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Theater in WNY / The winners’ circle



The 2018 Arties featured a classic “step and repeat” red carpet, and many attendees—not just nominees—dressed for the occasion.

Photos by Eileen Elibol / WNED|WBFO

 

June 4 marked the twenty-seventh annual Artie Awards, a star-studded event that not only celebrates the talents of our vibrant theater community but is also open to anyone who wants to hobnob with their favorite local performers. Now in its third year at Shea’s 710, the event enjoyed record-breaking attendance. (Before long, it will be standing room only!) The winners comprise a sampler of Buffalo’s finest theatrical talent; here’s a snapshot of where they are and where they’re headed.

 

Cohosts Anthony Chase, Charmagne Chi and Amy Jackiel

 

STEVE COPPS

Outstanding Leading Actor in a Musical for Peter and the Starcatcher

Artie history: nominations: 6; wins: 3

 

What are you thinking when they call your name?

How did I win over Brian Mysliwy and Norm Sham (Bloom and Bialystock in The Producers)? Or Anthony Alcocer who went the full monty?!

Did you have a speech written? Have you ever before and not used it?

I have never prepared a speech; however, there’s always a story. In 2014, I asked my wife Kelly if I could announce that we were expecting our first child if I won. She said, “Sure, OK.” To her chagrin, I won and told everyone! In 2018, I decided on the way to the stage that I’d “channel” Black Stache and roast the other fine actors in the category.

Were you surprised to win for this role? Was there a former role you thought was more likely?

Extremely, but the role itself is written well, so it’s no surprise that the character was memorable. I had no clue that I’d win for Floyd Collins, but for Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, I thought it could happen due to the fact that Jackson never leaves the stage, so the committee probably felt sorry for me. Seriously though, the arc of Jackson’s story is pretty fascinating.

Where will we see you next season?

November at Shea’s 710 Theatre as Porthos in The Three Musketeers, January as Lancelot et al in Spamalot at the Kavinoky Theatre, and March at Shea’s Smith Theatre portraying Joe Pitt in Second Generation Theatre Company’s production of Angels in America: Millennium Approaches.

 

JOHN PROFETA

Outstanding Leading Actor in a Play for How I Learned to Drive

Artie history: nominations: 2; wins: 1

 

What are you thinking when they call your name?

I lost track, so I was like, “Oh shit, this is my category!” I clapped for all the nominees and made sure to not clap for my own name, because you know, weird. When Loraine [announced me as the winner], my first words were to my ex-wife and they were, “Oh, fuck.” Kind of surreal.

Did you have a speech written? Have you ever before and not used it?

No, but I had a mental list of people to thank, and a few words on what the work meant to me. Of course, I forgot to thank my family.

Were you surprised to win for this role?

I wasn’t surprised, but I wasn’t expecting to. Because of the complexity of the role, the beautiful writing, the relevant and timely themes, I felt I had a chance.

Was there another in the past you thought was more likely?

No, Joe Hill was my first nomination, and I was honored to be nominated at all.

Where will we see you next season?

Captain Beatty in Fahrenheit 451 for Curtain Up! at Subversive. In March, I’ll be playing Boo Radley in To Kill a Mockingbird at the Kavinoky. Then in late April/May, a two-hander called Annapurna with Lisa Ludwig at the New Phoenix Theatre.

 

RENEE LANDRIGAN

Outstanding Leading Actress in a Musical for Once

Artie history: nominations: 2; wins: 1

What are you thinking when they call your name?

Keep walking down the stairs and try not to trip.

Did you have a speech written? Have you ever before and not used it?

I never have. I imagine even if I did, I wouldn’t be able to read it. At the same time, I forgot to say “thank you” to so many people, including Randy Kramer who cast me, Chris Kelly who has been one of my biggest supporters and friend, my family, and, you know...God.

Were you surprised to win for this role? Was there another in the past you thought was more likely?

I was surprised to win, especially with ladies like Debbie Pappas Sham and Michele Marie Roberts in the same category! I don’t think the Artie Awards are something you can predict nor should you try to. Just to get recognized in this talented community is incredible.

Where will we see you next season?

At Shea’s 710 in The Three Musketeers, then at Irish Classical Theatre in Sense and Sensibility and Frost/Nixon.

 

VERNEICE TURNER

Outstanding Leading Actress in a Play for Skeleton Crew

Artie history: nominations: 3; wins: 2

 

What are you thinking when they call your name?

How blessed I am to be nominated among some of the nation’s best artists.

Did you have a speech written? Have you ever before and not used it?

No, I believe in speaking from the heart, with the head fully aware of the event and its purpose.

Were you surprised to win for this role? Was there another in the past you thought was more likely?

I was prepared to celebrate whoever won. We all work hard to give our audiences outstanding performances.

Where will we see you next season?

As always, I trust the divine to direct me to the next adventure in my performance art life.

 

JEFFREY COYLE

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Musical for The Full Monty

Artie history: nominations: 9; wins: 4 (all but this year were for direction)

 

What are you thinking when they call your name?

This year was extra special because, literally two minutes before my category, my wife found out she had been cast in an exciting role. My winning was like round two!

Did you have a speech written? Have you ever before and not used it?

I don’t write a speech beforehand, but I do think of what I would like to say and who I’d like to thank, and if I’m lucky enough to win, I let my heart take over.

Were you surprised to win for this role? Was there another in the past you thought was more likely?

It always surprises me when I win, but this role did mirror a lot of me—weight issues, body anxiety, married with no children, outgoing and gregarious—that I could use to build the character. As for “more likely,” sometimes you work incredibly hard and feel you have done good, powerful work, and your role is completely overlooked. Conversely, some roles are comfortable from the start and get all the attention.

Where will we see you next season?

Golden Boy with Irish Classical Theatre Company in the fall, and in spring, the revival of Million Dollar Quartet at Shea’s 710. In April/May I am making my debut with Road Less Traveled Productions in The Undeniable Sound of Right Now.

 

DAVID LUNDY

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Play for Sight Unseen

Artie history: nominations: 3; wins: 1

What are you thinking when they call your name?

Get to the stage before they change their minds!

Did you have a speech written? Have you ever before and not used it?

I had seen all but one of the other nominees’ performances and knew there was a good chance this wouldn’t be my year. But, you need to be prepared; [nobody] can be blamed for hoping they will win.

Were you surprised to win for this role? Was there another in the past you thought was more likely?

The other nominees were terrific and I felt especially that Adam Yellen could win for The Night Alive, or Mark Donahue for That Championship Season. One [previous] part I had hoped to be nominated for was Andrew Aguecheek in Twelfth Night, for Shakespeare in Delaware Park in 2015, but there is so much good work being done, it’s better to hope than to expect.

Where will we see you next season?

At Irish Classical Theatre until the end of March! I will be in Golden Boy, my first Curtain Up! show, then Sive, Sense and Sensibility, and Frost/Nixon.

 

PAMELA ROSE MANGUS

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Musical for The Full Monty

Artie history: nominations: 12; wins: 4

What are you thinking when they call your name?

Sometimes ,“How the hell did I pull that off?!” Other times, “Thank you, God! I worked so hard on this role.”

Did you have a speech written? Have you ever before and not used it?

[For earlier nominations], I did but I never had the opportunity to use it. Over the years, I stopped writing them down. I mentally start working on what I want to say if I win and I keep repeating to myself, “Don’t forget your husband!”  I forgot to thank him when I won for Suburb and still feel bad, because his love and support makes my life in the theater possible.

Were you surprised to win for this role? Was there another in the past you thought was more likely?

I was, indeed, surprised, because the other nominees in the category are so talented, [I’d] won before, and this was a perfect role for me, so I thought that might count against me.

Where will we see you next season?

Christmas Over the Tavern at MusicalFare, The Kathy & Mo Show at Smith Theater, To Kill a Mockingbird at Kavinoky, and O’Connell & Company’s all-female version of the musical 1776.

 

CHRISTINA FOSTER

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Play for Skeleton Crew

Artie history: nominations: 2; wins: 1

What are you thinking when they call your name?

It was like fireworks burst through my entire body! For a moment, I couldn’t get out of my seat and my fiancé had to snap me back into reality.

Did you have a speech written? Have you ever before and not used it?

I wrote a speech for Jitney, but even as I was writing, I didn’t feel as if I was going to win. [This time], I wrote down a couple points I thought needed to be mentioned, but spoke the truth of what I felt and what needed to be said to encourage the next generation and those who may feel that age or other variables have crippled them from pursuing their dreams!

Were you surprised to win for this role? Was there another in the past you thought was more likely?

I was more shocked than surprised. I felt peace, and that’s typically a good sign.

Where will we see you next season?

King Hedley II at Paul Robeson.

 

TODD BENZIN

Outstanding Character Performance for The Producers

Artie history: nominations: 3; wins: 1

 

What are you thinking when they call your name?

I was excited, but primarily concerned with not falling down the stairs or tripping onto the stage.

Did you have a speech written? Have you ever before and not used it?

I didn’t, but had been thinking about things I wanted to say. A couple of quips to keep things light, a few general groups I wanted to thank. You never know if it’s going to be the last time you’re up there.

Were you surprised to win for this role? Was there another in the past you thought was more likely?

I was surprised to even be nominated in the new Character Performance category; there were so many great character performances just in The Producers alone. I was proud of the previous [nominated] roles: Sisters of Swing for the sheer number of characters I had to play, and Spelling Bee for the fact that I was writing new jokes on the fly every night.

Where will we see you next season?

Miss Bennett: Christmas at Pemberley at Shea’s 710.

 

DONNA HOKE

Emanuel Fried Award for Outstanding New Play for Sons & Lovers

Artie history: nominations: 4; wins, 2

What are you thinking when they call your name?

I shouldn’t have sat this far up.

Did you have a speech written?

I’ve never written a speech, but I do a little practice in the car of what I might say. If I won, I was determined not to forget anyone this time.

Were you surprised to win for this role? Was there another in the past you thought was more likely?

The odds were better than average simply because it was a slow year for new work and this show was so well-received. The years I lost, my plays were up against some stiff competition, so even though I was proud of them, I didn’t expect a win.

Where will we see you next season?

There are things outside of Buffalo, but locally, I just closed Once in My Lifetime: a Buffalo Football Fantasy at Smith Theatre, and West Seneca East High School will world premiere Meet Me At The Gates, Marcus James in November.

 

KYLE LOCONTI

Outstanding Direction of a Musical for Stellaluna

Artie history: nominations: 2; wins, 2

 

What are you thinking when they call your name?

Not sure I was thinking anything, just amazement!​    

Did you have a speech written? Have you ever before and not used it?

Not an actual speech, but I had written the list of people I would need to thank.

Were you surprised to win for this show? Was there another in the past you thought was more likely?

​I have directed two plays in Buffalo that were not typical musicals but landed in the category. I was nominated for and awarded both. The big surprise is that I don’t consider myself a musical theater person!

Where will we see your work next season?

Directing To Kill a Mockingbird at Kavinoky, then back to TOY in the spring to direct Dragons Love Tacos.

 

CARLOS R. A. JONES

Outstanding Choreography for Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope

Artie history: nominations: 5; wins, 1

What are you thinking when they call your name?

One, remember to acknowledge the wonderful people who selflessly gave of their time, talent, and support, and two, speak clearly and poignantly and succinctly and leave the stage with grace.

Did you have a speech written? Have you ever before and not used it?

I did roll through a list of individuals to thank so as not to forget anyone, but I did not draft a full speech, then or previously.

Were you surprised to win for this role? Was there another in the past you thought was more likely?

I never complete work thinking, “this is award-worthy.” I achieve success by creating to the demands of the text, music, direction, and performers. Any accolades beyond that are icing.

Where will we see you next season?

I am directing and choreographing the musical Purlie at the Paul Robeson Theater.  The fall brings travel to Rhode Island, Sacramento, and San Francisco where I will be composing several works in the concert dance world.

 

LYNNE KOSCIELNIAK

Outstanding Set Design for Disgraced

Artie history: nominations: 2; wins, 1

 

What are you thinking when they read the nominations? When they call your name?

I was not able to attend the awards ceremony; texts from good friends and former students came in when I won. I was emotional and felt a wave of nostalgia. I’m a native Buffalonian who left the area and came back in 2002, and it was pretty cool to be acknowledged in the place where it all began.

Did you have a speech written? Did you ever before and not use it?

RLTP’s artistic director Scott Behrend was kind enough to accept on my behalf.  Following my win, I posted my “speech” on Facebook.

Were you surprised to win for this role?

I was proud of how this project came together, so I thought I had a chance.

Where will we see your work next season?

MusicalFare: Pump Boys and Dinettes and Late in the Evening: The World According to Paul Simon; Road Less Traveled Productions: The Illusion and Almost, Maine; Shea’s Performing Arts Center: The Nutcracker (set design and Act 2 lighting); Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens: contributing lighting designer for Lumagination.

 

ADAM KREUTINGER

Outstanding Technical Achievement for Puppet Design in Stellaluna

 

How did you feel about the creation of the Outstanding Technical Achievement category?

It’s becoming common for plays and musicals to use skills from other disciplines, so it’s nice to have a category where this type of work can be recognized. It may also encourage production companies to take more creative chances.

What are you thinking when they call your name?

Grateful. It always feels good to be recognized for your work.

Did you have a speech written?

I did jot down some notes, mostly to get my ideas out. It was comforting to know it was there in case I blanked out, but I ended up not using it.

Were you surprised to win for this show?

The other nominees are friends. Knowing their work and talent, it easily could have been anyone’s win. I think what gave me the edge was the support of the [creative] team at Theatre of Youth. A puppet by itself will just sit there.

Where will we see your work next season?

Niagara University’s production of Little Shop of Horrors (puppet designing Audrey II).

 

KARI DROZD

Outstanding Costume Design for Peter and the Starcatcher

Artie history: nominations: 6; wins: 1

 

What are you thinking when they call your name?

It’s not so much, “Will I win?”; it’s more, “Oh, gosh, what if I win?!” It’s exhilarating to be recognized, but there is panic when it comes to public speakingand 710 holds a lot of people! I was focused on getting to the stage and trying to stay present, but I have no recollection of what I said.

Did you have a speech written? Have you ever before and not used it?

For my first few nominations, I would compile a list of who I should acknowledge. This year, and for other recent nominations, I decided to not overthink it.

Were you surprised to win for this show? Was there another in the past you thought was more likely?

Absolutely! As far as other shows, I put 100 percent into every show I design, but some require a real, grounded design and others require spectacle. How does one compare?

Where will we see your work next season?

For 2018-19, I have a full season designing costumes for MusicalFare [including the 710 shows]. I will also be designing costumes for Frost/Nixon at Irish Classical as well as Talley’s Folly and Looking Through Glass at Jewish Repertory Theatre.    

 

Not interviewed for this story:

Brian Cavanagh

Outstanding Direction of a Play for The Night Alive

Artie history: nominations: 39; wins, 8 (only two nominations and one win are for directing; the rest are for lighting)

 

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