Photo by kc kratt
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Kelly Meg Brennan, winner of Best Actress
Best Friend Of The Arts
With one big gift, a project that seemed little more than a pipe dream—a massive Albright-Knox Art Gallery expansion—became a surety. The man responsible for that gift is Jeffrey Gundlach, a WNY native now based in Los Angeles. Gundlach provided $42.5 million, a little more than half of the cash needed for the gallery’s expansion plans. Thanks largely to his initiative, WNY’s most important cultural institution gets a physical capacity worthy of its collection.
David Lamb, The Father
Though it has a cast of six, The Father—a play that seeks to show the audience the mind of a man descending into dementia—is a showcase vehicle for its lead. The role not only demands command of a gamut of emotions, but also that the actor retain autonomous detachment from the rest of the cast. Frank Langella won the Tony for the Broadway production, and Kavinoky artistic director David Lamb—in a long-awaited return to the stage—gets our top award for his alternately disturbing, funny, touching, and all too real portrayal of a man losing contact with reality.
Kelly Meg Brennan, The Unfortunates
Inside the Ten Bells pub, prostitute Mary Jane Kelly tries to sell a Jack the Ripper artifact hours before she leaves for the night and becomes the serial killer’s final victim. It’s no easy task to inhabit the myriad denizens of Ten Bells, but Kelly Meg Brennan is up to it, switching between men, women, colleagues, customers, and her own no-good man with expert ease, and also weaving her own tale of woe into the mix; the stories are all the more poignant because the audience knows what poor Mary Jane does not. Never losing focus or steam, Brennan breathes humanity into the lives of the “unfortunates,” her working girl colleagues whose lives were so brutally snuffed out.
Best Character Performance
Joseph Donohue III, Million Dollar Quartet
One could argue that Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis were all larger than life personas, but if you take what happened onstage at MusicalFare this past spring as canon, Joseph Donohue III’s performance puts Jerry Lee at the top of the heap. A former member of the Albrights, Donohue’s hyperkinetic energy, frenzied piano playing, and youthful exuberance meant you just couldn’t keep your eyes off him or his over-the-top hair. His performance was all the buzz at intermission and after the show, and, in June, he picked up an Artie Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Musical. We completely concur.
Best Movie Theater
The Screening Room Cinema Café
Boulevard Mall, 880 Alberta Dr., Amherst; 837-0376 or thescreeningroom.net
While area film-lovers have long been well-served by the Dipson chain of theaters, The Screening Room Cinema Café offers yet another welcome alternative for cinema buffs beyond the standard megaplex fare, showing cult classics, foreign films, and first-run independent movies in a relaxed environment (with a selection of reasonably priced beer and wine available at the Lobby Bar) tucked into the Boulevard Mall building. Recent showings of Saving Banksy and Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary gave viewers the chance to see much-discussed releases while they were still on their initial run. A hidden gem, it’s worth arriving a bit early to secure one of the prime lounge chairs and settle in before the show starts.
3500 Main St., Buffalo; 834-7655 or amherst.dipsontheatres.com
Sure, it was upgraded last fall with reclining seats, but unlike many other houses, Dipson is not just a comfortable place to watch mainstream Hollywood fodder. Dipson routinely programs indie and other prestige films and is also home to such acclaimed series as Buffalo Film Seminars and Thursday Night Terrors.
The Buffalo kid who liked to draw is now a Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist. His daily cartoons in the Buffalo News both enhance and counterbalance the paper’s in-house editorials and op-eds. Zyglis’s lively, provocative drawings represent his (changing) views, start conversations, and lend depth to Buffalo’s political discourse.
Best Reporter (Broadcast)
When John Murphy, play-by-play radio voice of the Buffalo Bills and host of the John Murphy Show on WGR-AM, took over as the voice of the Buffalo Bills in 2004 after the retirement of the legendary Van Miller, he had shoes to fill as big as Buffalo Bob Lanier’s (size 22) basketball sneakers. But Murphy has proven beyond a doubt that he is up to the task. His knowledge, aversion to meaningless statistics, congenial radio presence (refreshing in an era of ego-driven media personalities), and ability to infuse his work with a grounded positivity during The Drought have made him the quintessential home team broadcaster—a reliable friend to hardcore and casual fans alike through the ups (hold on…they’re coming…someday) and downs of following the Bills.
Best Reporter (Print)
Local reporting needs an occasional sharp edge; that edge is getting harder to find in WNY’s traditional media. That’s where Investigative Post steps in. The team, led by former Buffalo News reporter Jim Heaney, produces its intensively researched stories on vital topics for various local outlets, including The Public, Buffalo’s weekly alternative paper. It is the only news organization in the area devoted to watchdog journalism.
With over twenty-five years of curating experience, Elisabeth Samuels has been the owner/director of Indigo Art since 2008. Two years ago, she moved the gallery to a spacious, smartly designed space at 74 Allen Street. Since then, she’s mounted an impressive string of outstanding shows, and her second year was no sophomore slump! Samuels often groups artists that you might not expect to see together. Pairing painter Amy Greenan with sculptor Patrick Robideau, with their shared affinity for ethereal architecture, is one of those forehead-slapping ideas that makes you wonder why no one thought of it before. Intention comprised artists who make art with craft materials, from the widely exhibited Jozef Bajus to seldom seen Lilly Booth. Solo shows by Reinhard Reitzenstein, Peter Sowiski, and John Dickson were also standouts. Sowiski’s monumental, politically charged, handmade paper works, were arguably some of the most powerful “paintings” on view this year.
Kim and Terry Pegula, winner of Best Power Couple
Pegula photo courtesy of Pegula Sports and Entertainment
Best Power Couple
Kim and Terry Pegula
Was there really any other choice? First of all, the two are really a power couple, described by people who know them as, “joined at the hip.” Both are deeply involved in the day-to-day operation of their businesses, which now include ownership of the Buffalo Bills, Buffalo Sabres, Buffalo Bandits Lacrosse team, and the $230 million HarborCenter on the waterfront. Together, they possess a combination of qualities rarely seen in Buffalo since the turn of the twentieth century: entrepreneurship, commitment, and vision, plus, the funds to back those up. Recently, they purchased the former Peerless Manufacturing building at 79 Perry Street (Hi-Temp Fabrications is relocating). Plans for the mixed-use facility include office space for Labatt USA, and a first-of-its-kind US flagship restaurant and test brewery. Buffalonians will help choose new brews before they go to market. With great power comes great responsibility, and the Pegulas have been cleaning house at the Sabers’ and Bills’ front offices this year, evidence of their determination to bring a sports championship to Buffalo.
Best Arts Administrator
As Buffalo Arts Studio’s third executive director, Alma Carillo is revitalizing the organization’s commitment to generosity and diversity. Under Carillo, BAS hosted a panel discussion on artists and audiences of color and the disconnect that often impedes their access to the larger art community. The result is BAS’s current Open Buffalo Emerging Artist Program. Carillo has also presided over an exciting series of events celebrating BAS’s twenty-fifth anniversary and its continuing education, studio, and public art programs.
Best Local Musical Act (Original)
This adorable chamber folk group has been together just a little over three years, but they’ve been writing and gigging up a storm during that time, with dates scheduled in Atlanta, Chattanooga, Nashville, Baltimore, and Pittsburgh (as we went to press). The group’s luminous sound includes beautiful, sweeping strings and clear, sweet vocal harmonies. Catch them when they’re in town and consider downloading their EP, A Kinder History.
Best Blogger (Independent)
This is particularly recommended for newcomers to the area or anyone considering relocating here. The married duo who write this charming series of Buffalo-based adventures explain: We started our social blog as a way to explain and show friends & family outside of downtown Buffalo exactly what the city was going through. In 2012, we were the first tenants at the Hotel Lafayette and have been able to experience the rebirth of Buffalo right outside our door. Five years later, the enthusiasm has not waned.
Read his blog With All Due Respect to get a sense of the dedication and persistence with which this longtime attorney (now retired) and activist has battled what he feels are environmental, land use, and development injustices. Whether you’re in agreement or not, clearly, there are easier ways to get along as an attorney than to take up the series of daunting challenges that have defined Giacalone’s practice for decades.
One of the all-time greats of Buffalo rock turns out to be almost as electrifying online, as he curates and comments on posts from a dizzying range of sources about the entire history of popular music, visual art, politics, and what used to be called the counterculture.
Step Out Buffalo
They’re so excited—about everything. But Step Out Buffalo’s enthusiasm is Buffalo’s gain. This digital publication also instagrams, tweets, and snapchats, but stick with SOB on Facebook for daily and weekly guides to every possible event and destination, including many of its own quick-to-sell-out happenings.
Best Activist Group
Partnership for Public Group
Through working with other progressive organizations, PPG acts as a sane and sensible hub for initiatives aimed at making Buffalo more “just, sustainable, and culturally vibrant.” PPG’s proposals and policy stands are founded in research and facts and fueled by compassion and inclusion.
Best Player, Sabres (2016-2017)
Looking back, it’s hard not to believe that the 2016-2017 Buffalo Sabres season was over before it started, doomed symbolically if not outright by Jack Eichel’s pre-season ankle injury. By the time he returned to action two months later, the Sabres were on course for another disappointing season. While proving not immune to controversy (he evidently hates losing as much as the fans do), Eichel performed up to all expectations as an elite NHL talent—and one with considerable room to grow. One can only hope that the new Sabres coach and GM develop a winning environment that will encourage Eichel to mature as a player and stay in Buffalo for long into his career.
Jack Eichel, winner of Best Player, Sabres (2016-2017)
Eichel photo courtesy of Buffalo Sabres/Bill Wippert
Best Player, Buffalo Bills (2016-2017)
Signed as a free-agent versatile role player at an age when most players are already out of the league, Lorenzo Alexander was one of the great stories of the 2016-2017 NFL season. Working his way up the depth chart, Alexander was in the starting line-up by the season opener and went on to have an All-Pro season at outside linebacker, finishing third in the NFL with 12.5 sacks. A prominent role model in the community, his experience and leadership will most certainly be an asset on a defense featuring many new faces. And a new two-year contract with the Bills is an encouraging sign that he won’t be wearing a Patriot uniform any time soon, if ever.
Best Sports Good News
Everyone Gets Fired
One of the biggest fallacies in the professional world is that success in one area automatically translates into other endeavors. It’s fair to say that perhaps both Terry and Kim Pegula and Buffalo sports fans didn’t adequately consider that there might be a learning curve for owning a major league sports franchise (let alone two of them). But enough time has passed and the swift and decisive housecleanings of management and coaches at One Bills Drive and the KeyBank Center suggest that the Pegulas—after having been around the block and burned a few times—have found their footing. While the true tests of new management will be determined on the scoreboards, it’s encouraging that the swept-out regimes that obviously weren’t working weren’t rewarded with undue patience.
Funniest Local News
The Sub-eating Guy
Apparently, even the most mundane actions can have major consequences. Lancaster resident John Pawlowski had been parking under a certain tree on Zimmerman Street in Tonawanda for months so he could relax and eat his favorite lunch, a ham and turkey sub. Pawlowski works in Tonawanda, so this was a convenient spot to get a short distance away from the office. However, some residents of the block became suspicious, followed the insurance worker back to his office, and asked that he not return to the neighborhood. Five Buffalo News stories, an Esquire interview, a Food & Wine article, and a Buzzfeed item later, Pawlowski became the most famous sub eater in America and what many have called the greatest local news story ever.
Best Local Scandal (2016)
Carl Paladino in Artvoice
This past December, Artvoice posed a roundup question about hopes for the new year to a variety of local well-known names. While most answered in the optimistic spirit of the query, developer, school board member, and former gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino used the opportunity to disparage President Barack Obama and wife Michelle. The remarks quickly went viral, and were even reported internationally; locally, Buffalonians called for Paladino’s dismissal from the school board—a cry that’s been ongoing in the months since. No amount of excuse making—Paladino claimed the remarks were meant to be humorous—seemed to quell the outrage, and the brunt of it came down on Artvoice, which was already suffering backlash for its recent change in editorial direction.
Best Local Politician
Any politician can stand on a dais and take credit, but that’s not Sean Ryan’s style. Ryan stands up and takes stands for his constituents, taking principled positions and acting on them. When you see a story about someone in Albany doing the right thing, it is usually Sean Ryan. Universal kindergarten, adaptive re-use of older buildings, refugee resettlement funding, education reform, environmental reform. Have you ridden the Bike Ferry yet? Ryan. Support for craft breweries, wineries, cideries, and distilleries? How Buffalo is that? Scajaquada Corridor Redesign? He’s making it happen. An Albany dateline usually means a news story about corruption or incompetence, with one shining exception. What a pity we can’t elect Ryan to everything.
Best Friend Of The Arts Jeffrey Gundlach
Best Actor David Lamb, The Father
Best Actress Kelly Meg Brennan, The Unfortunates
Best Character Performance Joseph Donohue III, Million Dollar Quartet
Best Columnist Adam Zyglis
Best Reporter (Broadcast) John Murphy
Best Reporter (Print) Investigative Post
Best Curator Elisabeth Samuels
Best Power Couple Kim and Terry Pegula
Best Arts Administrator Alma Carillo
Best Local Musical Act (Original) Tiny Rhymes Facebook/Tiny Rhymes
Best Blogger (Independent) Buffalovebirds
Best Gadfly Art Giacalone
Best Tweeter Terry Sullivan (@lastnametaco)
Best Facebooker Step Out Buffalo
Best Activist Group Partnership for Public Group
Best Player, Sabres (2016-2017) Jack Eichel
Best Player, Buffalo Bills (2016-2017) Lorenzo Alexander
Best Sports Good News Everyone Gets Fired
Funniest Local News The Sub-eating Guy
Best Local Scandal (2016) Carl Paladino in Artvoice
Best Local Politician Sean Ryan
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