Actors and production personnel are ready to enjoy the fruits of their labor at the Geyer Performing Arts Center’s 13th annual Tottie Awards this weekend.
For the first time this year, a committee was established to organize the awards night. Rachael Szabo said that over the past few years she and Michele Akins have worked with the Geyer president and theater manager to plan the event along with a separate nominations committee.
“This is the first year for an official committee,” she said. “We are still working with the theater manager and GPAC board president, but our goal was to alleviate some of the stress of planning of an event like this for them.”
The new committee consists of six individuals who serve on either the Geyer board of directors or the Actors and Artists of Fayette County board of directors.
Committee members are in charge of getting the nominations from the directors, tallying all votes, getting the trophy’s made, securing a location for and planning the after party, selecting the presenters (which consists of one member from each board who present together), talking with the hosts about anything special that can be done (video, song, sketch, etc.), scheduling the big rehearsal for the night prior of all of the musicals performances, and conducting that rehearsal.
The event, which is open to the public is set for 7 p.m. Jan. 18 at the theater, 111 Pittsburgh St., Scottdale. There is no admission charge.
This year, the committee implemented something a little different when it came to choosing the nominees for each category.
“We’ve come to the conclusion that the Totties are more of a “People’s Choice Awards,” so we let the people decide the nominees and winners this year,” said Szabo. “Each director submitted their nominations, and from that, each qualifying voter was to select five nominees per category. The top five votes in each category received the nomination.”
Also for the first time this year, all of the musicals for the entire year are in the running for Favorite Musical and all of the directors are in the running for Favorite Director.
“We feel that every show puts in the amount of time and effort that it takes to pull off a production, so why should only some shows be recognized for it?” Szabo questioned. “We also used to only let the shows that were nominated for Best Musical to perform, and the last two years we changed that, with the same mindset of having everyone be nominated. The seasons wouldn’t happen without the shows or the directors. They attribute to the growth and success of our little theater.”
She added that the awards event is a time for everyone to come together to celebrate a year of art that was made.
“You get all dressed up, perform with your cast again, and close that chapter without all of the chaos that comes with closing a show,” Szabo said. “We’ve also changed the awards from ‘best’ to ‘favorite.’ It keeps the competition healthier and more light-hearted. In my opinion, every show that we put out deserves the ‘best’ title. Many theaters have tried and unfortunately failed to do what we are doing. We are very blessed to have a full season with people in the seats.”
While Jordan Gilbert of West Newton was nominated for a Tottie Award last year in the category of “Favorite Lead Actress in a Play,” this is her first nomination for “Favorite Lead Actress in a Musical.”
“I’m always just excited to be nominated,” she said. “I love that the Geyer does these awards because it’s a fun way to look back at the season and celebrate all the great work everyone’s put in together.”
Gilbert added that the whole evening, complete with inside jokes about the theater regulars and shows that were done that season, is always a ton of fun.
“I’m looking forward to the laughs and positive energy,” she said. “Jo was a ton of fun, and is very close to my heart. I got to play a character that I deeply identify with and had a load of fun with the entire cast. That show and performance will always be a fond memory!”
Breanna Deutsch of Greensburg is no stranger to lead roles in musicals and this year she is also up for Favorite Leading Actress in a Musical.
Last year, she won the award of Favorite Supporting Actress for her role as Anita in “West Side Story” and this year, her nomination is for her role as Cassie in “A Chorus Line.”
“I was surprised that I was nominated in this category because ‘A Chorus Line’ is such an ensemble show, and I worked so closely with the other cast members,” she said. “I guess I didn’t really see Cassie as a leading lady — it was a fun surprise!”
Deutsch said she’s looking forward to sharing the stage again with “The Line” one last time.
“As a cast, we really bonded over our experience, and I’m excited to revisit a little portion of the show,” she said.
While Will Herrington of Connellsville had stepped away from the stage for a few years, he came back strong last year with a nomination for Best Lead Actor in a Musical for “Jekyll and Hyde.”
This year, he is once again nominated for Favorite Leading Actor in a Musical for his role as Daddy Warbucks in “Annie.”
“The role is very iconic in musical theater,” he said. “I loved working with younger actors — I haven’t really done it in the past, so it was a new challenge that I really enjoyed.”
As for being nominated, Herrington said he is “just very appreciative that my work was enjoyed.”