The nominations function for the 18th Canberra Area Theatre Awards, which recognise the achievements of amateur theatre in the region, introduced a new type of award on Monday. In the Judges' Choice Awards, each judge selected one aspect of the year's productions that he or she particularly wanted to recognise.
Data compiler Ted Briggs, who is one of the judges, says it is a way to recognise achievements that might not otherwise fit into one of the 46 existing nomination categories but did not preclude a category nomination or award where eligible.
"It's very personal to the judges," he says, adding that it could be for anything from a performance to a show to a technical achievement.
His award went to a program design, for Phoenix Players' "well-designed, easily readable and interesting program that suited the period" of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying and also incorporated innovative multimedia elements. He says that having designed programs himself he knows how much effort goes into them and such work is not always recognised.
Chris Neal gave his award to Supa Productions' The War of the Worlds for Ewan Putnam's programming of the synthesisers in what was a technically challenging Canberra premiere.
Ian McLean AM CSC chose Krystle Innes, "for her exhilarating and exuberant performance as Tracy Turnblad in Hairspray for Canberra Philharmonic Society".
Lachlan Ruffy received a Judges' Choice Award from Charles Oliver for "the stagecraft demonstrated across his multiple performances with many companies". Ruffy also received nominations for best actor in a featured role in a play for the Canberra Rep production of Lost in Yonkers and best actor in a featured role in a musical for Free Rain's Cats.
Oliver Raymond OAM cited Canberra Repertory Society, "for 80 years of committed theatre-making in the Canberra community, culminating in 2012's program of productions, several of an especially high standard".
Briggs says, "We saw 106 productions: 38 of those were school or youth productions; 68 were general productions; 57 productions were in Canberra, 49 were in New South Wales."
The companies with the most nominations were the ones that produced the most shows: Free-Rain received 32 and Canberra Repertory Society received 28.
"Of the schools, Wollongong High School of the Performing Arts and Kinross Woloroi College [Orange] both lead with 15 nominations each," Briggs says.
The CAT Awards' producer, Coralie Wood, says this was the biggest year for new companies joining the CATs, with eight signing up, and that she is particularly impressed with the quality of productions from schools this year.
"It's a great crop of students," she says.
Judges' choice awards
- To Phoenix Players, for their well-designed, easily readable and interesting program that suited the period ofHow to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying: awarded by Edwin Briggs.
- Canberra Youth Theatre, for their engaging performance of 4.48 Psychosis revealing the issue of young female suicide: awarded by Barry Casey.
- Christopher McNee, for his stand-out performance in Iolanthe for Queanbeyan Players: awarded by Dave Evans.
- Krystle Innes, for her exuberant performance as Tracy Turnblad in Hairspray for Canberra Philharmonic; awarded by Ian Mclean AM CSC.
- Ewan Putnam-Hargreaves, for programming of the synthesisers for Supa Productions' The War of the Worlds: awarded by Chris Neal.
- Laura Pearce, for her innovative and excellent choreography in Cats for Free-Rain Theatre Company: awarded by Terry O'Connor.
- Lachlan Ruffy, for the stagecraft demonstrated across his multiple performances with many companies: awarded by Charles Oliver.
- Sophie Benassi, for directing two casts of the same production to a consistently high standard in Steel Magnolias for Canberra Girls' Grammar School: awarded by Stephen Pike.
- Canberra Repertory Society, for 80 years of committed theatre-making in the Canberra community, culminating in 2012's program of productions, several of an especially high standard: awarded by Oliver Raymond OAM.
- Michelle Norris, for her stage presence and dance execution: awarded by Jacquelyn Richards.
- Daniel Cotton, for his performance as pianist and accompanist in Karabar High School's Reflections: awarded by Norma Robertson.
- Max Gambale, for the passionate interpretation of Captain Smith in Titanic the Musical for Supa Productions: awarded by Rose Shorney.
- Bryson Grenfell, for an exceptional performance by a young artist in the commedia dell'arte genre in The Servant of Two Masters by Wollongong High School of the Performing Arts: awarded by Anne Somes.
- Supa Productions, for the experience of their classic-rock multimedia spectacular, The War of the Worlds:awarded by David Whitbread.
- Daniel Simpson, for his outstanding performance on lead guitar in the band for Show Me the Money by Narooma High School: awarded by Don Whitbread OAM.
- Rosaleen Cox, for her stellar performance in The Vicar of Dibley for Albury Wodonga Theatre Company: awarded by Coralie Wood OAM.
The CAT Awards Gala Night is on February 16, 2013. For more information, including the full list of nominations, see catawards.com.au.