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'They were among the best-received by the audience' : Costa Mesa Troupe Takes 3rd Prize in National Drama Contest

June 26, 1989|JAN HERMAN | Times Staff Writer

The Costa Mesa Civic Playhouse won third prize Saturday at a national competition for community theaters in Omaha, Neb., earning the right to represent the United States at an international drama festival in Spain.

First prize went to the Spokane Civic Theatre from Spokane, Wash., and second prize to the Encore Theatre from Washington, D.C. The top award carries an invitation to a drama festival in Monaco; the second to one in Japan.

Nine theater troupes from around the country performed Thursday and Friday at the 600-seat Mainstage of the Omaha Community Playhouse. The biannual national competition is sponsored by the American Assn. of Community Theaters, which represents about 250 amateur troupes in 50 states.

The Costa Mesa troupe qualified for the finals in Omaha when it won a regional competition in March with scenes from William Gibson's "Monday After the Miracle." It performed the same scenes in the finals, but in a restaged version. The cast included Deeanna Pampena, Susan Adams and Marc Whitmore.

"Monday After the Miracle" was offered as part of the playhouse's 25th season in November. It is a sequel to Gibson's "The Miracle Worker," the better known of his two plays about Helen Keller, who was born blind and deaf, and her devoted teacher, Annie Sullivan.

"We're very proud of what they've done with this show," Pati Tambellini, a playhouse founder, said Saturday after hearing that some members of the troupe "were devastated" not to have won the top prize. "This is their first competition, and it is fabulous," she added.

The first-place winner performed excerpts from Marsha Norman's "Getting Out." The second-place troupe staged sequences from Samm-Art Williams' "Home."

A panel of three judges chose the winners.

"Costa Mesa had the most reality-based performances, and they were among the best-received by the audience," said Curt Ratliff of the Omaha Playhouse. "The company that did 'Home' was very experimental, a powerful group. But I'd say Spokane's 'Getting Out' was the hands-down favorite."

In addition to the prize, the Costa Mesa troupe also won three technical awards--for director Howard Shangraw's set and lighting designs and for Loretta Lupo's costumes.

The group's invitation is to the International Amateur Theater Festival of the Mediterranean in Barcelona, Spain, which will be in September. If the invitation is accepted--and Tambellini said she believes it will be--financing must be found for the trip.

In 1987, the Laguna Playhouse of Laguna Beach won the national competition with "Quilters." It went on to represent the United States at the 23rd annual International Community Theater Festival in Dundalk, Ireland, in June, 1988. It placed second in that competition.

This year's national winner will go in late August to the International Amateur Theater Assn. Festival in Monaco, a non-competitive showcase held every four years. The runner-up will attend the biannual Toyama Festival, a competitive event held north of Tokyo in Toyama, Japan, also this summer.

The fourth-place winner was the Music Society for the Midland Center for the Arts, a troupe from Midland, Mich., which did excerpts from Dan Goggin's "Nunsense." It gained a berth at the Canada National Showcase of Community Theaters to be held later this year in Victoria, British Columbia.

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