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

2017 Honoree
Alan Buxkemper (Stuttgart, Germany)
Alan BuxkemperA member of U.S. Army Europe Entertainment (AACT Region X), Alan has selflessly served U.S. Armed Services members and their families for 27 years. He began as a Music Specialist and Music Center Director, where his professionalism and talent greatly enhanced the quality of an already successful music and theatre program. Alan made the least experienced volunteers shine and feel good about themselves and their performances. His concern, empathy, generosity, and talent have been instrumental in helping U.S. Army Europe Entertainment meet its mission of providing recreational opportunities for soldiers and their families. Alan’s work has been recognized with numerous U.S. Army Entertainment Awards. “The volunteers are our life-blood at the Stuttgart Theatre Center,” he says. “I truly wish this award could be chopped up into little pieces to share with my colleagues and all of the volunteers who are keeping the art of theatre alive for those serving their country in the Stuttgart Military Community.”

2017 Honoree
Dr. Alan D. Kaplan (Manchester, New Hampshire)
Alan KaplanAlan is the founder (2002) and artistic director of Manchester Community Theatre Players. He has been associated with community theatre for 62 years as a performer, make-up artist, technical director, set and lighting designer, choreographer, and stage director. Parallel with his duties of producing and directing six shows annually, over the past eight years, Alan has served as the volunteer director and teacher for aspiring directors with the Amherst PTA annual musical production, which raises funds for primary school education and enrichment programs. He is the recipient of the 2014 New Hampshire Good Samaritan Award for his theatre work with both adults and children, and has served as a judge and educator for the 2016 Regional Idol Scholarship Competition. Two of his five children have chosen to work in the performing arts, and his wife Emilie is the spotlight operator for shows and the brightest light in his life.

2017 Honoree
André Bruce Ward (Moscow, Tennessee)
André Bruce WardAndré has been responsible for the indelible, exceptional signature of form and fashion on Theatre Memphis stages for 40 years and with over 250 productions. Receiving his formal training at the esteemed Ringling College of Art and Design, André studied not only art history, life drawing, color and design, but also costume construction and sewing. Although he has designed for professional companies, including summer stock and off-Broadway, André’s commitment is to community theatre, and to a standard of excellence that he set and continues to maintain. His vision for costume artistry has garnered Theatre Memphis, the state of Tennessee, and himself a stellar reputation throughout the Southeast region. It is no coincidence that, in Memphis’ annual city-wide theatre competition, André is at the top of the list with the coveted Memphis Ostrander Theatre Awards for an artist in any category to date: 22 awards and still counting.

2017 Honoree
Tacoma Musical Playhouse (Tacoma, Washington)
Tacoma Musical TheatreTMP was founded with the vision of providing live musical theatre, at an affordable price, to a community with a long-established dramatic theatre scene. Presenting musical theatre with a live orchestra for every production had not previously been done in the area. After holding fundraisers in friends’ homes to raise money for small-scale shows, the company developed a group of loyal patrons—many of whom are still with the company today. When an old theatre building became available, the company took the plunge and purchased a permanent home. Throughout its 23-year history, TMP has been an incubator for talent. Programming now includes an education department teaching a broad range of theatre subjects, and school outreach introducing live theatre to young patrons. Beginning with nothing and renting church basements for the first few years, TMP leadership and the intuitive guidance of Jon Douglas Rake have taken the company to success and a $2M annual budget.

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)
2016 Jim Chervenka (Grand Rapids, MI)
         Celia Couture (Tewksbury, MA)
         Loween Getter (Webster City, IA)

          * Deceased



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