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ART BEAT: Aurora Theatre takes home 3 'Suzi Awards' for excellence

Holley Calmes

Holley Calmes

The best of metro Atlanta’s theatre productions were honored at the 6th annual SUZI Awards on Nov. 8 in a gala evening presentation which glittered with the region’s theatrical royalty. Among those in attendance were representatives of Gwinnett’s own Aurora Theatre, which took home three SUZI Awards.

The Aurora Theatre shared the spotlight with such prominent organizations as the Alliance Theatre, the Georgia Shakespeare Theatre, Kenny Leon’s True Colors and more. In total, 17 theatres were represented. The Aurora was nominated for 11 SUZI Awards.

The three SUZI’s awarded to the Aurora were: Best Featured Actress in a Play, which went to Nita Hardy in “Boeing Boeing;” Best Lead Actress in a Musical, which went to Ingrid Cole for “A Catered Affair;” and Best Music Direction which went to Ann Carol Pence for “A Catered Affair.”

The award for Pence, Aurora’s associate producer, was especially appreciated. She said, “I am especially thankful that the SUZI Awards chose to single out a category for ‘Best Musical Direction.’ For some incomprehensible reason, Broadway does not acknowledge the accomplishments of the music director. Hopefully in the next decade, we will see Broadway finally acknowledge the hard work a music director lends to creating a great final product.”

Pence had been nominated almost every year for a SUZI in this category with Aurora and other area theaters.

“I did not expect to win,” she said. “We do not operate at the same budget as the Alliance Theatre, and they are singled out every year for musical excellence. This year, they had two music nominations, so it was an honor being nominated with them. Lisa Cremin of the Metropolitan Atlanta Arts Fund announced the winners in my category, and when she said my name, I was just thrilled.

“Winning this award for ‘A Catered Affair’ puts many of my beliefs into perspective. I believe Gwinnett County deserves professional theater. I believe new musicals deserve a place in the catalog of great American Theatre. And, I believe that the ‘correct’ key in which to sing a song is the key that an actor sounds best singing.”

“On a national level, receiving accolades for our work demonstrates to composers and playwrights that they can trust Aurora with their work. We will pay close attention to their words, to their musical intentions. Art is all we have. We are desperate to create great theater.”

Aurora won the first SUZI of the night when Nita Hardy was honored for Best Featured Actress in a Play. After starting off so well, the evening only got better. Each of the nominees for best musical theater performed a number during the show. Both Ingrid Cole and Glenn Rainey, who was also nominated for “A Catered Affair,” got to sing.

“I love this part of the evening,” Pence said. “It is the only time I get to sit back and enjoy the moment as an audience member. I always sit behind the piano for Aurora’s musicals, so I miss the opportunity to enjoy the level of talent we cast.”

Audiences can appreciate the Aurora’s multi-talented artists throughout the holiday season in their annual “Christmas Canteen” which runs from Nov. 26 through Dec. 23. Also, be sure to put their next musical on the calendar. “Academy” will open in March. For more information, visit the website at www.auroratheatre.com.

Holley Calmes is a freelance writer and public relations consultant specializing in the arts. E-mail her at hcalmes@mindspring.com.