ABOVE: Thandiwe DeShazor (left) and Grant Chapman in “Angels in America, Parts 1 and 2” at Actor’s Express. The AIDS-era drama was named best play of the 2018 season and took home Suzis for best ensemble of a play, director and lighting design. Photo by Casey Gardner.

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The West Midtown company wins big with its stagings

of Angels in America and The Color Purple

ACTOR’S EXPRESS isn’t the biggest theater company in town. Its black-box space seats an intimate 145 and its  full-time staff numbers seven. But under the leadership of artistic director Freddie Ashley and managing director Alex Scollon, it consistently produces some of the best theater we see.

Jasmyne Hinson (as Shug Avery, left) and Suzi award-winning best actress Latrice Pace (as Celie) in “The Color Purple.” Photo: Casey Gardner

The  company, based in West Midtown’s King Plow Arts Center, earned 11 Suzi Bass awards on Monday night — including six for its vibrant staging of The Color Purple and four for playwright Tony Kushner’s two-part AIDS-era epic, Angels in America.

In all, 10 professional companies and 17 productions won 2018 Suzis, honors that are, more or less, Atlanta’s equivalent of Broadway’s Tony awards. Lawrenceville’s Aurora Theatre followed with six Suzi wins, and downtown Atlanta’s Theatrical Outfit had five.

The awards are named for longtime Atlanta actor Suzi Bass, a force of nature who died of cancer in 2002 at age 56. She performed regularly, and to acclaim, at the Alliance Theatre, Marietta’s Theatre in the Square, Stone Mountain’s ART Station and Theatrical Outfit, along with North Carolina’s Flat Rock Playhouse and Blowing Rock Stage.

Actor’s Express’ The Color Purple was named best musical and won Suzis for lead actress/musical (Latrice Pace’s Celie), supporting actress/musical (Kayce Grogan-Wallace’s Sofia), director David Koté, musical director Amanda Wansa Morgan and sound designer Angela Bryant.

Angels in America was named best play and won Suzis for directors Freddie Ashley and Martin Wilkins, outstanding ensemble and Joseph P. Monaghan’s lighting design.

In addition, Enoch King was named best supporting actor in the Express production of Lucas Hnath’s The Christians. 

Playwright Jon Carr’s “Black Nerd” won the Gene-Gabriel Moore Playwriting Award. Photo: Dad’s Garage

Eleven new plays — a record — vied for the Gene-Gabriel Moore Playwriting Award, which went to Jon Carr and The Black Nerd, staged at Dad’s Garage Theatre Company. The other nominees: Alice Between by Steve Coulter + Neely Gossett, Alliance Theatre; Built to Float by Rachel Graf Evans, Essential Theatre; Empty Rooms by Annie Harrison Elliott, Found Stages; Hospice & Pointing at the Moon by Pearl Cleage, Alliance; Morningside by Topher Payne, Georgia Ensemble Theatre; The Dancing Granny by Jireh Breon Holder, Alliance; The Flower Room by Daryl Lisa Fazio, Actor’s Express; The Followers by Margaret Baldwin, 7 Stages; Three Ladies of Orpington by Daniel Guyton, Onion Man Productions; and Woke by Avery Sharpe, Essential.

Lifetime Achievement awards, given for a body of work that has had a significant, long-term effect on Atlanta’s theater community, went to Liz Lee, Center for Puppetry Arts’ producer and lighting designer since 1978, and  Rosemary Newcott, who has spent 20 years acting and directing at the Alliance Theatre, largely as the Sally G. Tomlinson Artistic Director of Theatre for Youth.

The winners, capitalized and highlighted in bold, are:

Best play

  • Abigail/1702 at Aurora Theatre (script by Roberto Aguire-Sacasa)
  • ANGELS IN AMERICA, Parts 1 and 2 at Actor’s Express (script by Tony Kushner)
  • Boy at Theatrical Outfit (script by Anna Ziegler)
  • Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley at Theatrical Outfit (script by Lauren Gunderson and Margot Marcon)
  • Perfect Arrangement at Theatrical Outfit (script by Topher Payne)

Best musical

  • Blackberry Daze at Horizon Theatre
  • Cabaret at Serenbe Playhouse
  • Candide at the Alliance Theatre
  • THE COLOR PURPLE at Actor’s Express
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame, an Aurora Theatre/Theatrical Outfit co-production

World premiere

“Sheltered” (with Park Krausen, left, and Amanda Drinkall) tells the true story of a Philadelphia couple that plotted to save Jewish children from the Nazis. It won the 2018 Alliance/Kendeda National Graduate Playwriting Competition and had its world premiere at the Alliance Theatre. Photo: Greg Mooney
  • The Flower Room by Daryl Lisa Fazio at Actor’s Express
  • Hospice and Pointing at the Moon by Pearl Cleage at the Alliance Theatre
  • Il Etait Une Fois (Once Upon a Time) at Théâtre du Rêve
  • Morningside by Topher Payne at Georgia Ensemble Theatre
  • SHELTERED by Alix Sobler the Alliance Theatre

Theatre for Young Audiences production

  • Heidi at Synchronicity Theatre
  • The Jungle Book at Georgia Ensemble Theatre
  • THE MIRACULOUS JOURNEY OF EDWARD TULANE at Synchronicity Theatre
  • Mother Goose at the Center for Puppetry Arts
  • Winnie the Pooh at the Alliance Theatre

Lead actor female / play

Olivia Dawson (left) and 2018 Suzi award winner Diany Rodriguez as Abigail in Aurora Theatre’s “Abigail/1702.” Photo: Chris Bartelski
  • Terry Burrell for Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill at Theatrical Outfit
  • Taylor M. Dooley for Throw Me on the Burnpile and Light Me Up at Aurora Theatre
  • Mary Lynn Owen for Crossing Delancey at the Alliance Theatre
  • Courtney Patterson for Maytag Virgin at Aurora Theatre
  • DIANY RODRIGUEZ for Abigail/1702 at Aurora Theatre

Lead actor female / musical

  • Naomi Lavette for Blackberry Daze at Horizon Theatre
  • Kristin Markiton for Mamma Mia! at Aurora Theatre
  • LATRICE PACE for The Color Purple at Actor’s Express
  • Ayanna Reed for Blackberry Daze at Horizon Theatre
  • Julissa Sabino for The Hunchback of Notre Dame at Aurora Theatre/Theatrical Outfit

Lead actor male / play

Lee Osorio was named best actor/play for his work at the Shakespeare Tavern Playhouse.
  • Andrew Benator for Crossing Delancey at the Alliance Theatre
  • Brad Brinkley for Maytag Virgin at Aurora Theatre
  • Clifton Guterman for Boy at Theatrical Outfit
  • LEE OSORIO for The Life and Death of Richard the Second at Atlanta Shakespeare Company
  • Ben Thorpe for Hand to God at the Alliance Theatre

Lead actor male / musical

  • Aaron Blake for Candide at the Alliance 
  • Brian Clowdus for Cabaret at Serenbe Playhouse
  • Stanley Allyn Owen for Tarzan at Atlanta Lyric Theatre
  • HADEN RIDER for The Hunchback of Notre Dame at Aurora/Theatrical Outfit
  • Juan Carlos Unzueta for Little Shop of Horrors at Actor’s Express

Supporting actor female / play

Carolyn Cook (with Allan Edwards) won for her work in Horizon Theatre’s “Citizens Market.” Photo: Greg Mooney
  • CAROLYN COOK for Citizens Market at Horizon Theatre
  • Galen Crawley for Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley at Theatrical Outfit
  • Sarah Newby Halicks for The Christians at Actor’s Express
  • Tess Malis Kincaid for Shakespeare in Love at the Alliance Theatre
  • Diany Rodriguez for Between Riverside and Crazy at True Colors Theatre Company

Supporting actor female / musical

  • Kandice Arrington for Little Shop of Horrors at Actor’s Express
  • Deborah Bowman for The Little Mermaid at Serenbe Playhouse
  • Christy Clark for Blackberry Daze at Horizon Theatre
  • KAYCE GROGAN-WALLACE for The Color Purple at Actor’s Express
  • Jasmyne Hinson for The Color Purple at Actor’s Express

Supporting actor male / play

Suzi winner Enoch King in “The Christians” at Actor’s Express. Photo: Studio 7
  • Allen Edwards for Citizens Market at Horizon Theatre
  • Tom Key for Boy at Theatrical Outfit
  • ENOCH KING for The Christians at Actor’s Express
  • Lee Osorio for Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley at Theatrical Outfit
  • Sam Younis for Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo at 7 Stages

Supporting actor male / musical

  • Kevin Harry for The Hunchback of Notre Dame at Aurora Theatre/Theatrical Outfit
  • Lamont Hill for The Color Purple at Actor’s Express
  • Christian Magby for Blackberry Daze at Horizon Theatre
  • Commodore Primous for Tarzan at Atlanta Lyric Theatre
  • ROBERT WAYNE for Cabaret at Serenbe Playhouse

Ensemble / play

  • ANGELS IN AMERICA at Actor’s Express (Grant Chapman, Joe Sykes, Louis Gregory, Cara Mantella, Robert Bryan Davis, Thandiwe DeShazor, Carolyn Cook, Parris Sarter)
  • Il Etait Une Fois (Once Upon a Time) at Théâtre du Rêve (Natalie Karp, Eliana Marianes, Jennifer Schottstaedt)
  • Morningside at Georgia Ensemble Theatre (Shelly McCook, Ann Wilson, Ellen McQueen, Keena Redding Hunt, Gina Rickicki, Kate Donadio, Stacy Melich, Kelly Criss, Lala Cochran)
  • Perfect Arrangement at Theatrical Outfit (Joe Knezevich, Ann-Marie Gideon, Clifton Guterman, Courtney Patterson, Stacy Melich, Kevin Stillwell, Ann Wilson)
  • Sense & Sensibility at Synchronicity Theatre (Marcello Audino, Shelli Delgado, Robert Lee Hindsman, Rachel Mewbron, Marcie Millard, Michelle Pokopac, J.L. Reed, Jennifer Schottstaedt, Bryant Smith, Justin Walker)

 Ensemble / musical

  •  ALWAYS … PATSY CLINE at Atlanta Lyric Theatre (Laura Hodos and Karen Howell)
  •  Breath and Imagination at ART Station (Theresa Hightower, Marcellis Cutler, Patrick Hutchinson, Tony Hayes)
  • Million Dollar Quartet at Legacy Theatre (Janine DeMichele Baggett, Daniel Black, Daniel Burns, Ross Griffin, Bert Groover, Stephen Hardy, Edward La Cardo, David Perry)
  • The Followers at 7 Stages (Ofir Nahari, Lowery Brown, Diany Rodriguez, Stephen Devillers, Nicolette Emanuelle)
  • The World Goes ‘Round at Atlanta Lyric Theatre (Deborah Bowman, Jeff McKerley, Adrianna Trachell, Brad Raymond, Mary Nye Bennett, Chloe Cordle, Cansler McGhee, Brian Jordan, Grace Joo)

Ensemble / TYA

Synchronicity Theatre’s “The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane” won Suzis for Outstanding TYA Production and Outstanding Ensemble. Pictured: Jimmica Collins and Edward, a china rabbit: Photo: Jerry Siegel
  • Heidi at Synchronicity Theatre (Taryn Carmona, Jessenia Ingram, Jake Krakovsky, Robert Owenby, Emily Parrish Stembridge, Julie Trammel, Alex Van, Patrick Wade)
  • The Jungle Book at Georgia Ensemble Theatre (Erik Poger Abrahamsen, Shelli Delgado, Robert Lee Hindsman, Asia Howard, JD Myers, Angelica K. Spence) 
  • THE MIRACULOUS JOURNEY OF EDWARD TULANE at Synchronicity Theatre (Josh Brook, Jimmica Collins, Caitlin Hargraves, Justin Walker) 
  • Mother Goose at the Center for Puppetry Arts (Jimmica Collins, Luis R Hernandez)
  • Winnie the Pooh at the Alliance Theatre (Isake Akanke, Caleb Baumann, Grant Chapman, CJ Cooper, Maria Rodriguez-Sager, Joe Sykes, Mabel Tyler)

Direction / play

  • ANGELS IN AMERICA at Actor’s Express (Freddie Ashley, Martin Wilkins)
  • Boy at Theatrical Outfit (Melissa Foulger)
  • Citizens Market at Horizon Theatre (Jeff Adler, Jennifer Alice Acker, Lisa Adler)
  • Crossing Delancey at the Alliance Theatre (Leora Morris)
  • Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley at Theatrical Outfit (Carolyn Cook)

Direction / musical

  • Justin Anderson for The Hunchback of Notre Dame at Aurora/Theatrical Outfit
  • Justin Anderson for Mamma Mia! at Aurora 
  • Brian Clowdus for Cabaret at Serenbe Playhouse
  • DAVID KOTÉ for The Color Purple at Actor’s Express
  • Thomas W. Jones II for Blackberry Daze at Horizon Theatre

Direction / TYA

  • Heidi at Synchronicity Theatre (Julie Skrzypek)
  • The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane at Synchronicity Theatre (Mira Hirsch)
  • MOTHER GOOSE at the Center for Puppetry Arts (Amy Sweeney + Dolph Amick)
  • Polkadots, the Cool Kids Musical at Legacy Theatre (Mark Smith)
  • Winnie the Pooh at the Alliance (Leora Morris)

Music direction

  • S. Renee Clark for Blackberry Daze at Horizon Theatre
  • Ann-Carol Pence for Mamma Mia! at Aurora Theatre
  • Ann-Carol Pence for The Hunchback of Notre Dame at Aurora/Theatrical Outfit
  • Robert Spano for Candide at Alliance 
  • AMANDA WANSA MORGAN for The Color Purple at Actor’s Express

Choreography

  • Ricardo Aponte for The Hunchback of Notre Dame at Aurora/Theatrical Outfit
  • Ricardo Aponte for Mamma Mia! at Aurora 
  • Bubba Carr for Cabaret at Serenbe Playhouse
  • Meredith Moore for The Color Purple at Actor’s Express
  • CINDY MORA REISER for Tarzan at Atlanta Lyric 

Scenic design / play

  • Isabel and Moriah Curley-Clay for Abigail/1702 at Aurora
  • Isabel and Moriah Curley-Clay for Between Riverside and Crazy at True Colors Theatre
  • ISABEL AND MORIAH CURLEY-CLAY for Citizens Market at Horizon 
  • Isabel and Moriah Curley-Clay for Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill at Theatrical Outfit
  • Isabel and Moriah Curley-Clay for Maytag Virgin at Aurora 
  • Elizabeth Jarrett for Throw Me on the Burnpile and Light Me Up at Aurora 

Scenic design / musical

  • Isabel and Moriah Curley-Clay for Little Shop of Horrors at Actor’s Express
  • Isabel and Mariah Curley-Clay for Once on This Island at Georgia Ensemble Theatre
  • Daniel Pattillo for Tarzan at Atlanta Lyric 
  • Julie Ray for Mamma Mia! at Aurora 
  • SHANNON ROBERT for The Hunchback of Notre Dame at Aurora/Theatrical Outfit

Sound design / play

  •  MARC GWINN for Abigail/1702 at Aurora Theatre
  • Jake Harbour for Throw Me on the Burnpile and Light Me Up at Aurora Theatre
  • Stowe Nelson for Hand to God at the Alliance Theatre
  • Daniel Terry for Maytag Virgin at Aurora Theatre
  • Ed Thrower for Angels in America at Actor’s Express

Sound design / musical

  • Rob Brooksher for Mamma Mia! at Aurora 
  • ANGELA BRYANT for The Color Purple at Actor’s Express
  • Preston Goodson for Tarzan at Atlanta Lyric 
  • Daniel Pope for The Hunchback of Notre Dame at Aurora/Theatrical Outfit
  • Mike Sal for Blackberry Daze at Horizon Theatre

Costume design / play

  • Anne Carole Butler for The Life and Death of Richard the Second at Shakespeare Tavern Playhouse
  • Angela Balogh Calin for Shakespeare in Love at the Alliance 
  • Linda Patterson for Perfect Arrangement at Theatrical Outfit
  • ELIZABETH RASMUSSON for Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley at Theatrical Outfit
  • Jennifer Schottstaedt for Il Etait Une Fois (Once Upon a Time) at Théâtre du Rêve

Costume design / musical

  • L. Nyrobi N. Moss for Blackberry Daze at Horizon Theatre
  • L. Nyrobi N. Moss for The Color Purple at Actor’s Express
  • Erik Teague for Cabaret at Serenbe Playhouse
  • Amanda Edgerton West for Tarzan at Atlanta Lyric 
  • ALAN YEONG for The Hunchback of Notre Dame at Aurora/Theatrical Outfit

Lighting design / play

  • Maranda DeBusk for Throw Me on the Burnpile and Light Me Up at Aurora 
  • Rob Dillard for Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill at Theatrical Outfit
  • Liz Lee for Hand to God at the Alliance 
  • JOSEPH P. MONAGHAN for Angels in America at Actor’s Express
  • Ben Rawson for Abigail/1702 at Aurora 

Lighting design / musical

  • Andre C. Allen for The Color Purple at Actor’s Express
  • Kevin Frazier for Cabaret at Serenbe Playhouse
  • Kevin Frazier for Mamma Mia! at Aurora 
  • MARIA CRISTINA FUSTE for The Hunchback of Notre Dame at Aurora/Theatrical Outfit
  • Mary Parker for Tarzan at Atlanta Lyric 

Projection design / play

  • BRADLEY BERGERON for Project Dawn at Horizon Theatre
  • Matt Brohammer for The Taming at Synchronicity Theatre
  • Barrett Doyle and Joel Coady for Boy at Theatrical Outfit
  • Jared Mezzochi for Ripe Frenzy at Synchronicity Theatre
  • Ed Thrower for Il Etait Une Fois (Once Upon a Time) at Théâtre du Rêve

Projection design / musical

  • Robbie Hayes for Blackberry Daze at Horizon Theatre
  • Bobby Johnston for Holler If Ya Hear Me at True Colors Theatre 
  • Bobby Johnston for The Ballad of Klook and Vinette at Horizon 
  • SVEN ORTEL for Candide at the Alliance 

Design team TYA

  • Heidi at Synchronicity Theatre (scenic design by Elizabeth Jarrett; costumes and puppets by Derrick Vanmeter; lighting by Elisabeth Cooper; sound by Rob Brooksher; music direction by Christopher Cannon; choreography by Ricardo Aponte)
  • The Jungle Book at the Alliance Theatre (scenic design by Kat Conley; costumes by Sydney Roberts; lighting by Steven Love; sound by Clay Benning; composer/musical direction by S. Renee Clark; choreography by Jen McQueen; puppet consultation byJason Hines)
  • The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane at Synchronicity Theatre (scenic design by Jon Nooner; costumes by Linda Patterson; lighting by Chris Crawford; sound by Dan Baumann; properties by Jillian Haughey)
  • Mother Goose at the Center for Puppetry Arts (scenic design by Ryan Sbaratta; costumes by Erik Teague; lighting by Gregory Montague; sound by Dolph Amick; puppets by Jason Hines)
  • WINNIE THE POOH at the Alliance (scenic design by Mariana Sanchez; costumes by Fabian Fidel Aguilar; lighting by Steven Love; sound by Clay Benning; music direction by Dylan Frederick)

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Wins by company ( nominations in parentheses) 

  • Actor’s Express — 11 (22)
  • Aurora Theatre — 6 (31)
  • Theatrical Outfit — 5 (27)
  • Alliance Theatre — 3 (19)
  • Horizon Theatre — 3 (14)
  • Synchronicity Theatre — 2 (11)
  • Atlanta Lyric Theatre — 2 (9)
  • Serenbe Playhouse — 1 (8)
  • Center for Puppetry Arts — 1 (4)
  • Shakespeare Tavern Playhouse — 1 (2)

About Kathy Janich

Kathy Janich, Encore Atlanta’s editor, is a longtime arts journalist who has been seeing, working in or writing about the performing arts for most of her life. She's a member of the Theatre Communications Group, the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas, Americans for the Arts and the National Arts Marketing Project. Full disclosure: She’s also an artistic associate at Synchronicity Theatre.

View all posts by Kathy Janich