama when the son of Hodges’ character brings home his long-time girlfriend to meet the family, and perhaps announce an engagement.

With three other members of the ensemble cast, including Tom Frey as Homer, Greg Wood as Thor, Kraig Swartz as Carl and Lisa Bostnar as Esther all getting nominations, Kaikkonen said he wished there had been a category for an ensemble cast.

“The whole company, they’re fine actors. Many have been here before and they’re a dream to work with,” Kaikkonen said.

Firelight is entering its third year of professional productions this year, and 2019 was the first year it was eligible to be entered into the New Hampshire Theatre Awards, Firelight co-artistic director Nora Fiffer said on Monday.

Its production and her direction of “Body Awareness” won top spot for both professional production of a drama or comedy and best director. Firelight Theatre’s Dr. Tori Haring-Smith took home the theater hero award, for her work as the company’s dramaturg, which is a literary editor who adapts scripts.

All four main actors in the production, Jason Lambert, Laura Carden, Sarah Sandback and Braeden Hatfield, were also nominated for awards.

Fiffer said the company has tried to make bold statements with its pieces since establishing in Peterborough three years ago.

“Body Awareness” was her first time directing a stage production, though she has experience with directing film, and she said she took advantage of the live audience that comes with stage theater.

In the play, college professor Phyllis and her partner Joyce welcome a photographer into their home during a Body Awareness Week at Phyllis’ college. The photographer’s current project is taking nude photos of women of all ages. Phyllis and Joyce disagree about whether the photos are exploitative or empowering.

For the production, Fiffer said she took advantage of Firelight Theatre’s small and unusual space – performing not on a stage, but in their offices at the Guernsey Building in Peterborough – to set up the stage so that the audience is seated on either side of the performance.

“We had our audiences looking straight at each other through the action. The discomfort in that exposure, in the dissatisfaction or pleasure in being seen, these were main themes of the play,” Fiffer said. “Part of what excites us about working in an office building is we have to reinvent what the space is.”

Andy’s excellence in scriptwriting award went to Jennifer Barclay Newsham for her play “Ripe Frenzy,” a play written for Andy’s and specifically targeted toward a teenage audience, Andy’s Producing Artistic Director Jared Mezzocchi said Tuesday.

Original works have become a hallmark of the Andy’s stage, which premieres new works each year for its main stage shows and touring company. “Ripe Frenzy” is a play centering around a high school which is the target of a shooting – an idea conceived right after the shooting during a Bible study at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston in 2015, which killed nine people.

Barclay Newsham wrote the play while in residence at the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough.

“It’s really important to us to be on the front lines of culture and what’s going on in the world. Things that are happening today,” Mezzocchi said. “New work is vital in responding to events happening right now. It’s truly about today and that’s important for the kids to feel that they’re part of what’s happening.”

Fiffer said it is wonderful to see this corner of New Hampshire recognized for its theater.

“The Monadnock Region was really well represented. It feels like Firelight is in such good company with these institutions, to be celebrating theater alongside them is an honor and something I’m excited about because we all love it and have that passion,” Fiffer said.

Mezzocchi echoed her sentiment. “It was very clear that something’s happening here and around Monadnock,” he said.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.

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