Two of the region's most significant and respected stage artists were honored at the Elly Awards given out Sunday night at the Crest Theatre in downtown Sacramento. Ed Claudio and James Wheatley were each given lifetime achievement awards by the Sacramento Area Regional Theatre Alliance.
Citing Claudio and Wheatley's several decades of accomplishments as actors, directors, producers, instructors and mentors, SARTA identified two of the most consistent and prolific theater makers in the Sacramento area.
The Elly Awards acknowledge outstanding achievement in community theater within a 70-mile radius of downtown Sacramento. Twenty-one volunteer judges see every show submitted in the categories they judge. The Elly categories are comedy, drama and musical, with awards in each category given for acting, direction, design, costuming, choreography and overall production.
This season 49 participating theaters submitted 150 productions, and from 163 adult Elly nominations, 31 Ellys recognized 23 productions and 20 theaters, with two ties. Theaters receiving the most awards were the Grass Valley's Community Asian Theatre of the Sierra (four), and a tie between Sacramento companies Bob and Ro Productions and Runaway Stage Productions (three each). There was a tie in overall production of a comedy between "Sylvia" by Bob and Ro Productions and "The Teahouse of the August Moon" by the Community Asian Theatre of the Sierra. There was also a tie in best direction of comedy, between Rosemarie Gerould for "Sylvia" and Ed Claudio for "Lawrence & Holloman."
Other winners included Michael RJ Campbell for his direction of "The Diviners" at California Stage of Sacramento, a production that also won best overall drama. The Davis Musical Theatre Company's production of "Chicago" won for best overall musical. Eason Donner won best leading actor for his performance in "Strangers on a Train" for Actor's Theatre of Sacramento and Kat Fleak won for her performance in " 'night, Mother" for the Volcano Theatre Company in Volcano. The lead-comedy acting honors went to Rodger Hoopman for "I Hate Hamlet" and Sophie Blackburn for "Sylvia."
The night, however belonged to Wheatley and Claudio both of whom run their own theater companies while also being in demand as performers. The two men are in rehearsals together for "The Sunset Limited," which opens later in fall at Actor's Theatre of Sacramento.
"It still hasn't sunk in yet," Claudio said after the ceremony. "Recognition is a wonderful, wonderful thing, especially by the entire community. That's what's so special about this."
He added that the best part of what he does is the people involved.
"The thing I love the most about doing theater is getting to work with the people I get to work with. James Wheatley, Boots Martin, Mitch Agruss, Dan Harlan. Buck Busfield and the B Street company. My life is blessed because of the people I work with," Claudio said.
Wheatley also said the acknowledgment was meaningful.
"To realize that somebody is noticing. Sometimes you don't know, you're just out there doing it. To have somebody say that your accomplishments have been significant is very satisfying," Wheatley said.
Wheatley said there is a sense of growth and development he's seen while working with community actors.
"I'm teaching people about acting, teaching people about dance and music, but there's also a lot about how they develop personal character," Wheatley said.
"They get sense of themselves, a positive self image which allows them to be the best they can be. When they leave that room they see things in a whole different light."