The Carbonell Awards will bestow its highest honors this month to two professionals who helped mold the past and present of South Florida theater, and a scrappy tiny company which united the performing arts community.
Arsht Center Executive Vice President and Carbonell President of the Board of Directors Scott Shiller will receive the George Abbott Award, actress-director-producer-dancer-union leader-teacher Iris Acker will receive the Howard Kleinberg Award, and The Naked Stage troupe which created The 24-Hour Theatre Project will receive the Ruth Foreman Award.
The honors will be presented at the 39th annual Carbonell Awards on March 30 at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts.
Shiller, who is leaving Florida next month to be president and CEO of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, will receive the Abbot Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Arts, recognizing “an individual who has contributed significantly to the artistic and cultural development of the region.”
During his tenure, beginning in 2007, the Arsht has established financial stability; attracted a younger, more multi-cultural audience, and led the Arsht in producing its performing arts events with local theaters and other artists. In 2010, Shiller joined the Carbonell board and led the faltering group in a retooling that brought a business-like corporate reorganization that revitalized the program.
Shiller was quoted in a statement in a news release: “The South Florida community has been so welcoming to me — both in my role at the Arsht Center and as president of the Carbonell Awards. I have grown personally over the last eight years as our arts community has itself grown. South Florida is one of the great performing arts regions in the country because of the wisdom, hard work, and artistic drive of those who have created a thriving theater scene in the 39 years since the Carbonell Awards were founded. I’ve been honored to work side-by-side with these dedicated producers, directors, actors and designers who embrace the art of storytelling and community engagement each and every day.”
Acker is best known today as the host of arts interview television programs. But Acker has a lengthy history of leadership that qualified her for the Kleinberg Award, given intermittently since 2000 as special recognition for contributions to the health and development of the arts in South Florida.
Acker had a long, successful career as an actress and dancer in New York. But when she moved to Florida, she reinvented a career in theater, performing roles across the state at the Ruth Foreman Theatre, Coconut Grove Playhouse, Hollywood Playhouse and Burt Reynolds Dinner Theatre among many other venues. She also regularly acted in commercials, honing a talent that she would later teach in classes.
She became the first Actors’ Equity Liaison for the State of Florida and started a casting hotline. She began a half-price ticket program that would eventually evolve into Cultural Connection. She also was elected president of the American Federation of TV and Radio Artists union locally.
Twenty-seven years ago, WLRN officials asked her to host a program focusing on the performing arts. Acker balked, saying she’d never hosted a show. But they prevailed, giving birth to On Stage with Iris Acker which eventually became Spotlight on the Arts on BCON television, interviewing hundreds of guests and educating the public about a life in the arts.
She is currently a Carbonell judge, was one of the original founders of the program and directed the awards ceremony program several times. she also is a co-founder of the Silver Palm Awards.
The award is named after Howard Kleinberg, long-time editor of The Miami News, historian, and author of numerous articles and books on the social and cultural history of Miami and South Florida.
Foreman Award recipient The Naked Stage is a company founded in 2007 by John Manzelli, Katharine Amadeo and Antonio Amadeo which specializes in intimate and edgy works ranging from Sarah Kane’s 4:40 Psychosis to Strindberg’s Miss Julie.
Soon after their founding, the trio created The 24-Hour Theatre Project as a fund-raiser for themselves and three other companies. With scores of volunteers they had bonded with during years of performing locally in other people’s shows, the Naked Stage cadre created an evening of short plays written, cast, directed, rehearsed and produced in 24 hours. The resulting camaraderie in the annual event has been cited as an event that has brought the entire theatrical community closer together.
“Not knowing quite what to expect, we asked nearly 50 of the region’s top artists (actors, directors, playwrights) to donate 24 hours of their time, and couldn’t believe our luck when, not only did they say yes, but were enthusiastic about the project,” said Katherine Amadeo said in a news release. “That first year ended up being pure (chaotic) magic, and we realized we had something wonderfully special on our hands.”
Since that first year, Naked Stage’s 24-Hour Theatre Project has produced 68 short plays, and some have gone on to be produced by other theaters. This season, the theater staged a special program similar to the 24-Hour Project to underwrite the medical treatment of a supporter of the theater community, Dana Castellano, as she battled cervical cancer. Then they double their commitment by donating the profits from last season’s 24-Hour Project to Castellano’s fight.
The award is named after the pioneering theater director and producer recognizing contributions to South Florida theater development by an individual or group for singular achievement and/or career contributions.
The 39th annual Carbonell Awards ceremony will be at 7:30 p.m. March 30 in the Amaturo Theater at Broward Center for the Performing Arts, 201 S.W. 5th Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Tickets are $31.86. Call (954) 462-0222, or visit www.browardcenter.org.