The Winners at the 29th Annual LA STAGE Alliance Ovation Awards

The 29th Annual LA STAGE Alliance Ovation Awards were presented on Monday, January 28, 2019, at the Theatre at Ace Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles where 36 awards were bestowed on theater productions, producers, directors, artists, and technicians.

Sixteen different Southern California theatre companies won thirty-six awards, including the Center Theatre Group for “Soft Power“, Rogue Artists Ensemble and East West Players for “Kaidan Project: Walls Grow Thin,” the Bootleg Theatre for “Theater Movement Bazaar’s Grail Project,” the Geffen Playhouse for “Ironbound,” “Sell/Buy/Date,” and “Skeleton Crew,” the La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts for “South Pacific” and “Ain’t Misbehavin‘,” the Celebration Theatre  for “Priscilla Queen of the Desert,”  and  The Echo Theater Company  for “Cry it Out.” A Noise Within received the Best Season Award  for “A Raisin in the Sun,” “A Tale of Two Cities,” “Henry V,” “Mrs. Warren’s Profession,” “Noises Off,” “The Madwoman of Chaillot.”

Members of The Kilroys, hosts of the 29th Annual LA STAGE Alliance Ovation Awards at the Theatre at Ace Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, Monday, January 28, 2019. Photo by Monique A. LeBleu.

The Ovation Honors, which recognizes outstanding achievement in areas that are not among the standard list of nomination categories, were awarded to Adrien Prevost (Music Composition for a Play, Kaidan Project: Walls Grow Thin, Rogue Artists Ensemble co-produced with East West Players) and Brian White, Sean Cawelti, Greg Ballora, Morgan Reban, Jack Pullman, and Christine Papalexis (Puppet Design, Kaidan Project: Walls Grow Thin, Rogue Artists Ensemble co-produced with East West Players).

The Center Theatre Group presented the 2018 Richard E. Sherwood Award to writer, comedian, and performance artist Kristina Wong, which also includes $10,000 endowed by the Sherwood family for innovative and adventurous artists.

Wong, who took the unique opportunity of this night to announce her candidacy for Wilshire Center Koreatown Neighborhood Council Subdistrict 5 Resident Representative, said in acceptance, “In this line of work there’s a very fine line between being a madwoman and a visionary. It is so validating to be recognized as the latter by this vibrant LA Theatre community that has made me the performance artist slash political candidate that I am today.”

The Kilroys came with their message to the theater community at large to encourage the hiring and support of more women, trans, and non-binary artists in theater in order to achieve gender balance. Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, Paula Vogel, offered words of encouragement to the theater community as well, aligning with The Kilroys message of the evening with “The sooner produced, the sooner prolific.”

This year’s show, held at the glorious landmark United Artists 1927 movie palace that is now the Theatre at Ace Hotel, was directed by Artistic Director of Coeurage Theatre Company Jer Adrianne Lelliott, also featured live performances including by women’s choral group Vox Femina.

The Ovation Awards is annually produced by LA STAGE Alliance, “a non-profit organization dedicated to building awareness, appreciation, and support for the performing arts in Los Angeles” and companies DOMA Theatre CompanyUCLA School of Theater, Film & Television, F&D Scene Changes Ltd., USC School of Dramatic Arts, Bakers Man Productions, Venture Hill Entertainment LLC, Seven Waves Entertainment LLC, Requiem Media Productions LLC, Variety, and Ken Werther Publicity sponsored the event.

Here’s the complete list of winners. For more information visit

The awards show was broadcast live on YouTube and Facebook, in case you missed the show or would like to relive it.

Featured top photo: Rachel Myers accepts her Ovation Award for Scenic Design (Large Theatre) for “Skeleton Crew” (Geffen Playhouse) at 29th Annual LA STAGE Alliance Ovation Awards, Theatre at Ace Hotel, Downtown Los Angeles, Monday, January 28, 2019. Photo by Monique A. LeBleu.

Better Lemons At The Ovation Awards on Twitter

Jeff Campanella Getting Familiar With Garry Marshall, Maria Callas & Neil Simon

Jeff Campanella already has earned the distinction of being the only actor to be part of both the recently re-named Garry Marshall Theatre‘s inaugural season’s first and second productions. Jeff goes from ‘stage managing’ Maria Callas in MASTER CLASS to being a vital contributor in Neil Simon’s homage to his beginnings as part of a classic television comedy writing team in LAUGHTER ON THE 23rd FLOOR. Jeff took the time to give us a little insight to his involvement with MASTER CLASS and now LAUGHTER, which begins previews March 21, opening March 23.
Thanks for agreeing to this interview, Jeff!
LAUGHTER ON THE 23rd FLOOR is your second show at the Garry Marshall. Do you have a history with the Falcon Theatre? Or was MASTER CLASS your first Garry Marshall/Falcon project?
MASTER CLASS was my first audition and production at the Falcon/GMT, and could not have been a better experience. Our director, Dimitri Toscas, is truly one of the kindest people I know, and I’m so happy for him that the show got such wonderful reviews.
Did you ever have the opportunity to interact with the late, great Garry Marshall?
No, I wish. I’m a great admirer of his work. Laverne and Shirley is my favorite Garry creation. I love hearing stories about him. He will be remembered not just for his numerous films and TV shows, but now for his beautiful theatre.
I saw you as the “Julliard Stagehand” in MASTER CLASS with the incredible Carolyn Hennesy as Maria Callas. You were most fun in your various entrances and exits interacting with Diva Callas. How would you compare your Stagehand character with the writer you play in LAUGHTER? And, which writer are you playing in LAUGHTER?
I’m playing Ira Stone, a hypochondriac who always shows up late with some new ailment. The characters are similar in that they are the outcasts of their particular worlds. Both oddballs, but in very different styles.
In your research process of getting familiar with your LAUGHTER character, did you watch some of the classic comedians that these characters were originally based on?
My character is based on Mel Brooks, or at least the Mel Brooks off-camera that Neil Simon worked with. Spaceballs was my first favorite comedy. I already watched it a dozen times before I was seven years old. I knew nothing about The Saturday Night Review or Sid Caesar, which our ‘The Max Prince Show’ is an allusion to, but in terms of that time period, I’m a big Jackie Gleason fan. My family loves The Honeymooners.
Have you, by chance, ever seen other theatrical productions of LAUGHTER or the 2001 television version with Nathan Lane?
No, I haven’t. It’s tough when you watch other performances not to at least subconsciously copy them. So, if given the choice, I’d rather not watch a performance of the character I’m going to play. I’ve seen Nathan Lane on Broadway in WAITING FOR GODOT, and my favorite of his films is Birdcage.
Any other Neil Simon project you’ve love to be involved in?
I really like THE ODD COUPLE and THE SUNSHINE BOYS, and the good news is these roles will be waiting for me in fifty years!
You have worked with a number of divas (and, I mean ‘diva’ in the most positive sense!) – the aforementioned Mz. Hennesy, Susan Lucci (Devious Maids), Pauley Paurette (NCIS), Mary McDonnell (Major Crimes), Jeremy Irons (An Actor Prepares). What other ‘diva’ would be on your wish list to work with?
Ooh, probably Maya Rudolph. She’s hilarious!
Tell us some fun incidents you experienced during MASTER CLASS? (practical jokes, gag opening night gifts, spilled pitchers of water, pratfalls)
I would always find new ways to scare Maegan McConnell around the theatre. Also, before each show I would pretend to be a real stagehand and give the 20-10-and-places call to the ladies’ dressing room. I’d find a new way to screw it up each time. But my favorite gag was Joseph Bwarie, the artistic director, would follow me around backstage as if he was my assistant. The Stagehand’s stagehand.
Being raised in Atlanta, Georgia, does your accent reappear easily when you’re around other Georgia folks? Was it easy or difficult to ‘lose’ your Georgia inflections?
Well, my dad’s side is from Brooklyn, so I’m definitely drawing from him more than my mom’s side for this role. I’ve never really had a southern accent, unless I’m being really polite.
What is your affinity to F. Scott Fitzgerald? I believe you dogs’ names are Zelda and Fitzgerald?
You’re good! I think the third dog will have to be named Gatsby!
What 1950’s topic of Neil Simon’s writers’ room would you think will resonate (and possibly seem too relevant to our present times) with the Garry Marshall Theatre audiences.
Carol’s monologue about wanting to not just be seen as a child-bearing woman, but also to be taken seriously as a writer definitely resonates today. Also, the government’s desire to silence those who disagree with the status quo has always been relevant in our country. But, all in all, this is a comedy, aimed more at making one laugh than think. So bring your laugh. Or your fake laugh. I’ll take either one!
Thank you again for doing this, Jeff. I look forward to experiencing your comedy chops in LAUGHTER.
For ticket availability and show schedule through April 22, 2018, log onto

The Diva-licious Carolyn Hennesy On Inhabiting Callas, Holding Oscar, & Meeting Garry Marshall

A soap opera femme fatale/force-to-be-reckoned-with since 2006,  Carolyn Hennesy will be taking one of her many side trips to the Los Angeles boards in the commanding role of opera legend Maria Callas in MASTER CLASS, the first production of the newly-annointed Garry Marshall Theatre (formerly the Falcon Theatre), beginning September 20, 2017. We managed to catch Carolyn in her few moments of down time in between her day job (as legal eagle Diane Miller on General Hospital), manning phonelines for one of the many fundraisers she gives her time to, and rehearsing for Madame Callas’s tutorials in Terrence McNally’s play, MASTER CLASS.
Thank you for agreeing to this interview with me, Carolyn! You’re portraying the renown opera diva Maria Callas. Were you familiar with her accomplishments growing up?
Only peripherally.  I knew that she was an opera great, if you will, and that she was considered temperamental and brilliant… those words used in that sort of general sense in which history tends to mark individuals who’ve fallen out of our direct line of sight.  These are two aspects of Madame Callas that are often most on the tongue of anyone you ask, and even though I do love opera, that was only what I knew.
In studying her for your role, how would you describe Ms. Callas? 
In addition to an ambitious, focused, hard, intolerant, passionate genius?  Well, there’s also carefully crafted, hell-bent and ruthless.  With regard to Aristotle Onassis, the words besotted and desperate come to mind.  With regard to any moment she stepped on stage in her early career… mesmerizing, magical and jaw-dropping.  Later career… broken, in denial, yet elegant.  In researching her, however… and the process will continue long after the final curtain has been lowered on this production… the phrase (mine) “divine tragedy,” I think best sums up Callas.  She ran the gamut at once of otherworldly and yet so flawed.
Tell me your definitions of the label/title ‘diva’?
Very simple:  obviously “divine”… but not at all in terms of self-aggrandizement, or public haughtiness or superiority.  My definition simply means you are divine to work with, love and know.  With a secureness of self, you focus on others and becoming part of “the team,” whatever project is at hand.  Specifically in the performing arts, a diva works to make everyone else’s job easier; that’s the mission of the diva.  Divas can do that… because they’re, well, divas.
I have seen you in a number of public and semi-public functions, and you definitely do not come off as a diva (in the ‘other’ definition). So, what qualities of Maria Callas can Carolyn Hennesy more easily identify with?
I would hope I do come off as a diva using my definition, but I’ll leave that for others to say.  Regarding similar qualities… passion for our art, certainly.  Loving not wisely, but too well.  A desire to see the work continue.  Focus, determination, a personal mandate to be the best possible.  Fastidious.  And probably more than a little OCD.
Have you ever seen any other productions of MASTER CLASS before?
I have not.
Do you ‘steal’ from the best? Or try to ignore what’s already been attempted?
Not having seen an earlier production, I can’t steal and I can’t ignore.  With regard to other productions and portrayals of characters that have “gone before”… of course, I’ll occasionally gently and lovingly “lift.”  Everyone does.  If they tell you they don’t, they’re lying or they haven’t ventured outside their room.  By living we’re informed; being informed means a larger pool from which to draw.  Being human means you lift… occasionally.
Have you and the amazing Terrence McNally crossed paths before?
I have not had the pleasure before this.  Of course, I’ve seen McNally works: KISS OF THE SPIDERWOMAN; LIPS TOGETHER, TEETH APART, and FRANKIE AND JOHNNY. But this is our first real dance together.
You will be in the first production of the newly named Garry Marshall Theatre. Surely you and Mr. Marshall must have met in the Los Angeles Theatre community before. Share a wonderful memory of him, if you would.
Several years ago, Garry Marshall (and Héctor Elizondo) presented me with my Ovation Award for Theatre of NOTE’s THE FAN MAROO.  My dress was especially nice that evening, and as I was walking offstage I heard Garry exclaim, “That’s a slow-walkin’ dress!”
With your background and discipline in having to learn and memorize daily General Hospital scripts, is it now old hat to open a new theatrical script and have the memorization down in no time flat before you begin working on your characterization?
For this play?  Hahahahahaha… you’re funny.
You were just a toddler when your father Dale won his Oscar for Best Art Direction for the 1966 Fantastic Voyage. Did you get to play with the golden statute? 
I’m the only person I know…personally… who rehearsed their Oscar speech actually holding one.
At what age did you realize the whole significance of what the award meant to your father and his peers?
Early.  A very early age.  My father was revered, not only for his “divo” qualities (my definition) of teamwork and respect for others, but for his particular genius, and I saw that every time I visited his sets.  There are so many brilliantly talented people in all aspects of this profession, emphasis on the word “many.”  The little gold man, however, is the ultimate pat on the back from one’s peers and everyone wants that recognition.  Of course, they do; we do.  To have one in my home was like having a moonrock or the little toe of Saint Peter; my mother wouldn’t let me touch it until I was, maybe, 25.  My Oscar speeches were done when she was at the store.  I frequently told her we were in need of hot dogs or cookies. So she would dash out, and I could thank the Academy.
Did you ever want a jumpsuit like the one Raquel Welch wore in Fantastic Voyage?
Why do you use the past tense?  Have you seen my closet?
I’ll bet you still look great in it, too! OK, Carolyn, so what got you into flying through the air on a trapeze?
I needed to learn the static (or hanging) trapeze for a production of COMEDY OF ERRORS years ago.  From there (i.e., hanging upside down for monologues, and by only one arm for bits of dialogue); it was only a matter of time before I would want to start flying.  You know, as one would.
Have you been able to incorporate your trapeze expertise into an acting gig?
I have!  I was so vociferous about my love of the static trapeze on the set of Jessie that I (essentially) wore down EP Pam Eells until she wrote in a bit for Mrs. Chesterfield.
Now that you have been inhabiting Ms. Callas, what would you think Ms. Callas would think of Terrence McNally’s depiction of her?
There are many things with which she’d take issue… some of the denial, the feinting, the parrying.  She simply wouldn’t see herself that way… not even in her truly private moments.  The walls are too, too high.  But she would love his words with regard to art (music)  and her feelings about it.  The most honest line in the play is the line by which I believe she lived her life regarding art… and one which I also find haunting in my own life:  “It’s making people think that for that precise moment in time there is only way, one voice.  Yours.”
What impression of Ms. Callas would you like the Garry Marshall Theatre audience to leave with?
She bullied and bluffed and twisted people and situations only in service of art.  Her art.  She loved without reservation and paid dearly for it.  She was understood as much as she wanted to be and, ultimately, was the epitome of a divine spark in all-too-human form.  I also think that when she sang, God sang.
Thanks again, Carolyn. I look forward to experiencing your Callas diva-licious-ness.
For available MASTER CLASS tickets and scheduling through October 22, 2017, log onto