The South Florida Silver Palm Theater Awards is always a treat. Originally begun ten years ago (awards for the 2007-2008 season were the first), and fashioned after Off Broadway's Obie Awards, the smaller, less-flashy-than-the-let's-get-dressed-up-a la-Tonys-Carbonell Awards ceremony is always held around the holidays, and has become a bit of an ad-hoc holiday party for the theater community.
But, that doesn't dilute the importance of the recognition of the Palms, which honor theatrical excellence in South Florida.
Silver Palm Awards Executive Producer Tony Finstrom, founded the awards with theater journalists Iris Acker and Ron Levitt, while they were serving on the Board of The Theater League of South Florida (now the South Florida Theater League) in 2008.
All three now serve on the Palms nominating council.
The first Silver Palm Awards were given out on Monday, May 12, 2008, at Stork's Cafe of Las Olas in Fort Lauderdale. Finstrom said that the awards have grown because of the "strong talent pool," which seems to get larger every year in the SoFla theater community.
"We bestowed only 13 awards in our first season of existence. Last December, we presented 28 of them, and this December we’ll again give out 28," said Finstrom.
The Silver Palms were intentionally constructed to not be in competition with the annual Carbonell Awards.
“There are no nominees, no winners or losers, and no limit to the number of citations given in any ‘category,’ though there really are no official categories,” said Finstrom.
I have had the pleasure to be invited as a judge for the past three years, and am privileged to be part of an esteemed group who selects the award winners.
"They are those who’ve made an outstanding or unique contribution to South Florida Theater,” said Finstrom.
This year’s awards ceremony and reception will be Monday, Dec. 11 from 7 to 10 p.m. at ArtServe, 1350 E. Sunrise Blvd., Fort Lauderdale.
Playwright/actor and previous winner of multiple Silver Palm Awards Michael McKeever will host the awards presentation, assisted by last year’s “Outstanding New Talent” Silver Palm winner Emily E. Tarallo. The show is organized by the Silver Palm Award-winning theatrical producers Matt May and Jennifer Sierra-Grobbelaar.
Silver Palm Awards have been presented to over 180 individuals and/or groups during the previous nine theater seasons, and the “2016-2017 Season” consists of shows that opened between Sept. 1, 2016 and Aug. 31, 2017.
The 2016-2017 recipients:
- Iris Acker, actress, dancer, author and television talk show host, for a lifetime of achievement in South Florida theater.
- Actors’ Playhouse Producer Barbara Stein and Director David Arisco for presenting 30 years of outstanding theater in South Florida.
- Joseph Adler for his outstanding direction of "Hand To God," "The Legend Of Georgia McBride" and "Between Riverside And Crazy" at GableStage.
- Kevin Black for his outstanding direction and choreography for "Swing! Swing! Swing!" at Broward Stage Door Theater.
- Clay Cartland for his outstanding performance in "The Legend Of Georgia McBride" at GableStage.
- Caryl Fantel for her outstanding musical direction of "The Hunchback Of Notre Dame" at Slow Burn Theater.
- Niki Fridh for her outstanding performance in "Grounded" at Thinking Cap Theater.
- Elena Maria Garcia for her outstanding performance in "Fuacata! (Or a Latina’s Guide to Surviving the Universe)" at Zoetic Stage.
- Kat Gold, an outstanding new talent, for her performance in "Nine" At Broward Stage Door Theater.
- Rita Joe for her outstanding performances in "Terror" at Miami New Drama, and "Brothers Of The Dust" at M Ensemble.
- Carolyn Johnson for her outstanding performance in "‘Flyin’ West" at M Ensemble.
- Peter Lovello for his outstanding costumes for "Perfect Arrangement" at Island City Stage.
- Michael McClain for his outstanding set designs for "Perfect Arrangement" at Island City Stage, and for "Sunday In The Park With George" and "After" at Zoetic Stage.
- Michael McKeever for his outstanding new plays "After" at Zoetic Stage and "Finding Mona Lisa" at Actors’ Playhouse.
- Stuart Meltzer for his outstanding new play "The Goldberg Variations" at Island City Stage, and for his direction of "After," "The Caretaker" and "Sunday In The Park With George" At Zoetic Stage.
- Mallory Newbrough, an outstanding new talent, for her performances in "Beauty & The Beast" and "Beehive" at The Wick Theater, and "Company" at MNM Productions.
- New City Players, an outstanding new theater company in South Florida, awarded to Artistic Director/actor Timothy Mark Davis.
- Cindy Pearce, an outstanding new talent, for her performance in "It Shoulda Been You" at Actors’ Playhouse.
- Leah Sessa for her outstanding performance in "Company" at MNM Productions.
- Michael H. Small for his outstanding performance in "The Sunshine Boys" at Broward Stage Door Theater.
- Kimberly Dawn Smith for her outstanding direction and choreography for "Spamalot" at MNM Productions.
- Karen Stephens for her outstanding performance in "Motherland" at Theater Lab.
- Nicole Stodard for her outstanding direction of "Mud" and "Collected Rage" at Thinking Cap Theater, and – as Artistic Director – for the outstanding "GAP: Gender and the Pulitzer Prize" play reading series.
- Shane Tanner for his outstanding performance in "Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street" at Palm Beach Dramaworks.
- Ellis Tillman for his outstanding costumes for "The Legend Of Georgia Mcbride" at GableStage, and for "It Shoulda Been You" and "Finding Mona Lisa" at Actors’ Playhouse.
- Tom Wahl for his outstanding performances in "After" at Zoetic Stage, and ‘The Legend Of Georgia McBride" at GableStage.
- Conor Walton for his outstanding performances in "The Normal Heart" at Outre Theater, and "It Shoulda Been You" at Actors’ Playhouse.
The awards are determined by a vote of members of the South Florida theater press corps, who Finstrom drafts each year into submitting nominations. The votes are then tallied, from which a final list of recipients is determined.Christine Dolen (artburstmiami.com, Miami Herald, Sun-Sentinel), Hap Erstein (Palm Beach Post, and Palm Beach ArtsPaper.com), Bill Hirschman (FloridaTheaterOnStage.com, and FloridaWeekly.com), John Thomason (Boca Raton Magazine, and FloridaTheaterOnStage.com), J.W. Arnold (South Florida Gay News), Roger Martin (miamiartzine.com, and BroadwayWorld.com), Michelle F. Solomon.(miamiartzine.com, and FloridaTheaterOnStage.com), John Lariviere (TalkinBroadway.com, and ArtsAmerica.org ), Jeffrey Bruce (TalkinBroadway.com), Aaron Krause (Berkshire Fine Arts, and TheaterCriticism.com) and Mary Damiano (freelance theater journalist/critic).
The event is open to the public. Tickets are $15 with an advance reservation, $20 cash-only admission charge at the door. For further information and/or reservations, visit: www.silverpalmawards.com.