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American Association of Community Theatre--Improving Communities One Theatre at a Time

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national awards

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Art Cole Lifetime of Leadership Award

Honors a lifetime of leadership in community theatre by members of AACT who have provided leadership at the national level, in addition to local and/or regional levels.

2013 Honoree

Mary Britt

Ocala, FL

 Mary Britt

Mary Britt was 14 when hearing the "Impossible Dream" ignited a love of theatre. After college, Mary worked as a graphic artist and volunteered for Ocala (FL) Civic Theatre. She served on the board, including three years as president while the organization built a new performing arts facility. She was hired to be Theatre Manager in 1987 and later was promoted to Executive Director. Mary has advocated for community theatre on state and national levels. She serves on the board of the Florida Theatre Conference (FTC) and is a Past President of AACT. She has served on grant review panels for the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs. She has adjudicated state and regional festivals, AACT's national festival, and four times for the US Army's Festival in Germany. Mary has received a Distinguished Career Award from FTC. At age 14, Mary never thought she'd have a career in theatre. It's the 'Impossible Dream' come true.


Previous Recipients  
1987  Art Cole (Midland, TX)
1988  Sydney Spayde (Iowa City, IA)
         John Wray Young (Shreveport, LA)
1989  Mort Clark (North White Plains, NY)
1991  Sherwood Lohrey (Memphis, TN)
1992  Harv Thompson (Madison, WI)
1993  Norman McPhee (Racine, WI)
1994  Jim Carver (Kalamazoo, MI)
1995  Enid Holm (Odessa, TX)

1996  Betty Tomlinson (Spokane, WA)
1998  L. Ross Rowland (Muncie, IN)

1999  Bea Miller (Memphis, TN)
2000  Rusty Clauss (Alexandria, VA)

2001  Rod McCullough (Lancaster, PA)
2002  Twink Lynch (Topeka, KS)
2003  Shirley Harbin (Detroit, MI)
2004  John Viars (Des Moines, IA)
2005  Jack Phillips (Downers Grove, IL)

2008  Joanne Berry (Bay City, MI)

         Stephen Peithman (Davis, CA)

2009  Frank Peot (Sun Prairie, WI)

2010  Tom Cowley (Ponca City, OK)

2011  Jim Sohre, Army Europe Command


         Sherman C. Ward, Alexandria Bay, NY

2012  Bill Muchow, Minneapolis, MN



David C. Bryant Outstanding Service Award

Recognizes members of AACT for significant, valuable, and lasting service to community theatre. .

2013 Honoree

Christi Thomas

Sidney, OH

Christi Thomas  

Christi Thomas first appeared on stage at age six and had her first taste of community theatre in Sidney, OH as a Villager in Fiddler on the Roof for Sock & Buskin Players (now Community Theatre) in 1980. She is now Business Manager, but is also known for her backstage work as producer, director, musical coordinator, publicity chairman, light operator, etc. for over 80 shows. This love of theatre took her to three other community groups and then to her first Ohio Community Theatre Association (OCTA) Conference in 1993. Christi has served on the OCTA Board in many positions including President. She is the 2013 Conference Co-chair. Christi has earned awards from OCTA as a vocalist, lighting designer, webmaster, and newsletter editor, and received the President's Award and Outstanding Regional Rep award. In her spare time, she is a 40-year employee of the City of Sidney, Ohio, currently as the Administrative Assistant in the Fire Department.


Previous Recipients  
1978  Robert E. Gard (Madison, WI)
1979  Art Cole (Midland, TX)
1980  John Wray Young (Shreveport, LA)
1981  Jeanne Adams Wray (Stillwater, OK)
1982  Robert Plumb (Broken Arrow, OK)
1983  Betty Tomlinson (Spokane, WA)
1984  Kay Fliehr (Edina, MN)
1985  Twink Lynch (Topeka, KS)
1987  David Gooder (Downers Grove, IL)
1988  Mort Clark (North White Plains, NY)
1989  Al & Elise King (Clinton, IA)
1990  Bea Miller (Mempis, TN)
1991  Shirley Harbin (Detroit, MI)
1992  L. Newell Tarrant (Raleigh, NC)
1993  Sandra Karnack (Minot, ND)

1994  Charles Chesnut (Chappaqua, NY)

1995  John Wills (Spokane, WA)
1996  John Viars (Des Moines, IA)


1997  JoAnne Nissen (Racine, WI) 
1998  Donna Norberg (Minneapolis, MN)
1999  Jerry Paquette (US Army)
2000  Bill Razo (Hobbs, NM)
2001  Jeanne Stein (Los Alamos, NM)
2002  Ginny Winsor (Omaha, NE)
2003  Dawn Enders (La Crosse, WI)
2004  Eleanor Smith (Columbus, OH)
2005  Norm Small (Winter Haven, FL)
2006  Steve Walpert (Fort Gordon, GA)
 David Allen, Memphis, TN
Nick Credgington, Fort Belvoir, VA
Ginger Heath, Charlotte, NC

2008  Vanita Rae Smith, Honolulu, HI

2009  Dane Winters (US Army, Heidelberg)

2010  Dwight Martin (Honolulu, HI)

2011  Sherman C. Ward Alexandria Bay, NY

2012  Paul Nelson, Olean, NY

         Ron Paoletti, US Army, Europe

Distinguished Merit Award

Presented to individuals and organizations in recognition of contributions made to promote and develop the highest standards for community theatre.


2013 Honoree

Anthony Del Rosso

SHAPE Performing Arts Centre NATO Base, Belgium 

Anthony Del Rosso

Anthony Del Rosso auditioned for an interactive dinner show at the SHAPE Performing Arts Centre community theatre on the NATO base in Belgium on a whim in 2007 and was hooked. Over the next five years, he was cast in roles ranging from Bob Cratchit and the Cowardly Lion, to Cabaret's Emcee, Benjamin Franklin, and the Father in Pirandello's Six Characters. All told, he acted in 15 plays: dramas, comedies, musicals, one-acts, contributed on sets, lights, costumes, properties, design and marketing across 30 shows, as well as directing two existing plays and one original adaptation of his own, all to great critical and financial success. From 2009-2012, he was responsible for nearly all of the theatre's graphic design and print advertising, as well. He feels fortunate to have worked with amazingly talented actors and designers, as well as learn from an immensely talented director, many of whom became close friends.



2013 Honoree

Carolyn Pitman

Whitefish, MT

Carolyn Pittman

Carolyn Pitman is been Whitefish (MT) Theatre Company's (WTC) heart and soul, and its compass for 34 years. As its Executive Director, she transformed an unknown community theatre into a distinguished premier cultural arts center for rural northwestern Montana. Carolyn steadily expanded the theatre from two annual productions, a budget of $10,000, and no full-time employees, to a theatre with a budget of over $500,000, nine employees, and well over 500 volunteers. Due to Carolyn's far-reaching vision and unwavering faith in community theatre, WTC now produces nine theatre productions, six music events, and yearly education outreach engaging over 2,000 students and 400 senior citizens. Carolyn has also prepared WTC for future success by developing healthy endowment and foundation funds. Her unparalleled dedication and professionalism is matched by her belief in teamwork. She humbly attributes WTC's accomplishments to the shared efforts of community volunteers, sponsors, donors, and staff. Carolyn skillfully mentors with unmatched thoughtfulness, patience, and unwavering support. 


2013 Honoree



SHAPE Performing Arts Centre NATO Base, Belgium

 Gwendolyn Whitney

Gwendolyn Whitney has been an invaluable volunteer since 2004 for the SHAPE Performing Arts Centre on the NATO base in Belgium holding a multitude of theatre production positions, organizing events, coordinating parent/child production schedules, and assisting in front of house and concession duties. She is generous with her time, energy and spirit. She has taken on design positions in costumes, properties, wig and hair, make-up, set dressing, and stage managing. She has recruited and inspired many new volunteers to join production teams, take on production designs, and support technical crews. Her curiosity to understand a new task or duty, then teach what she has learned, and finally to mentor has been a colossal gift to other volunteers. She volunteers rather than waits to be asked and is eager to take on new and challenging tasks. She is a leader with compassion, knowledgeable skills, and a willingness to learn and grow.

Previous Recipients  
1979  Norman Carver (Kalamazoo, MI)
1980  Douglas Cook (University Park, PA)
1981  Henry Fonda (Omaha, NE)
1982  David Gooder (Downers Grove, IL)
1983  Bea Miller (Memphis, TN)
1984  Alaska State Community Theatre
1985  National Multicultural Theatre Association
         of Canada 
1987  Twink Lynch (Topeka, KS)
1988  Kalamazoo Civic Players (MI)
1989  Charles Jones (Omaha, NE)
1990  Hiroshi Koizumi (Toyama City, Japan)
1991  Target Stores 
1992  Paul Ebert (Oak Ridge, TN)
1993  Jon Kerkhoff (Omaha, NE)
1994  Theatre Midland (TX)
1995  Sherwood Lohrey &
         Theatre Memphis (TN)

1996  Steve Spiegel & Music Theatre
         International (New York, NY) 

1997  William Talbot (New York, NY)
1998  Stage Directions Magazine
1999  David Young (Gainesville, FL)
2000  Charles Jeffers (Hickory, NC)
2001  Jim Sohre (US Army, Europe)
2002  Enid Holm (Odessa, TX)
         Harv Thompson (Madison, WI)
2003  Ohio Community Theatre Association
2004  Shirley Cockrell (Oneida, NY)
         Hap Ryder (Fairbanks, AK)
         Pat White (Amherst, NH)
2005  Jerry Zimmerman (Ft Jennings, OH)
2006  John Rich (Pullman, WA)
2007  Morrie Enders (Kalamazoo, MI)

2008  Jim Buckley (Cambria, CA)

2009  Bonnie Daniels (US Army)

         Andre Bruce Ward (Memphis, TN)

2010  Penelope Notter (Grand Rapids, MI)

2011  April Cochran Paducah, KY

         Ginny Morrison Seville, OH

2012  Dennis Assaf & Jefferson Performing

         ArtsSociety, Metairie, LA

         Linda McClane, Fernandina Beach, FL


Mort Clark International Achievement Award

Recognizes an individual who, or an organization that, has accomplished significant achievement in the promotion of excellence in international community theatre. (This award may be presented at an international event.)



2013 Honoree

L. Ross Rowland

Muncie, IN

 L. Ross Rowland

L. Ross Rowland holds degrees in theatre and law and is a practicing trial attorney. He served as President of Theatre USA, the national center of the International Amateur Theatre Association (IATA) for twelve years. He was the first Chair of AACT's International Committee. During his AACT Presidency, AACT sponsored its first International Festival. He is also a past president of the Indiana Community Theatre League, the Indiana Theatre Association (ITA), Muncie Civic Theatre, and Heartland Stage Company. Ross served as chair of the Indiana Arts Commission's Theatre Advisory Council. He has adjudicated festivals in the states, and in Korea, Japan, Germany, Ireland, and an AACT International Festival. He was named Honorary Friendly Ambassador in Japan. Ross chaired the IATA Congress six times in Monaco, Morocco, Turkey, and Korea. ITA has recognized him as Theatre Person of the Year. Ross is an AACT Fellow and recipient of the Art Cole and Special Recognition Awards. 



2013 Honoree

John Viars &

Des Moines



Des Moines, IA


John Viars and the Des Moines Community Playhouse have changed lives through international theatre. In 1987 the Des Moines Community Playhouse, under the leadership of Executive Director John Viars, and with help from Mort Clark and the International Amateur Theatre Association (IATA), invited young people from six European countries, four of which were still under Soviet control, to produce a play called Peace Child, pairing with a local cast of 100 to create one of the Playhouse's most successful productions. Peace Child was repeated in 1989 with 15 young people from Moscow, in a production that toured the state of Iowa. In 1990, the Playhouse created the first-ever International Community Theatre Festival sponsored by AACT, hosting 17 theatre companies. Governor Terry and Chris Branstad hosted all festival participants for a gala dinner at the governor's mansion. The late Susan Strasberg was the keynote speaker, and Mort Clark was one of three international adjudicators. The strength of the reaction to these events helped the Playhouse understand the life-changing, transformative power of community theatre, and the effect it could have on young people. It was a major force in its decision to build a children's theatre and concentrate its efforts on becoming a national leader in arts in education.


Previous Recipients
2007  Hiroshi Koizumi (Japan)

2008  The Cellario Family (Monaco)

2009  Jim Sohre (Army Europe Command Entertainment)  



Robert E. Gard Superior Volunteer Award

Presented to individuals over the age of 65 who have faithfully served community theatre on a non-paid basis for over 25 years.

2013 Honoree

John Lynn

Mundelein, IL

 John W. Lynn

John Lynn became interested in theatre when a friend talked him into playing character parts in Chicago's McDowell Players' show, Kiss and Tell. After the lead in his Senior Class play, two years with the McDowell Players, four years in the Air Force as Entertainment Specialist, two years with The Globe Players of Chicago, summer stock seasons in Rhinelander, WI and Nashville, TN, John spent a year at DePaul University and four years at The Goodman Theatre. After four years working in New York, John moved his family back to Chicago and then Mundelein, IL, where he founded The Kirk Players. This all-volunteer troupe is now in its 47th year of community service through the arts. During his 35 years as its leader, John produced 166 main stage shows, directing over 130 of them, and appearing in many. He currently serves as a Board Member Emeritus.


2013 Honoree

Charla Rowe

Fort Washington, MD

 Charla Rowe

Charla Rowe is the Founder and Artistic Director of the Tantallon Community Players (TCP) of Fort Washington, Maryland. She came to community theatre after 15 years with NBC broadcast affiliates in North Carolina and Kentucky. Since 1982, she has worked tirelessly serving as director, actor, producer, author, lyricist, or musical director in 100 productions over more than 30 years, most recently directing the first Washington metro area production of The Color Purple, which won two Washington Area Community Theater Honor (WATCH) Awards. She authored and produced six original musicals. Her favorite acting credits include Mama Rose in Gypsy, the title role in Mame, Golda in Fiddler on the Roof, and Katisha in The Mikado. She was Prince Georges County Volunteer of the Year in 2000. Charla teaches voice and piano. Her students have formed the backbone of TCP as they grow up in the theatre and add their talents to the group.


2013 Honoree


Tallahasee, FL

Richard Sherwin  

Richard (Dick) Sherwin joined Tallahasee Little Theatre in 1965 as an actor. During the next 48 seasons, he served as light board operator, stage manager, director, usher, house manager, and every board officer at least once, including twice as President. Currently, he serves as theatre historian and script librarian. Over the past half-century, he has witnessed many changes in community theatre, ranging from the diversity of audiences to the type of plays presented. A special memory is of the season when the advertised production of Cactus Flower was not available and a board member suggested substituting Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? That lead to replacing the annual British mystery with contemporary dramas. Expensive musicals then broke into the schedules and attracted new and younger audiences. Richard has been called the most valuable resource of TLT history.

Previous Recipients  
1982  L. K. Boutin (Des Moines, IA)
1983  Ruth Kenyon Tate 
         (North White Plains, NY)
1984  Emma & Alan Bowlsby 
         (Indianapolis, IN)
1985  Roberta Kendrick (Minneapolis, MN)
1987  Peggy Greene (Topeka, KS)
1988  Alice B. Rogers (Memphis, TN)
         Hilda Greenquist (Racine, WI)
1989  Mary Peckham (Omaha, NE)
         Lil Williams (Ardmore, OK)
1990  Dick Brown (Des Moines, IA)
1991  Mary Dwyer (Sheyboygan, WI)
1993  Firth Chew (Spokane, WA)
1994  John Edmands (Racine, WI)
1995  Ruth Cole (Midland, TX)

1996  Holley R. Webster (Wallingford, PA)
1997  Jean Mitchell (Grand Rapids, MI)
1998  Dottie Griffith (St. Joseph, MI)
1999  Betsey Reeder (Memphis, TN)
2000  Jane Margison (Riverside, CA)
         Robert Montgomery (Bremerton, WA)
2001  Heddie Kent (Concord, MA)

2002  Paul Sturner (Tonawanda, NY)
         Isabella Ward (Dover, DE)

2003  Charlotte Hall (Fort Thomas, KY)
         Fred Normand (Rome, NY)
2004  Tom Cowley (Ponca City, OK)
         Jo Pruden (Fort Shafter, HI)
2005  Hal Robinson (Royal Oak, MI)
         Sherman C. Ward, Jr. (Haddenfield, NJ)
2006  Marge and Ted Ressler (Dover, DE)
 Rosemary Green & Louise Carpenter
Ocala, FL)

2008  James N. Alexander, III (Haddon

         Heights, NJ)

         Peg Brandon (Winter Haven, FL)

         Henry Pope (Walla Walla, WA)

2009  Rae Cohan (Newport Beach, CA)

         Max Polley (Davidson, NC)

         Willa Wye Rockett (Belmont, MA)

2010  Arthur Delo, Jr. (Jersey City, NJ)

         Martha Kovacsi (Bay City, MI)

         Madge Levinson (Toldeo, OH)

2011  Geri Becker, Venice, FL
         Wayne Pressnall, North Platte, NE
         Bennett Wood, Memphis, TN

2012  Don Mansfield, Jackson, MI

         Judi Schweppe Johnson, Eugene, OR

         Richard C. Whaley, Annapolis, MD



Special Recognition Award

Presented to persons or organizations whose contributions to community theatre are far reaching and of a special nature.

2013 Honoree

Michael Fenlason

Tucson, AZ

 Michael Fenlason

Michael Fenlason is the Artistic Director of Tucson's Beowulf Alley Theatre Company. A winner of the Arizona Playwriting Award, Michael's plays and productions have been seen in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Edinburgh, Scotland, London, and Phoenix. After the tragic shooting of Congressman Gabrielle Gifford, Michael created a show with volunteers to tell the story of how a community can come together. Michael founded the Phoenix-area Unlikely Theater Company, which produced plays while raising money for other socially committed nonprofits. It raised tens of thousands of dollars for over forty organizations. Michael recently received, for the Beowulf Alley Theatre, a grant to develop New Work, as well as develop a full season of plays chosen from suggestions by the community. Michael's Next Theatre at Beowulf Alley develops new theatre performance models. Michael emphasizes the community in community theatre and has created a model for engagement and activism through theatre that builds community.



2013 Honoree

Jan Mitchell

Menifee, KY

 Jan Mitchell

Jan Mitchell developed a love for theatre attending productions at the Cumberland County Playhouse as a young girl in Tennessee. During her 28 years in the education field, she worked in different capacities on school drama projects. In 2010 she helped to implement a Community/Parent Engagement Grant to organize the Menifee Community Theatre Group, bringing theatre to an area of Kentucky far removed from the art. With the endorsement of the Menifee Chamber of Commerce, the group began working on its first production, The Wizard of Oz. Members of the group wanted to explore the possibility of a production that would celebrate local culture. Group members attended workshops learning to develop a performance into a community-building tool. The group collaborated with community members to gather oral histories and worked together to write a play based on the lives of local residents. From this effort, Mountain Memories - The Story of Us was created. 


Previous Recipients  
1996  A. R. Gurney
1997  International Thespian Society
1998  Studio de Monaco - World Festival of
              Amateur Theatre
         Dundalk (Ireland) International 
              Maytime Festival
         Toyama (Japan) International Theatre
1999  Stephen Peithman (Davis, CA)
2000  Kurt Majkowski (Eau Claire, WI)

2001  1st Battalion, 79th Field Artillery 
          (Fort Sill, Lawton, OK)
2002  Frank Peot (Sun Prairie, WI)


2003  Vilseck Bavarian Arts Guild 
         (Vilseck, Germany)
2004  Patty Duke (Northern ID)
2005  Kathie Maldonado (Hobbs, NM)
Angela L. Ardolino (Miami, FL)

2008  Victoria L. Hanrahan (Ansbach,


2009  Robert G. Anderson (Starkville, MS)

         John Kollack (Clarkesville, GA)

2010  Dan LaMorte (US Army, Europe)

2011  L. Ross Rowland, Muncie, IN

2012  Merrie Dawkins, Rockingham, NC

Twink Lynch Organizational Achievement Award

Recognizes AACT member theatres for successfully completing major steps in new directions, expanding services to their community, or moving to the next level of organizational development.

2013 Honoree




Salina, KS

Salina Community Theatre  

Salina Community Theatre (SCT) was created in 1960 by a dedicated group in Salina, KS who realized that live theatre is critical to the quality of life. The group hired Charles Kephart as the first director and mounted a season of four shows. Following a capital campaign in 1972, SCT began productions in its own home. With the addition of the Lesta K. Vanier wing in 1992, SCT added a scene shop, rehearsal room, and costume shop. In 2011 SCT opened its Theatre Education Wing, adding a new lobby, the 150-seat Sunflower Financial Theatre, two additional teaching studios, storage, a new box office, a conference room, and office space. SCT's production and educational offerings have exploded to 14 productions for adults and children, including the newly formed Iron Street Dance Company. SCT has become the regional theatre for central, western, and north central Kansas, serving more than 28,000 patrons from 135 cities and towns in Kansas and surrounding states.

Previous Recipients  
2003  Topeka Civic Theatre & Academy (KS)
         Quincy Community Theatre (IL)
2004  Albuquerque Little Theatre (NM)

2005  Bay City Players (MI)

2006  Chattanooga Theatre Centre

2007  Stuttgart Theatre Center, Germany

2008  SHAPE Performing Arts Center,  

         Supreme Headquarters, Allied Powers

         Europe (Belgium)


2009  Venice Theatre (Venice, FL)

2010  Twin City Stage (Winston-Salem, NC)

2011  Fargo-Moorhead Community Theatre,

         North Dakota-Minnesota
         Theatre Memphis, Memphis, TN

2012  Amelia Community Theatre

         Fernandina Beach, FL

         Houston FamilyArts Center

         Houston, TX

         Manatee Players, Bradenton, FL

Corporate Award

Presented to businesses and corporations for significant financial support of community theatre on a regional or national basis.


2011 Honoree

SC Johnson

Racine, WI

SC Johnson is a family-owned and managed business dedicated to innovative, high-quality products, excellence in the workplace, and a long-term commitment to the environment and the communities in which it operates. SC Johnson has supported community artistic endeavors and growth through several avenues. A company sponsored volunteer network assists in volunteer recruitment. The SC Johnson "Dollars for Doers" program provides cash donations in return for volunteer hours, providing tangible rewards to Johnson employees and their organizations. The SC Johnson Fund has awarded matching grants that have been instrumental in theatres' growth. In its headquarters town, Racine, WI, SC Johnson partners with theatres for educational and children's theatre programs through its Golden Rondelle Theatre. The 125-year-old company, with more than $8 billion in sales, employs approximately 12,000 people globally and sells products in virtually every country around the world. SC Johnson previously received AACT's Corporate Award in 1994 and is still committed to community support.

Previous Recipients  
1987  Southwestern Bell (Topeka, KS)
1992  General Mills 
1993  Martin Marietta Energy Systems
         (Knoxville, TN)
1994  S.C. Johnson Wax (Racine, WI)

1995  Meadows Foundation (Dallas, TX)
1996  Dan Castle & PCI Entertainment 
         (Bloomfield Hills, MI)

2001  Music Theatre International 
         (New York, NY)

2008  Music Theatre International
         Target Stores

2009  Theatrical Rights Worldwide

2010  Manhattan Tour & Travel, Inc.


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