Distinguished Merit Award

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

2016 Honoree
Jim Chervenka
Grand Rapids, MI

Jim ChervenkaJim Chervenka has been part of the Grand Rapids community theatre scene since 1975. When Grand Rapids Civic Theatre lost its Technical Director, Jim was asked to take on the position and he remained in that role for the next 35 years. He has always said that he didn't work for Grand Rapids Civic, but instead "for the hundreds of volunteers who come through the doors and want to do shows." Whenever Jim talks about the Grand Rapids historic facility, the productions, the legacy, and the volunteers, a glint of magic comes into his eyes and an infectious sense of wonder courses through him. When it came time for GRCT to host the National AACTFest in 2015, they could not think of a better person to lead the backstage team. "Now I am retired," he says, "and have been promoted from employee to volunteer.  I get to be involved with Circle, Civic, Actor's, Jewish Theatre, Aquinas College, and Grand Rapids Community College. I loved what I did. I loved the volunteers.  Now I can leave whenever I want to-- I am no different from anyone.  We all do it because we love the theatre, and we love our 'theatre families.'"

2016 Honoree
Celia Couture
Tewksbury, MA

Celia CoutureCelia Couture began a 35-year love for community theatre as a child, when her mother took her to see live plays and musicals. Some of her closest relationships are a result of her involvement with community theatre as a director, board member, and performer. She is most grateful for the actors, stage managers, and set, lighting, costume, and sound designers she has had the privilege to collaborate with and direct, and is "humbled by their profound love and sharing of the scripted word or their ability to tell a story through music, set design, lighting, or sound effect." Celia has led almost a dozen state and regional festivals in Massachusetts, enjoying many weekends listening to and watching master classes, and believing professionally adjudicated festivals encourage theatrical risk-taking. She continues working to ensure that community theatre thrives in eastern Massachusetts, coordinating with several groups to create an alliance facilitating the sharing of resources and venue costs. Celia is especially proud of receiving this distinction, as she has always felt community theatre provides the opportunity to see live theatre at reasonable prices for those who might not be able to afford the high costs of professional theatre.

2016 Honoree
Loween Getter
Webster City, IA

Loween GetterLoween Getter has been a leader, respected director, and actress in the Webster City Community Theatre (WCCT) for over 25 years. She was active in the acquisition and remodeling of its building--including two expansion projects-- and has served in various board roles, including president. Over the past decade, Loween has successfully pursued grant opportunities to help fund remodeling, publicity, and such special projects as youth acting camps and productions facilitated by the professional troupe, Camp Creamery. In addition to her work with WCCT, Loween has served in various positions on the Iowa Community Theatre Association Board of Directors. "The opportunity to interact with theatre-lovers from across the state at meetings, state conventions, festivals, and reviewing productions at other community theatres has broadened my knowledge base and challenged me to keep learning," she explains. "It was community theatre that brought my husband and me together in 2006. I have no idea how my life would have played out had I not gotten involved in community theatre all those years ago."

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
         Arts Society (Metairie, LA)
         Linda McClane (Fernandina Beach, FL)
2013 Anthony Del Rosso
        & Gwendolyn Whitney
        (SHAPE Perf. Arts Centre NATO Base)
        Carolyn Pitman (Whitefish, MT) 
2014 Melanie Cornelison (Ashland, KY)
         Lisa Garza (Houston, TX)
         SCERA Center for the Arts (Orem, UT)
2015 Aubrey Dunne* (San Diego, CA)
2015 Oklahoma Community Theatre Association (OCTA)

          * Deceased



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