Blythe Renay and Randi Saxer Redman in Conejo Players' "Side Show." (Rena Colette Photography)
A report from our far-flung correspondent from up north (Ojai).
BY JOHN HANKINS
While the film community was handing out Oscar awards somewhere in La La Land on Sunday, February 26, nearly a hundred community theater mavens were honored at Ventura County’s Four Star Theater Alliance Awards at the High Street Arts Center in Moorpark. The marquee was bright, the carpet red, the emcees engaging, and the photographers were snapping the well-dressed recipients in between highlights from the most outstanding live plays produced in 2016, including Nunsense (Camarillo Skyway Playhouse), Amadeus (Conejo Players Theatre), All My Sons (Elite Theatre Company), The Addams Family (High Street Arts Center), Skylight (Ojai ACT) and The Night Alive (Santa Paula Theatre Center). It was a lively affair for live theater in Ventura County, during which the six community theaters comprising the Alliance, which offer over 1,000 seats on any given weekend, tapped into local talent by presenting more than 30 comedies, dramas, and musicals.
“There were a lot of tough decisions, but I thought the winners were represented very well across the county,” said Shawn Lanz of Conejo Players Theatre, the Alliance’s longtime administrator. Lanz is stepping down, with Eric Umali of the Camarillo Skyway Playhouse assuming his role. Umali and his wife, Jolyn Johnson, acted as co-emcees for the evening. The Four-Star Awards are the county’s local equivalent of the Tonys, but the judging differs in that the productions from the six theaters are judged by five people from other theaters, which helps foster fairness.
“The seriousness of the Four Star Alliance has been proved” over seven years, said Dean Johnson of Camarillo Skyway Playhouse. “Ventura County is a very heavy theater community, head-and-shoulders above a lot of Los Angeles (community) theaters.” Besides the six Alliance theaters, the county is home to the professional Rubicon Theater, various improv companies, traveling pros, colleges and some smaller venues under 100 seats [editor note: all of which are covered by VC On Stage]. The awards show included scenes and songs from each featured production as well as a popular slide show, created by Steve Grumette of Ojai ACT.
The songs were mostly on the humorous end of the spectrum: “A Difficult Transition” from “Nunsense,” “You Can’t Get a Man with a Gun” from “Annie Get Your Gun,” “Buddy Kissed Me” / “Who Will Love Me as I Am,” a duet from “Side Show,” and “Always A Bridesmaid” from “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change.” A poignant “going home” scene about dementia from “The Other Place” provided a serious pause, but the whole affair was given a riotous send-off by “The Addams Family” and their dead and nearly-dead relatives in the show’s opening number, “When You’re an Addams.”
A full list of all categories and winners are on Facebook at: