DFW Critics Forum Honors Last Season's Class Acts

The votes are in from the Dallas/Fort Worth Theater Critics Forum for the latest round of honors recognizing the best work on local stages big and small. The awards are decided at an annual potluck lunch at critic Martha Heimberg's Lakewood home, where the critics writing for DFW's magazines, newspapers and arts blogs chew on some fried chicken and chew over the most memorable performances, playwriting, direction and design from among the 250 or so productions reviewed over the past year.

This year's list includes some intriguing newcomers, as well as familiar names who seem to qualify for awards year after year (and good for them). Shows considered were produced in the 12 months before August 31, 2011.

The winners:

Justin Locklear is this year's recipient of the Emerging Artist Award, meant to encourage a theater artist new on the DFW scene. A 2009 Baylor grad, Locklear has acted with Theatre Nouveau, Upstart and One Thirty Productions and recently became part of Matthew Posey's Balanced Almond troupe at the Ochre House theater. Locklear also designs costumes, including beautiful leather pieces for Posey's musical The Butcher and the costumes and puppetry for Posey's latest, Morphing, in which Locklear also played the leading role (a woman, interestingly). Locklear also writes and plays music, which he did for Rite of Passage's premiere of The Love Song of the Albanian Sous Chef at the Festival of Independent Theatres this summer. If he stays this busy, he'll be ready for a lifetime achievement award before he's 30.

Matthew Posey and his Balanced Almond company did so much great work last season they were unanimous choices for the Critics Forum's Special Citation for excellence, specifically honoring the creativity and originality in a year's worth of provocative new plays written, directed by and starring Posey at the Ochre House. Also honored with a Special Citation was the entire DFW theater community for the cooperation and coordination of more than a dozen professional and community theaters in mounting the area-wide Foote Festival, featuring plays by the late Texas-born playwright Horton Foote.

More after the jump.

Best new plays:Bob Birdnow's Remarkable Tale of Human Survival and the Transcendence of Self, a one-man play by Dallas playwright Eric Steele, produced by Second Thought Theatre for the Festival of Independent Theatres at the Bath House Cultural Center. • The Love Song of the Albanian Sous Chef, a romantic comedy by Robert Askins, premiered by Rite of Passage Theatre Productions at FIT. • Morphing by Matthew Posey, a funny, strange, emotionally riveting new take (with a puppet) on O'Neill's Long Day's Journey into Night, Ochre House.

Best touring productions:Billy Elliot and Young Frankenstein, both from the Lexus Broadway Series at the Winspear Opera House. • David Lee Nelson ... Status Update, WaterTower Theatre's Out of the Loop Fringe Festival.

Best performances by actresses (in alphabetical order): • Tovah Feldshuh as Abby Brewster in Arsenic and Old Lace, Dallas Theater Center. • Whitney Hennen as Norma in Victor/Victoria, Uptown Players. • Julie Johnson as Fraulein Schneider in Cabaret, Dallas Theater Center. • Elly Lindsay as Carrie Watts in The Trip to Bountiful, Contemporary Theatre of Dallas. •

Rhianna Mack, playing dozens of roles in the one-actor No Child ..., Amphibian Stage Productions. • Tina Parker as Margaret Fuller in Charm, Kitchen Dog Theater. • Fiona Robberson as Eleanora in Easter, Undermain Theatre. • Dana Schultes, Myra in Talking Pictures, Stage West.

Best performances by actors: • Wade McCollum as the Emcee in Cabaret, DTC. • Sydney James Harcourt as the Tin Man in The Wiz, DTC. • Justin Locklear as Mary Bonner in Morphing, Ochre House. • Barry Nash in the title role in Bob Birdnow's Remarkable Tale of Human Survival and the Transcendence of Self, Second Thought Theatre. • Larry Randolph in the title role, The Madness of Lady Bright, One-Thirty Productions. • Max Swarner, as J. Pierrepont Finch in How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying, ICT Mainstage. • Lee Trull as Mortimer Brewster in Arsenic and Old Lace, DTC. • Steven Walters in the one-man monologue Thom Pain (Based on Nothing) at Second Thought Theatre and as Prince Hal in Henry IV at DTC.

Best directors: • Regan Adair, Red Light Winter, Second Thought Theatre. • Jim Covault, Talking Pictures, Stage West. • Joel Ferrell, Cabaret and Dividing the Estate, both at DTC. • Len Pfluger, My Fair Lady, Lyric Stage. • David A. Miller, Wittenberg, Amphibian Stage Productions. • Rene Moreno, Creditors for Broken Gears Project Theatre; No Child ... for Amphibian Stage Productions; and The Trip to Bountiful for Contemporary Theatre of Dallas. • Katherine Owens, The Dog Problem and Easter, both at Undermain Theatre. • Michael Serrecchia, How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying at ICT Mainstage and Next to Normal at Uptown Players.

Best performances by acting ensembles:Dividing the Estate, DTC's centerpiece production for the Foote Festival. • My Fair Lady, produced at Lyric Stage with full cast and orchestra. • Red Light Winter, a three-actor drama at Second Thought Theatre. • Wittenberg, a small-cast period comedy at Amphibian Stage Productions.

Creative contributions: • John Arnone, set designs for Dividing the Estate, The Dog Problem and Easter. •

Design team, Cabaret, DTC. • Design team, Macbeth, Trinity Shakespeare Festival. • Jay Dias, music director and conductor, for his season with Lyric Stage. • Christopher Huggins, for his choreography of the Dallas Black Dance Theatre company, The Wiz at DTC. • Justin Locklear, costume designs for The Butcher and Morphing, Ochre House. • Anna Louizos, set design for Arsenic and Old Lace, DTC. • George Miller, set designer, for his season with Fort Worth's Jubilee Theatre.

Critics voting this year: Alexandra Bonifield (CriticalRant and Arts+Culture), Martha Heimberg (Turtle Creek News), Arnold Wayne Jones (Dallas Voice), Elaine Liner (Dallas Observer), Mark Lowry (TheaterJones and Fort Worth Star-Telegram), M. Lance Lusk (D Magazine and FrontRow), David Novinski (TheaterJones), Punch Shaw (Star-Telegram), Perry Stewart (TheaterJones), Lawson Taitte (Dallas Morning News) and Lindsey Wilson (D and FrontRow).

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