Catching up: Pittsburgh New Works Festival, Donna Awards

Friday, 05 November 2010 02:59 AM Written by 

(The following news report, published initially on the online theater page, succumbed to the occasional ills the web is heir to. So I've moved it here, to fill out the record of one of Pittsburgh's signature theater events and the winners of the Donna Awards. Note that I'd already written about the New Works Gala in my previous post, Oct. 16. -- Chris Rawson)

Sunday night, Oct. 10, saw one of the most comprehensive theater parties of the year, a celebration at the Doubletree Hotel of the 20th year of the Pittsburgh New Works Festival.

The 20th anniversary was neatly matched by the festival's scope, since 20 theater groups had participated, each producing one of this year's 20 new one-act plays, eight in two preliminary weekends of seated readings and 12 in full (if spare) productions spread over four weeks.

The big winner of the Donna Awards, named for festival founder Donna Rae, was "Shaving Lessons and Half-Windsor Knots" by well-known local playwright F.J. Hartland, produced by CCAC South Campus Theater. It won for outstanding production; Hartland won for outstanding playwright; and Lora Oxenreiter won for outstanding director. Also honored were cast members Dan Krack (supporting actor) and Jim Scriven (lead actor).

That left two Donnas, both won by actresses from "Rhythm of Revenge" by Kathleen Conner Combass, directed by Dek Ingraham for Phase 3 Productions. The outstanding lead actress was Maggie Mayer and supporting actress, Delilah Brewer-Picart.

The largest portion of the evening was devoted to presenting the PNWF's 20th Lifetime Achievement Award to George Jaber, chair of the theater department at CCAC South Campus. Mr. Jaber has produced and directed more than 300 shows, both professional and student, has served as technical director and carpenter on 200 theatrical productions and has built sets for more than 30 movies, television shows and commercials. A board member of the new PA Film Industry Association, he has served as president of IATSE Studio Mechanics Local 489.

More than all that, he is a great spokesman for the skills of local theater and an inspirational proponent of collaboration among theater companies. The talk he gave was half stand-up comedy, half nostalgia and half sermon -- full of rich and largely comic memories of theatrical adventures, but with a stirring call to the collaborative sharing of Pittsburgh's theatrical and film resources.

Mr. Jaber's high standing and affectionate regard in Pittsburgh's theater and film community was evident in the large ensemble of veterans of his one-time professional summer theater at CCAC who, under the leadership of David Pressau, entertained with a lengthy and varied concert of excerpts from the many musicals he produced.

Next year PNWF turns 21!


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