By Bill Hirschman
Outstanding work in the South Florida theater season was recognized this week at the 46th annual Carbonell Awards, but a highlight of the evening was the presentation of the prestigious George Abbott Award to longtime critic Christine Dolen.
Recognizing her charting and support of the evolution of the theater community over 35 years for The Miami Herald and other publications, she received a protracted standing ovation at the Monday night ceremony at the Lauderhill Performing Arts Center.
She was handed the award by Pulitzer-winning playwright Nilo Cruz who delivered a specially written poem lauding her work and the value of critics in the creative world.
Throughout the evening nicknamed “Theater Prom,” the 20 competitive awards from the 2022-2023 reflected the wide range of styles and themes from premieres to recent works to classic musical comedy now infused in local calendars.
GableStage in Coral Gables and its artists took home the most awards, picking up seven different recognitions including:
- Outstanding Production, Play
- Outstanding Direction, Play
Victoria Collado, Native Gardens
- Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Lead Male Role, Play
David Kwiat, Native Gardens
- Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Lead Female Role, Play
Diana Garle, Native Gardens
- Outstanding Lighting Design, Play or Musical
Blanca Forzán, El Huracán
- Outstanding Sound Design, Play, or Musical
Matt Corey, Native Gardens
- Outstanding Costume Design, Play or Musical
Camilla Haith, Native Gardens
Maltz Jupiter Theatre and its artists won five major awards this year, including:
- Outstanding Production, Musical
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
- Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Lead Male Role, Musical
Scott Cote, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
- Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Female Role, Musical
Ashley McManus, Sweet Charity
- Oustanding Muic Direction
Caryl Fantel, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
- Outstanding Choreography
Ariel Reid, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
Zoetic Stage in Miami and artists garnered four major awards, including:
- Outstanding New Work, Play or Musical
American Rhapsody, by Michael McKeever
- Outstanding Direction, Musical
Stuart Meltzer, Next to Normal
- Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Lead Female Role, Musical
Jeni Hacker, Next to Normal
- Outstanding Achievement of an Artistic Specialty
Steven Covey for Video Projection Design, #GRACED
Area Stage in Miami Beach picked up two Carbonell Awards:
- Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Male Role, Musical
Tico Chiriboga, The Little Mermaid
- Outstanding Scenic Design, Play, or Musical
Frank J. Oliva, The Little Mermaid (Area Stage)
Hosting work winning one award each were:
Miami New Drama
- Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Female Role, Play
Saundra Santiago, Anna in the Tropics
Ronnie Larsen Presents in Wilton Manors
- Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Male Role, Play
Chris Anthony Ferrer, Red Speedo
As part of last night’s Carbonell Awards Ceremony, seven Special Awards were also presented to distinguished honorees:
The Vinnette Carroll Award for significant achievement in advancing the cause of diversity, equality, and inclusion in South Florida theater. Christina Alexander & Katie Christie, leaders of the South Florida Theatre League’s AntiRacism Theatre Strategies Cohorts, in which over a dozen local theatres have participated.
The Ruth Foreman Award which recognizes contributions to South Florida theater development by an individual or group, for singular achievement and/or career contributions. Maltz Jupiter Theatre, now celebrating its 20th season this year and Florida’s largest award-winning LORT theatre.
The Bill Hindman Award which honors significant, long-term contributions to the region’s cultural life and onstage career achievement by performing artists based in South Florida. James Samuel Randolph, a professor in the Theater Division at New World School of The Arts and a Carbonell Award-winning actor who has appeared in over 100 plays, commercials, television shows and feature films.
The Howard Kleinberg Award which honors an individual or organization for contributions to the health and development of the arts in South Florida. Ronnie Larsen, actor-director-playwright-producer whose work has been seen in South Florida as well as Off-Broadway and around the world, and the creative force behind The Foundry in Wilton Manors.
The Bill von Maurer Award for Theatrical Excellence which honors a theater company that exemplifies excellence for the totality of its programming: productions, educational outreach, developmental programs, and audiences served. Slow Burn Theatre Company at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts for consistently presenting high-quality shows and which is dedicated to bringing dynamic, musical productions to diverse audiences.
The Charlie Cinnamon Award which honors an individual who has contributed significantly to the support of the arts in South Florida and to the Carbonell Awards program. Bill Hirschman, a former theatre critic for the South Florida Sun Sentinel, founder of Florida Theater On Stage, and a veteran Carbonell judge.
At this year’s awards ceremony, $2,000 Jack Zink Memorial Student Scholarships were presented to Diane Danyang Li (Broward County), Emily Moreland (Palm Beach County), and Addison Doris Stone (Miami-Dade County).
The program was produced by playwright, actor and designer Michael McKeever and Stuart Meltzer, the founding artistic director of Zoetic Stage—both of whom have won multiple Carbonell Awards and previously produced and directed numerous Carbonell ceremonies. Double 2023 Carbonell nominee Caryl Fantel returned as Music Director/Program Consultant. McKeever, Meltzer and Fantel were also award winners.
“More than 80 productions at nearly 30 different theatres were evaluated by a diverse group of more than 30 experienced judges representing all three participating counties (Broward, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach). In late September, the Carbonell Awards revealed 120 nominees from 17 different theaters during last season,” says Carbonell Board President Gary Schweikhart.
(A personal note from Bill Hirschman: My joy and gratitude for the warm affirmation of receiving the Charlie Cinamon Award is overwhelming. Thank you to the Carbonell board and the cherished theatrical community.)