Reay Kaplan didn’t intend to go to 2011 Suzi Bass Awards nominee announcement party. But a friend suggested she join her there, so she did.

Midway through the evening, Deadra Moore, the executive director of the Suzi Bass Awards — Atlanta’s version of the Tonys — said that they were going to try something new. They would announce the winner of the Spirit of Suzi Bass Award that night instead of waiting until the formal awards ceremony on Nov. 7. (Encore Atlanta is a media sponsor of this event.— Ed.)

Named after the late Suzi Bass, a prolific local actress who helped organize film and theater unions in the city, the Spirit of Suzi Bass Award goes to an organization or a person the awards committee feels embodies some of the qualities that made Bass such an important part of the local film and theater scene.  “Those qualities include a real concern for the artistic community in Atlanta, its life and vigorousness; a dedication to professionalism beyond your own; and a real concern for education and pulling in of new and not so usual members into the theater community,” Moore said.

She then announced the winner of the 2011 Spirit of Suzi Bass Award, the Center for Puppetry Arts, and invited Kaplan onstage to accept the honor.

After joking about how she was only there to have a drink with a friend, Kaplan thanked the committee. “I have worked there for 10 years,” she explained. “It is my family in Atlanta; it is my doorway to this greater theatrical community. The center is the national center for this art form. It is a national treasure, a worldwide treasure. And for people who don’t know that it exists here in Atlanta, I feel like that’s such a disservice because … there is no place like it in the world, and that is a certifiable fact. To be recognized by this community and have the opportunity to collaborate with it on projects like Avenue Q and to work with the Alliance, it is a joy and privilege. On behalf of all my colleagues … I thank you, and we look forward to many, many more years of collaboration.”

For more information about the Suzi Bass Awards or to purchase tickets for the Nov. 7 event, visit

You can watch the whole exchange below. For more videos about the awards, visit our YouTube channel.