HughE Dillon: Barrymore Awards

Local theater celebration draws Terrence McNally, Anna Deavere Smith, Jay McCarroll and more to the Walnut

Last night at the Walnut Street Theatre, the 17th Annual Barrymore Awards were held to honor the region’s professional theater community.

Below: Miss America 1998, Broadway actress Kate Shindle did the honors on the Equity Red Carpet, interviewing many of the actors and distinguished guests who attended the Barrymores.

Below: Tony Award-winning playwright Terrence McNally won the distinguished artist Barrymore last night. Fifteen years ago he won many Barrymores at the first-ever ceremony, for his play Master Class, which premiered at Philadelphia Theatre Company. Producing artistic director Sara Garonzik presented the award to him; standing next to him here is Margie Salvante, executive director of the Theatre Alliance of Greater Philadelphia.

Below: Otis, La-Toya and Grace Hackney. Otis, who is the principal of South Philadelphia High School, was honored for “Excellence in Theatre Education and Community Service.” After racial strife in his high school, Mr. Hackney reached out to the theater community and connected his students to learn about the theater process. An original piece of theater was written from the collaboration called “We Write South Philly High.”

Below: Generous supporters of the theater, June and Steve Wolfson attended last night’s ceremony, with more than 500 other guests in their finest attire; many wore ballroom gowns and tuxedos.

Below: Project Runway winner Jay McCarroll, Jen Rose (nominated for choreography) and Colleen Gravy. Jay and Colleen presented for costume design. Jay tells me that his fabric line is doing well, and he has a few more projects that he’s working on and will announce shortly.

Below: Mayor Nutter presented Anna Deavere Smith with the best leading actress award in a play for her one-woman show Let Me Down Easy, a look at the nation’s healthcare system through the words of people, both notable and obscure, she had interviewed. It played at the Philadelphia Theatre Company earlier this year. Anna currently can be seen in Showtime’s dark comedy, Nurse Jackie.

Below: Harry Dietzler, executive and artistic director at Upper Darby Performing Arts Center, was the Lifetime Achievement Award winner. He was nominated for the award by his former student Tina Fey. He said being nominated by her alone was an honor.

Below: Looking relaxed for a bit now that the workers’ strike has been delayed long enough for the Philadelphia Opera Company’s performances of Carmen to go off without a hitch, Kimmel Center President and CEO Anne Ewers and Ed Cambron, executive director of Kimmel Center Festival, enjoyed the after-party at the Ben Franklin Ballroom after the show.

Below: At the after-party, I ran into a few winners with their trophies, including Aaron Cromie, who won for choreography of The Lieutenant of Inishmore.

Below: Christopher Colucci won sound design for the Wilma’s In The Next Room, or the Vibrator Play, which won many of the awards last night.

Below: Tom Weaver won for outstanding lighting, also for In The Next Room, or the Vibrator Play. I think Terrence McNally said it best, that the Philadelphia community is enthusiastic, and open to new and exciting plays that tell stories people want to know. That is one of the reasons he likes to try out his plays here, rather than anywhere else. The season is well underway; I urge you to check out the Theatre Alliance website for a show you might want to see.

HughE Dillon covers parties, events and more for the Philly Post. You can follow him on Twitter @iPhillyChitChat and visit his daily online social diary at