Independent critics Kate Dobbs Ariail, Christina Cass, Tom Elrod, David Fellerath, Adam Sobsey, Zack Smith and Byron Woods contributed to this article.

Students, amateurs, professionalsand potent combinations of all threeregularly achieved excellence in rooms large and small this year. The stories they pursued ranged from ghost tales to geopolitics and explored alternative takes on classicsand comic books. Most of all, they listened carefully for so many tales not being told: from down the street, from out of the past and from across the world. And since they did, we all have much to celebrate.

Unless otherwise mentioned, productions in each category are listed in chronological order.

Special Assistance to the Theater

  • Jim Haverkamp and Nick Karner

Video veteran Haverkamp and talented youngster Karner figured it out before Herman Cain: In the age of the interwebs, one good Vimeo or YouTube video can do more for you than a seven-figure ad campaign. Their witty, stylish promos for regional companies provide another solution to one of theater’s oldest dilemmas: tellingand showingthe whole world about it once they’ve made the masterpiece.

Special Achievement in the Humanities

  • Sexy is Important (Motorco, February)

The undisputed highlights of Nicola Bullock’s curated evening of visual, choreographic and performance art was Kegan Dean Rushing’s riveting, embodiedand largely silenttransgender performance piece and Jeni Smith’s autobiographical solo monologue, whose humorand unflinching honestyrecalled some of the best work of the late Spalding Gray.

  • Poetic Portraits of a Revolution (Empowerment Project, Sacrificial Poets, The Process Series, September)

Regional artists Will McInerney, Kane Smego, Mohammad Moussa and Sameer Abdel-khalek were in the historic place at the historic timeEgypt and Tunisia, between mid-June and early Augustas the revolutions born of the Arab Spring fully came into their own. In this multi-media work in progress, their documentary footage and equally sharp eyewitness testimony make for a gritty, no-nonsense journalism born of poetry and the spirit. As they do, the oppressed who live so far away draw nearer to us, and speak.

Best Original Music

If you want to bring some ghosts around, play them music. Leyton-Brown’s suite for small ensemble and theremin and Holton’s minimalism added to the chill in two of the year’s most atmospheric works.

  • Chuck Holton, Stroke/Book, Little Green Pig Theatrical Concern (LGP)
  • Allison Leyton-Brown, A Doll’s House, Duke Theater Studies (DTS)

Best Musical Direction

Robinson’s orchestra gave Mel Brooks’ comedy a lot of its fizz, and Wright’s aggregation (featuring Jackson Cooper, Drew Lile, John Simonetti and Todd Proctor) nimbly shifted musical gears throughout Violet.

But after a decade spent out of the musical theater business, PlayMakers Rep produced two shows in which live music played an integral role. Kate Dobbs Ariail praised Herrick and the Red Clay Ramblers’ return to Big River, a show they helped get to Broadway in the first place, before Sorrell and a righteous band (including Ed Butler, Bertron Curtis, Kevin Wilson and Thurman Woods) evoked the gospel, the blues and the triumph of The Parchman Hour.

  • Edward G. Robinson, The Producers, North Carolina Theatre (NCT)
  • Jack Herrick and The Red Clay Ramblers, Big River, PlayMakers Rep (PRC)
  • Jay Wright, Violet, Hot Summer Nights at the Kennedy (HSN)
  • Rozlyn Sorrell, The Parchman Hour, PRC

Best Production Design

This award recognizes excellence in a production across multiple areas of design. Marriott’s set and Kurtzman’s chilling costumes and makeup led a sextet in designing the haunted Noh theater of Stroke/ Book. Speaking of “haunted,” Strewwelpeter‘s design team made a maze of REP’s building, populating it with Victorian shadowsand bad, bad children. Another quartet envisioned a life-size Doll’s Housebut one slowly being overtaken by mold and decay, before Bend and Salvatella de Prada “created a beacon for the new era” in Kate Dobbs Ariail’s words, with a hybrid production using video, drawings, newsprint sculpture and live action.

  • Stroke/Book, LGP: Tom Marriott, Chelsea Kurtzman, Steve Tell, Tom Guild, Gerard Staton, Elliott Turnbull
  • Strewwelpeter, Raleigh Ensemble Players (REP): Shannon Clark, Thomas Mauney, Miyuki Su, Becca Easley, C. Glen Matthews
  • A Doll’s House, DTS: Torry Bend, Bill Clarke, Jim Haverkamp, Andy Parks
  • The Paper Hat Game, DTS: Torry Bend, Raquel Salvatella de Prada

Best Scenic Design

Christina Cass praised Coble’s “outstanding transformation” of Paul Green Theatre into a large meandering river, before Tilford created a thought-provoking political art installation for Rachel Corrie. Bernier made the most of the least, turning suitcases into bus seats and a televangelist’s pulpit in Violet. But how hard was it for Williams and Dodge to keep a straight face in presenting their designsWilliams for that rather Freudian wallpaper in In the Next Room, Dodge for the sarcophagus-like portal in that Alexandrian library for Virginia Woolf?

  • McKay Coble, Big River, PRC
  • Joe Tilford, My Name is Rachel Corrie, Burning Coal Theatre (BC)
  • Chris Bernier, Violet, HSN
  • Marion Williams, In the Next Room, PRC
  • Alexander Dodge, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, PRC

Best Costume Design

Yes, every stitch reinforced and added to the vivid worlds we were allowed to visit: the intricate, period-perfect Victoriana of In the Next Room (plus those hats!); the recombinant Elizabethan steampunk Dream; and the “subtle Brechtian humor” Cass found in Threepenny Opera.

  • Vicki Olson, Threepenny Opera, Raleigh Little Theatre (RLT)
  • Shannon Clark and Nora Murphy, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Koka Booth Amphitheatre, Town of Cary
  • Anne Kennedy, In the Next Room, PRC

Best Lighting Design

Those sunsets and the hot Louisiana summer that Morrison made for Big River were “specifically gorgeous” and “breathtaking” in Christina Cass’ words.

  • Charlie Morrison, Big River, PRC

Best Other Design

The Paperhand crew created dancing human stick figures with an innovative lighting technology. Corey made macabre, poignant raptor puppets from corporate debtand papier-mâchéin Enron.

  • Paperhand Puppet Intervention, Lumanity and The Serpent’s Egg
  • Samantha Corey, Enron, BC

Best Original Script/Adaptation

Eight regional playwrights/ adaptors who are very good at what they doplus a ninth who still remembers the old neighborhood. Even better news: Given the attention independent theaters and writing collectives are giving budding local playwrights, they should be considered the first voices of a theatrical literary community.

  • Monica Byrne, Nightwork, LGP
  • David Turkel, Stroke/Book, LGP
  • Howard Craft, Jade City Chronicles, Vol. 1, LGP
  • Jay O’Berski, Glass, LGP
  • C. Glen Matthews and ensemble, Strewwelpeter, REP
  • Akiva Fox, Emily Hill and Dan VanHoozer, Living With the Tiger, Haymaker
  • Mike Wiley, The Parchman Hour, PRC

Best Direction

It’s written in Proverbs: “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” The same is clearly true for theater. But artists like McAuliffe (who Adam Sobsey nominated); Storer (championed by Ariail and others); and Brosnahan (Fellerath’s nod) all saw performances in actors before they gave them, perceived connections between writers who’d never met or film and visual artists living half a world apart and envisioned worlds that commented on where we’ve been or where we might be going. (Even if, like Ezekiel, Hughes was in the middle of the air…)

  • Tom Marriott, Stroke/Book, LGP
  • Jerome Davis, The Shape of the Table, BC
  • Sean Brosnahan, The Mercy Seat, REP
  • Jeff Storer, The Laramie Project, DTS & Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them, Manbites Dog Theater (MDT)
  • Paul Frellick, After the Revolution, Deep Dish Theater (DD)
  • Jay O’Berski, Glass, LGP
  • Jody McAuliffe, The Birthday Party, LGP
  • Ellen Hemphill, A Doll’s House, DTS
  • Steven Cole Hughes, Henry V (On Trapeze), BC and Fight or Flight (FF)

Best Ensembles

Communities of actors, knitting among them a palpable, and anything but common, world. If you were on stage in these productions, we very much believed youand believe in you.

  • Nightwork, MDT: Dana Marks, Jeffrey Moore, Kashif Powell, Alex Young, Annie Zipper
  • Superior Donuts, DD: Corwin Evans, J.K. Ferrell, Susannah Hough, J. Alphonse Nicholson, Julie Oliver, Hampton Rowe, David Sennett, Dan Sipp
  • Stroke/Book, LGP: Evgenia Madorsky, Tamara Kissane, Dana Marks, Aaron Dunlap, Jeffrey Detwiler
  • The Shape of the Table, BC: John Allore, James Anderson, Nick Berg Barnes, Samantha Corey, Fred Corlett, Antonio Delgadillo, Tamara Farias Kraus, John Honeycutt, Stephen LeTrent, PJ Maske, Luis Melodelgado, Tom McCleister, Julie Oliver, David Sweeney, Peter Tedeschi
  • Glass, LGP: Jennifer Evans, John Jimerson, Jane Holding, Trevor Johnson, Dana Marks, Carolyn McDaniel
  • Henry V (On Trapeze), BC and FF: John Allore, Jade Arnold, Samantha Corey, Eileen Little, Daniel Loeser, Whitney Madren, Lucius Robinson, Jenn Suchanec
  • Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them, MDT: Andy Chu, Wanda Jin, Jacob W. Tobia

Best Lead Performances

  • Molly Carden, Proof, Temple Theatre
  • Rachel Klem, Now You See Me, MDT/ DTS
  • Jason Edward Cook, Big River, PRC
  • Betsy Henderson, Distracted, REP
  • Gil Faison and David Henderson, Othello, DD
  • Jacquelyn Piro Donovan, Hello, Dolly, NCT
  • Lauren Kennedy, Violet, HSN
  • Ryan Brock, Jesse Gephart, Of Mice and Men, Theatre in the Park (TIP)
  • Samantha Corey, Molly Sweeney, Delta Boys (DB)
  • Jeff Alguire, Last of the Red Hot Lovers, Ghost & Spice (G&S)
  • Lynda Clark, Jan Doub Morgan, Garden District, NCSUT
  • Jeffrey Detwiler, The Birthday Party, LGP
  • Eileen Little, Daniel Loeser, Henry V (On Trapeze), BC and FF

Best Supporting Performances

  • John Allore, Blue, BC; Enron, BC
  • Lucius Robinson, The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, REP; Molly Sweeney, DB
  • Kashif Powell, Randa McNamara, Doug Bynam, J. Alphonse Nicholson, Rasool Jahan,The Parchman Hour, PRC
  • Thomas Porter, Dog Sees God, REP
  • Olivia Griego and Amy Bossi-Nasiatka, Wonder of the World, BC/ Wait ‘Til You See This
  • Melvin Tunstall III, Violet, HSN
  • Jack Prather, Patsy Clarke, Rod Rich, After the Revolution, DD
  • PJ Maske, Natasha Khatod, Jeremy Fiebig, Del Flack, David Klionsky, Mattney Beck, Ira David Wood IV & Chris Burner, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Town of Cary
  • Jenn Suchanec, Enron, BC
  • Jillian Holmquist, Eric Swenson, One Flea Spare, ArtsCenter Stage
  • Jay O’Berski, The Birthday Party, LGP
  • Jamie Bell, A Doll’s House, DTS
  • Brian Jackson Gill, Last Night of Ballyhoo, RLT

Best Productions

  • Angels in America: Perestroika, PRC
  • The Producers, NCT
  • 99 Ways to F**k a Swan, PATP/ UNC
  • Shape of the Table, BC
  • The Mercy Seat, REP
  • A Number, PRC
  • Glass, LGP
  • The Paper Hat Game, DTS
  • The Parchman Hour, PRC
  • Henry V (On Trapeze), BC and FF
  • Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them, MDT