Friday, August 5, 2016

The 2016 ariZoni Nominees react to being nominated

 by Gil Benbrook

PHX Stages reached out to dozens of 2016 Zoni nominees, shortly after they learned that they were nominated for the Valley's biggest theatre award, to find out where they were when they heard the news about being nominated and their reaction to what the nomination means to them.

The 2016 ariZoni Awards ceremony is Monday September 19th - Tickets are on sale now. Click here for more information.


Guest Actor nominees Damon J. Bolling and Alaina Beauloye
in Sweeney Todd - Mesa Encore Theatre
Photo by Christina Blackbill / Geeky Chic Photography
Alaina Beauloye
Guest Actor - Mesa Encore Theatre - Sweeney Todd


"I was just finishing rehearsal at Theatre Artists Studio and noticed I had a bunch of texts and Facebook messages. They were from friends congratulating me on my nomination. I was very excited! Who wouldn't be? It's funny because I have been nominated before and I'm thankful to have won twice, and it's always the same feeling for me. It's like this little roller coaster of emotion that happens in a split second because at first I'm so elated about being nominated. But then there is the thought of who I'm up against. And then I look and see the other people and it's like, "Oh no! I'll never win against those amazing actors". But then it's back to elation because I'm so proud to be included in a group with those amazing actors! Then back to "Oh no! Now I gotta get a dress"! I think the whole thing is wonderful and we are very lucky to have the ariZoni awards here. And I'm so grateful to have been recognized."

Adam Bei
Actor in a Supporting Role - Non-Contracted Musical - Nearly Naked Theatre - Next To Normal

"When I heard about my Zoni nomination I was enjoying dinner with my dad. It was a normal night out for us that turned into a celebration on the spot, which was very special for us. This is the first time I've been recognized with an award or nomination for acting, and though I don't strive to earn awards for my work, the recognition validates that I'm doing the right things!"

Payton Bioletto
Actress in a Major Role - Youth Musical - Spotlight Youth Theatre - Spring Awakening

"I was at Spotlight (oddly enough) rehearsing for Pitches and Tones when I heard about the Zoni nominations for Spring Awakening. A friend called out my name and said "Payton you got nominated for a Zoni award for Wendla!" I was so happy! Then later figuring out that our show had received 19 nominations, I became overjoyed! I was nominated before for playing Linda in Wedding Singer also at Spotlight. I am so grateful to be apart of such an amazing show with such incredibly talented kids. Congrats to everyone!"

Danny Blankemeier
Actor in a Supporting Role - Youth Play - Actor's Youth Theatre - The Haunted

"I was at the zoni nomination reading when I heard. I've dreamed about this nomination, specifically for the zoni's, since I first stepped on the stage at Actor's Youth Theatre almost 5 years ago. To be recognized among other actors that I've admired and respected goes beyond words for me. My first reaction is, wow, other people actually like my acting. But on a deeper reflection, being recognized validates my work to me. That I'm not just some guy on a stage; I can actually do something that I love and do it as best I can. But the nomination for this particular role is extra special to me since it was my last youth production before aging out. I can't imagine ending my youth career on a higher note than this nomination. I will always be grateful to Actor's Youth Theatre for everything they've done for me."

Actress in a Major Role nominee Johanna Carlisle and
Actor in a Supporting Role nominee Adam Bei
in Next to Normal - Nearly Naked Theatre
photo: Laura Durant
Johanna Carlisle 
Actress in a Major Role - Non-Contracted Musical - Nearly Naked Theatre - Next To Normal

"I'm in New York City right now and I was walking home from seeing the movie Mary Poppins in Astoria Park when I got a text congratulating me.  I said 'for what?'  And they said 'for your Zoni nom silly.'   I was like 'for the show?'  Then they said 'no for you!!!'  I was in shock.  I then got a few more texts from people and was giddy walking down the street.  I talked to Damon about the other Next to Normal noms.  I was sad the whole cast was not nominated but I understand it is rarely feasible for a whole cast to be nominated.  We can't be great if we do not have great people that work with us. Then, the next day I got a message from Michael Barnard telling me I had also received Zoni noms for Toxic Avenger and Calendar Girls!!!  I was so excited I texted him on the spot and said THANK YOU like 3 times. Although the contracted theatres will not be included in the ceremonies this year, I am super thrilled to be nominated for those as well.  I love doing theatre in Arizona.  No matter where my career takes me, I hope I always brings me back to AZ."


Actress in a Major Role - Youth Musical nominee Lily Castle
in Twilight's Quest -Theater Works Youth Works
photo: Wade Moran
Lily Castle
Actress in a Major Role - Youth Musical - Desert Foothills Youth Theater - Avenue Q School Edition & Theater Works YouthWorks - Twilight's Quest
Actress in a Supporting Role - Youth Musical - Musical Theatre of Anthem -Legally Blonde The Musical JR.

"I was at dinner with my friend who I hadn't seen in a very long time. Needless to say I felt very bad for being on my phone the entire time, but I had to keep refreshing the Zoni Twitter page!! I was absolutely ecstatic to see that I had been nominated 3 times. I had been nominated once before for my role as Mrs. Gloop in Willy Wonka when I was 12, and it was surreal to see my name come up a few years later. It is an incredibly humbling and wonderful feeling to be recognized for your hard work. All of the others nominated are truly remarkable performers and it is very special to see my name next to so many talented others."

Vinny Chavez
Actor in a Major Role - Non-Contracted Musical - Hale Centre Theatre - Me and My Girl

"I was actually at the Zoni nomination reading when I found out I had been nominated. I was very excited. Our show Me & My Girl was getting a lot of other nominations throughout the night, including my incredibly talented co-star Heidi Johnson. My category was next and it was very exciting to hear my name among the other nominees. This was a dream role I never knew I wanted. I got to showcase my singing, acting, dancing, and comedic timing in just one show. It was a very special production and I'm so happy it could get recognized in this way. This will be my second Zoni nomination. I received a nomination last year for playing King Ludwig in Valhalla at Nearly Naked Theatre."

Spencer Claus
Actor in a Supporting Role - Youth Musical & Hair and Makeup Design - Youth Theatre -  Spotlight Youth Theatre - Spring Awakening

"So, this is my first time being nominated for a Zoni, let alone two! I was in rehearsals for Grease at Valley Youth Theatre and just ran backstage to transition scenes and my friend Steven Enriquez was watching the Twitter feed as the nominees were coming out. I had never been nominated for one before and didn't expect to be nominated for one this year, so I just looked at the list to see who of my friends were nominated. Lo and behold, there was my name on the Supporting Actor list and Hair and Makeup list! I was very surprised that I was nominated but I know that it was some of the best work I've done in a show so I felt very vindicated as well - not to toot my own horn. It was even more vindicating to see that Spring Awakening (the show both of my nominations came from) garnered 19 nominations all on it's own. It's the best show I've ever been in and I'm so glad that it was recognized. I was only in one show this last season and I'm pretty damn glad that I chose this one. Much love to the whole cast and all of the nominees."

Richard "Mickey" Courtney
Costume Design - Non-Contracted Theatre - Mesa Encore Theatre - Sweeney Todd

"When I heard that I was nominated for this year’s Zoni award for Costume Designer for Sweeney Todd, I was working on a photo shoot for my next theater project.  My friend Matt and Virginia were reading them off the Zoni Twitter site.  It was so funny they would read out the category and then cheer for the nominees. When they finally told me that I was nominated I was happy and honored to be recognized for my work. This will be my third nomination, both for youth and adult theater.  I am still rather new with being nominated for Zoni Awards. In the past I have done costumes for youth theaters that were not involved with Zoni Awards.  I am reminded to stay grounded and do the work that I love to do for the sheer pleasure without thinking of the earning an award. I truly am honored when my work is just mentioned by the reviewers and they see it as and integral part of the show."

Actress in a Major Role- Youth Musical Katie Czajkowski (center) and
the cast of 42nd Street - Spotlight Youth Theatre
photo: Alayne Vogel, Memory Layne Photography
Katie Czajkowski
Actress in a Major Role - Youth Musical - Spotlight Youth Theatre - 42nd Street

"This is my second Zoni nomination.  The first nomination I received was two years ago for my portrayal of Nurse Joy in The Yellow Boat.  This year I was able to attend the reading of the Zoni Nominations in person and heard the great news live that I had been nominated for Peggy Sawyer in 42nd Street.  This has to be one of my favorite shows and roles that I ever had the honor of portraying.  When I heard my name announced, I felt so happy that my performance had an impact on the audience.  My goal as an actor is not to win awards, but to touch the audience in some way and to be able to tell a story.  I was so proud of this show and receiving this nomination added to my joy.  I could not have gotten this nomination without my brilliant cast.  Their support and crazy talent pushed me to be the best Peggy Sawyer I could be."

Jeff A. Davis
Lighting Design - Non-Contracted Theatre - Hale Centre Theatre - Anything Goes & The Diary of Anne Frank & Theater Works Man of La Mancha
Lighting Design - Youth Theatre - Theater Works YouthWorks - Twilight's Quest

"I was at the nomination reading in Phoenix when I heard about my nominations. I was thrilled and relieved at the same time. Thrilled because Theaterworks was a new client this season, and to be acknowledged for my first show with them is great. Relieved because; while there were shows I personally felt had a more "impressive" design overall, I am reminded that there were other designs that provided more impact. When you do as many shows as I do in a season, it's really anyone's guess as to which might end up in nominations. In the past, I have been both nominated and awarded in the Lighting Design category as well as the sound design category. The interesting thing about judging the technical categories is that our art is to NOT be "noticed." What we must do in our designs is create a false realism that does not pull the audience out of the story these actors are setting. If anyone thinks back to when they noticed tech the most, it was when it failed. That's just how it is; you don't notice an actors mic until it goes out, or that cool beam of light, until it's not there.

It is always exciting to see what work of mine the judges liked, and of everyone else in the valley, especially shows that I may not have been able to see. However, most important for me with the AriZoni's is to bring the community together through this recognition and to celebrate the art, not pit us against each other in some battle to win. I was very happy to see the many theatre's present at the reading, and everyone seemed to be in wonderful spirits, it was a good time. Congrats to the AriZoni board for a wonderful start on the road to the Celebration!"

Trey DeGroodt
Actor in a Major Role - Youth Musical - Desert Foothills Youth Theater - Avenue Q School Edition
Actor in a Supporting Role - Youth Musical - Spotlight Youth Theatre - Bring It On
Hair and Makeup Design - Youth Theatre - Spotlight Youth Theatre - 42nd Street

"I was at Les Miserables rehearsal. My dad texted me congratulating me. I hadn't heard about what I was nominated for just that I was. Then at a break at rehearsal we all went to the Twitter and looked at the post. The most amazing part was seeing all of my cast mates light up when they saw they were also nominated, and how supportive and happy and congratulatory the whole cast was to everyone. Being recognized for your hard work is incredible. It's a great feeling to now that doing what we love is bringing joy to people!! I took a lot of challenges this year as a puppeteer in Avenue Q and playing a MTF transgender woman in Bring It On. I wanted to bring life to these fun interesting characters in a believable way! So to know I did brings me immense joy. I also loved knowing my work in design for 42nd Street got recognized. I put lots of work into that period piece, and had many many wigs and hairpieces all made and designed just for those actors and characters. I was first nominated long ago when I played Iago in Aladdin Jr in 2010 I believe. Since then I've been nominated 10 times I believe! I haven't won one yet, but I'm hoping this year changes that!!!"

Danny Blankemeier - Actor in a Supporting Role - Youth Play nominee
in The Haunted - Actors Youth Theatre
photo: Lisa Webb / Southwest Shots Photography



Marcus Ellsworth
Director, Original Script, Scenic Design & Property Design - Youth Play - Actor's Youth Theatre - The Haunted
Choreography - Youth Theatre - Actor's Youth Theatre - Hairspray (with Corrine Mann & Kristen Malarkey)

"I was actually headed to AYT prop storage to find swords, and on the way there I noticed on FB that the Blankemeiers were at the ceremony broadcasting it live. So I get to storage and started digging through the haystack that is our storage and had my phone on so I could kinda hear. Well I heard the word Haunted a couple times and after like the fourth time I held it up to my ear so I could actually hear when my sister Julie showed up to help me. So we are standing in a storage unit trying to hear my weak signal and in between moving carts and tables around were getting to hear the nominations and reading the posts. I was so excited to hear how many kids and artists from The Haunted and Hairspray had been nominated and my nods for writing and directing were especially sweet because it really was my first time putting something I wrote out like this. So we jumped up and down a bit until I figured out I didn't know where my keys were and spent the next 30 minutes looking for my keys. So it's not my first time to be nominated, but my first time for writing and directing alone, because most of the others I have nominated have been with my sister who is basically my other half when it comes to putting on a show. Anyhow the zonis have been so fun for us and we have especially loved the community it brings us together with."

Emily Giaque Evans
Actress in a Major Role - Non-Contracted Musical - Hale Centre Theatre - Tarzan

"I was at home in Georgia when I found out I was nominated. My husband and I just moved to Fort Benning, Georgia a week ago for his job, and I can't tell you how crushed I am to leave Arizona and the wonderful theater community. My reaction to being nominated included a few different emotions. First, I was flattered, of course. Being recognized for any performance/role is a great compliment. I was confused, however, because I didn't think I had as much of a chance getting nominated for the role of Jane as much as I had for Reno in Anything Goes. Reno is more of a well-rounded character of dancing, singing, and acting; Jane is more focused on the acting I feel like. But, I felt very accomplished and successful when I was nominated for Jane because I really wanted to focus on making her character more noticeable and alive, and it looks like I did just that since I was nominated for this part. When I was first reading the part of Jane, I felt like her character was forgettable and a little boring. I am so used to playing the sassy, sexy, sarcastic, aggressive characters, and Jane is very sweet, tender, sympathetic, and nurturing. My goal was to make Jane more exciting, unforgettable, and lovable with a little edge to her. Being nominated confirms that I succeeded at making Jane just that. I have won a Zoni for both roles that I have been nominated for in the past: Judy in 9 to 5 (Hale; 2014), and Lola in Damn Yankees (Hale; 2013). Tarzan was my comeback after having my first baby 8 months prior to opening day. Being nominated is such an honor because there is so much talent out there, and I have such a great appreciation for the theater community in Arizona."

Actor in a Major Role -Play nominee Tim Fiscus
in Rumors - Desert Stages Theatre
photo: Wade Moran
Tim Fiscus
Actor in a Major Role - Non-Contracted Play - Desert Stages Theatre - Rumors

"I'm incredibly excited and honored to be recognized for my role of Lenny Ganz in Neil Simon's Rumors at Desert Stages Theater last summer.   I had a very positive experience with my fellow cast mates and excellent directors (fellow nominee Virginia Olivieri and Gary Zaro).  It was my first show in the Phoenix area, having moved from Germany) and that makes it especially exciting!  I found out that I had been nominated while at rehearsal for the upcoming production of The Drowsy Chaperone at Hale Center Theater - one of my cast mates spilled the beans!  The role I was nominated for, Lenny in Rumors, was a deliciously fun undertaking as Lenny is brash, high-strung, neurotic and that's very much not me!   It was great to really let-er-rip out there on stage surrounded by incredible talent.   I can't tell you just how excited I am to see my name on the list against such amazing actors and performances- it's a great feeling."

Joey Grado
Actor in a Major Role - Youth Musical - Actor's Youth Theatre - Bonnie & Clyde

"I was at Spotlight Youth Theatre rehearsing with Pitches and Tones. I have never been nominated before and I'm extremely grateful. My first reaction was disbelief."

Brittany Howk - nominee for Best Actress Musical
in Heathers the Musical - Stray Cat Theatre
photo: John Groseclose
Brittany Howk
Actress in a Major Role - Non-Contracted Musical - ASU Lyric Opera Theatre - The Drowsy Chaperone & Stray Cat Theatre - Heathers The Musical

"I am working and performing at Quisisana in Maine currently, so I was about to head to bed when I got some messages about the nominations and I was so excited!! It's awesome to be recognized especially among so many talented friends! I am so proud of both productions and loved being a part of both casts, so this is just an extra little icing on the cake! I was nominated once before and got to attend the ceremony which was incredible. The community in Phoenix is so wonderful!"

Taylor Hudson
Sound Design - Youth Theatre - Actor's Youth Theatre - The Haunted

"I was actually sitting at my computer doing some voice work when I got a text from a friend at the nomination ceremony. She asked if I had been in The hunted. I figure she meant The Haunted, and kind of guessed what she was getting at before she told me I was nominated. This is actually my first nomination, and it came as a bit of a shock, especially since it's a technical nom, and I'm so used to doing work on the stage as opposed to behind the scenes. But I'm really honored nonetheless, and happy it was for such a fun show, and a great company. I first started working with AYT last summer with Big Fish as assistant music director and sound designer, and it's been a lot of fun working the technical and creative side of theatre. I have a degree in Audio Production, and it's been a blast using those skills to combine these two loves. It's very humbling, and such an honor to be recognized for the work I've done, especially at the youth theatre level. But I would be remiss if I didn't also recognize Marcus Ellsworth, who wrote and directed the show. He's the one who hired me for Haunted after hearing my work on Bonnie & Clyde, and he let me do some really fun things with effects (I used google to translate a line from the show into Latin, and chanted it for a pivotal moment in the show in creepy voices, probably my favorite). But, he also did a ton of sound work with atmospheric music for the show, and I think the work he did in that regard is what made it so successful. I'm looking forward to attending the awards for the first time, and grateful to be among so many talented individuals!"

Molly Jisa
Actress in a Major Role - Non-Contracted Musical - Don Bluth Front Row Theatre - The Producers

"I first heard about my Zoni nomination after a long day of moving into my new apartment. I got a text from a friend followed by multiple Facebook posts congratulating me on my nomination. I was surprised and had no idea which production it was for! This is my first time being nominated for a Zoni and I am so honored to be considered alongside so many other talented people."

nominees Heidi Liz-Johnson and Vinny Chavez
in Me and My Girl - Hale Centre Theatre
photo: Nick Woodward-Shaw
Heidi-Liz Johnson
Actress in a Major Role - Non-Contracted Musical - Hale Centre Theatre - Me and My Girl

"I was actually at home watching Jeopardy with my parents, as Mondays are my only night off at the moment (I’m currently in the ensemble of Shrek The Musical at Arizona Broadway Theatre).  I had seen a few Facebook posts that mentioned the nomination reading happening that night, and I was excited not for myself, but to hopefully hear the names of my friends; the possibility of me being nominated hadn’t really crossed my mind as Sally was my first “lead-lead” since high school.  Anyway, I was watching Jeopardy when my phone vibrated three times in sequence with messages from friends who attended the reading: one from my good friend and fellow actor, Matthew Harris, and two from my Me and My Girl leading man, Vinny Chavez, both of whom were nominated as well (Love you both!).  They both excitedly told me about my nomination and offered congratulations.  I just stared at the texts for a good thirty seconds before actually saying anything aloud to my parents or responding to the messages, and even then, it seemed surreal.  I spent the rest of the evening looking through the nominees as they were being posted and congratulating my friends as their own announcements were popping up on my Facebook feed.  Also, the fact that Vinny and I were both nominated for what we felt was a very special pairing from Me and My Girl made it extra special.  Even now, the reality of it hasn’t exactly hit me, but I feel truly honored, thrilled, and humbled to know that this theatre community, including my friends, peers, fellow actors, and respected directors and producers, believe in my talent.  To be offered affirmation that you’re actually doing well at what you love is a precious gift."

Kira Kadel
Actress in a Major Role - Youth Musical - Spotlight Youth Theatre - 42nd Street
Actress in a Supporting Role - Youth Play - Spotlight Youth Theatre - John Lennon and Me

"This is my 3rd and 4th nomination! However, it is my first time being recognized for a role I played in a musical. My 3 others are from plays. I was watching the last episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer when I found out I had been nominated! Haha I was so thrilled to hear that people recognized me as a talented part of the theater community. I am so grateful!!  When I found out my mom had called the home phone and my brother had come to my bed room door to tell me I had been nominated 2 times! He told me and I immediately yelled "I'm freaking out!". I was so very surprised and happy, and I still am! Part of the joy of doing theater is the hope of recognition, and that's what the Zonis provide for community theaters like Spotlight. I think that is absolutely wonderful!

Kathie McMahon
Original Music Composition – Youth - East Valley Children's Theatre - Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus

"Karen Rolston sent an email out to all of the EVCT nominees bright and early Tuesday morning, so that's how I found out that I was nominated for Original Music Composition. I was very excited to see that our 2015-16 season of all original shows was honored by having all four scripts and the two musicals nominated. This is my sixth nomination for Original Music, of which I received three awards (so far!). But each time has been very exciting and it never grows old!"

Jurassic Puppets - All Puppet Players
photo: All Puppet Players
Shaun Michael McNamara
Sound Design & Original Script – Adult- Non-Contracted Theatre - All Puppet Players
Jurassic Puppets
& Original Script – Adult - All Puppet Players - The Notebook Has No Legs

"I was sitting on my bed with my family. We were all playing as text after text came in alerting us that we were getting nominations from our Company Members. I didn't expect to get as many as we got and the texts just kept coming from our APP Family. I like being recognized for my work- but I love when I see one of our company members get recognized more!"

Ron May
Director - Non-Contracted Play - Stray Cat Theatre - Stupid Fucking Bird

"I was at the reading of the nominations - we go every year and live post any nods that come our way.
Being recognized is always a nice feeling. When it comes to the zonis, the judges are a handful of people who have zero vested interest in you or your theatre who are seeing things at various companies (or, companies and colleges, in this case) all over the valley...so of course it's nice if something you did struck a nerve with enough of them to get singled out."

Virginia Olivieri
Director - Non-Contracted Play - Desert Stages Theatre - Glengarry Glen Ross

"I was at a photo shoot for the show I'm currently directing Don't Dress For Dinner at Scottsdale Desert stages theater. My technical director Matt Stetler was the one who told me. I was very excited when I heard the news and was very honored and excited because Glengarry Glen Ross was my baby. From the moment I wanted to do the show and I presented it to be done and then moving on to the preproduction, casting, rehearsing, and then running the show I had myself completely submerged into this world these seven men were in. The show was very personal to me because I know this world and these men very well. It sounds crazy but I ended up stage managing and teching my own show because it was so important to me that every night went off without a hitch. And even those times that things happened that you can never plan in the end the entire experience was perfection on every level a show can be. Having the recognition of the ariZoni awards is really the cherry on top. I've been nominated twice before and each time was very surprised and honored to be nominated. This was no exception."

Nicole L. Olson
Choreography - Non-Contracted Theatre - Stray Cat Theatre - Heathers The Musical

"I was out with a couple friends having a glass of wine.  I didn't even realize that the nominations were being announced that evening, and when a number of friends contacted me to let me know, I just smiled, and kept asking "for which show?" One of them finally told me that is was for Heathers; I told the friends I was out with, and we cheered with our wine to one of our accomplishments. While I've been nominated a couple of times before, and won in 2006, it's still exciting to be nominated."

Sarah Pansing
Actress in a Major Role  -  Non-Contracted Play - Hale Centre Theatre - The Diary of Anne Frank

"I was at rehearsal for Les Mis at TheaterWorks (which opens September 9th, by the way) when I found out about my Zoni nomination, and it was really amazing to be around such supportive people who, for many of them, were also finding out that they had been nominated as well. I am so honored to be nominated and I think it's amazing that theatre in Arizona has this opportunity to be recognized. This is my first time being nominated, and it's been a really cool experience! I am very excited for the ceremony!"

Youth Musical Best Actor nominees Vincent Pugliese and Sam Primack
in Spring Awakeing - Spotlight Youth Theatre
photo: 
Sam Primack
Actor in a Major Role - Youth Musical - Spotlight Youth Theatre - Spring Awakening

"I was in the middle of rehearsal for Theatre Works new production of Les Miserables when I found out! Lots of other members of our cast were nominated and we all found out at the same time which was amazing. I am so honored to be recognized for my work. Spring Awakening was such a challenging show emotionally, vocally, and physically and to be recognized for that is really special. The last time I was nominated was 8 years ago when I was 7, so it has been a while since I was nominated. Spring Awakening's 19 nominations really showcase how special of a show it was and I am honored to have been nominated for such a special piece of theatre."


Mallory Maria Prucha
Costume Design & Hair & Makeup Design - Non-Contracted Theatre - MCC Theatre and Film Arts - Alice in WonderlandThree Sisters
Artistic Specialization (Puppet Design)- Non-Contracted Theatre - MCC Theatre and Film Arts - Alice in Wonderland

"I have currently accepted a teaching position at Cal State Chico. On the evening of the Zoni announcements, I was lamenting that I could not be there, however, was "virtually" in Arizona, attending an online Production Meeting for Southwest Shakespeare's upcoming production of Or, under the direction of Patrick Walsh. Somewhere in between navigating a speaker phone, web cam and my desktop during either my Dramaturgy or Scenic Design presentation, I received a text message from a former student, advising me I had been nominated. This is my second year to have received a nomination. I was humbled to find out that I had been nominated in three categories. The work I did at MCC was a labor of love and the nominations really speak to the quality of work done there by the faculty and staff... and most importantly the students. I am eternally grateful that I have a job in which I can creatively express and teach through bringing theatre to life; I liken it to being able to give thousands of anonymous little gifts and any recognition I receive always represents a larger whole. To that end, I was so excited to hear about the Zonis, while still working in AZ, as it is a joy to still remain connected to such a special artistic community, filled with so much talent and passion (An aside: I was really excited that I did not enthusiastically spill my water all over my technology when hearing the news)."

Vincent Pugliese
Actor in a Major Role - Youth Musical - Spotlight Youth Theatre - Spring Awakening

"I was in the rehearsal room at Theater Works when I saw I was nominated for an ariZoni. My reaction you ask? AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!! I joined the theatre scene about two years ago and have always wanted to be nominated for a Zoni. I was really honored and excited that I am being considered for a part I hold close to my heart."

Dave Ray
Actor in a Major Role - Non-Contracted Play - Fountain Hills Theater - Talley's Folly

"I’m an Olympic FANATIC so I was watching a documentary on the 1976 Olympics on TV and following the nominations on Twitter.  As I was following along I noticed that Talley’s Folly was getting A LOT of nominations and I started to get a little excited and thought for the first time that I might actually get nominated.  I think I literally squealed when I saw that my amazingly talented and trusting scene partner Carrie Ellen Jones was nominated and when I finally saw my name I was a little dumb struck.  I don’t get nominated for things and never really think about it so I was in a state of giddy shock.  Even better was seeing our phenomenal director Joy Bingham Strimple getting nominated.  She created such a magical gem of a show and I am so honored and humbled that the adjudicators showered Talley’s Folly with so much love!!  I had the rare opportunity to do two Pulitzer Prize winning shows this year in Talley’s Folly and Next to Normal.  Both were dream roles and I am so thankful to Damon Dering and Joy for the opportunity and was so thrilled that each was nominated for their incredible work.  Not to mention Johanna Carlisle and Adam Bei in N2N.  I took a 12 year break from acting and have only been back in the game for 2 years so this individual recognition along with being a part of two shows that are nominated for Best Overall Production and the opportunity to work with so many brilliant artists at the top of their games this year just fills me with so much gratitude and thanks."


Brandon Reyes
Actor in a Supporting Role - Youth Musical - Spotlight Youth Theatre - Spring Awakening

"I was with my friends when I heard the news and I found out through text message from a friend who was at the ceremony. I have never been nominated for a Zoni so it was a bit exciting but when I found out that every guy in my cast of Spring Awakening got nominated along with three girls I was even more excited. It's awesome to finally see people appreciating Spotlight Youth Theatre's "edgy" shows. I feel like people finally looked past the edginess and saw the actual meaning of the show rather than just kids portraying adult material. Each story that is told on the stage has a deeper meaning no matter what, and I'm so glad we can acknowledge that."

David Rodgers
Actor in a Major Role - Non-Contracted Musical - Don Bluth Front Row Theatre - South Pacific
Actor in a Supporting Role - Non-Contracted Musical - Don Bluth Front Row Theatre - The Producers

"I was on stage in a rehearsal Monday night for the upcoming Guys and Dolls at Don Bluth Front Row Theater, and the stage manager came up to me on a break and said “congrats on your nomination for The Producers.”   I of course asked her to tell me others who were also nominated, and what else she knew, and was happy the show was well recognized.  About 15 minutes later she came up and said “well you received a second nomination for South Pacific.”  It was fun, because many of the other nominees associated with Don Bluth Theater were there so we high-fived and congratulated each other as the nomination news came in.

These are my fourth and fifth nominations, I have been nominated three times before, and won once as Best Supporting Actor playing Max in DST’s Sunset Boulevard in 2014.

The Arizoni Awards are a lot of fun, I very much love being nominated, recognized for hard work, and especially going to the event.  It’s a great time to see old friends and realize how much the Arizona theater world has supplied me with a rich group of many close friends whom I have shared the stage with.  The many friends I’ve made is the true prize of theater, more than the applause, more than the awards.  The Arizoni Awards always reminds me of that when I scan the list of nominees to excitedly see who else will be there.  It also makes me proud to think back on my Dad’s life as a theatrical performer, teacher, singer, and comedian, and later as a theater owner, and his enormous influence on my love of performing he instilled in me by pushing me on stage when I was young."

Bobby Sample
Scenic Design - Youth Theatre - Spotlight Youth Theatre - John Lennon and Me & Spring Awakening (with Kenny Grossman)
Property Design - Youth Theatre - Spotlight Youth Theatre - Disney's Alice In Wonderland JR. (with Katie Sample)
Artistic Specialization (Media Design) - Non-Contracted Theatre - Glendale Community College
The 39 Steps
Artistic Specialization (Media Design) - Youth Theatre - Spotlight Youth Theatre - Bring It On (with Josh Hontz & Luke Bader) & Disney's Alice In Wonderland JR. (with Josh Hontz)

"On the night of the ariZoni nominations reading, when I went to bed and checked my phone, I caught the lists on Facebook where news travels fast. In eight seasons I've been nominated for 32 Zonis and won five of them. Differences in final scores can be pretty random, so it's a fine recognition just to get named. The cool thing about working with a large number of really talented performers and artists all the time is that you can show up to these ceremonies expecting to win nothing, yet 100% sure you'll be applauding for several people you love. So, there's always a celebration in it."

Matthew Sanders
Sound Design - Youth Theatre - Theater Works YouthWorks - The Secret Garden & Twilight's Quest

"I heard about my ariZoni Award nominations at the live reading on August 1st. I was there to represent my theater, and when I heard my name read as a nominee I was ecstatic. I started working with Theater Works at the beginning of the 2014-2015 season and wasn't even aware that I could be nominated for an ariZoni Award. You can imagine how surprised and excited that I was to be nominated twice in my first season. Now, here in my second season, I am receiving my third and forth nominations and I am just as honored to be recognized for doing something that I love."

Ethan Shanker
Actor in a Major Role - Youth Musical - Musical Theatre of Anthem - Legally Blonde The Musical JR.

"I was at a dance class when I found out I got nominated. I was reading off the nominations before my name was posted and a few other people in my class had been nominated. When I told them they were really cool about it and I felt like I had to do the same when I saw my name. I definitely was celebrating inside even though I was keeping my composure among my fellow actors. This is my first nomination for a Zoni, and it is a really good feeling being recognized for the work you put in; especially if "the work" is something that you love. I'm happy to be nominated with some of my closest friends."

Best Actor and Actress Nominees Carrie Ellen Jones and Dave Ray
in Talley's Folly - Fountain Hills

photo: Patty Torrilhon
Joy Bingham Strimple
Director - Non-Contracted Play - Fountain Hills Theater - Talley's Folly

"I have been nominated for Zoni's in the past and each time it is 'over the moon' exciting!  To be recognized by our peers for our efforts is thrilling, no matter how many times or whatever the category.  This little show is particularly gratifying because it is so small and intimate: single set/ 2 characters/ played  "in 97 minutes without interruptions"/ humorous and wistful and soul-touching.  I felt we might have a chance at some nominations, but as each category was read and we were announced, personally I got more and more excited!  It was all I could do to stay in my seat when the final (of  8 category-Overall Production- was read!  Out of my head, couldn't stop smiling."

Rob Stuart
Actor in a Major Role - Non-Contracted Play - Hale Centre Theatre - The Diary of Anne Frank

"It's always exciting to be nominated for an ariZoni Award, and to be recognized for doing what I love to do! But it also makes me think. The nomination is really a reflection of the quality of the entire production, from the producer and director, to the technical designers, to the whole cast and support staff. Without all of us, the production wouldn't have resonated like it did. So while my name is on the nomination, the recognition belongs to everyone who made the production what it was. The Diary of Anne Frank was a touching play, with a powerful message, and I'm extremely proud to have been a part of it! And if we're lucky, we'll win something at the Celebration in September!"

J. Kevin Tallent
Actor in a Major Role - Non-Contracted Play - Desert Stages Theatre - Glengarry Glen Ross
Actor in a Supporting Role - Non-Contracted Play - Desert Stages Theatre - Of Mice & Men

"Ok, slightly embarrassing, I was in bed, half asleep when I get this text from my dear friend Tamara saying 'Congratulations!' My immediate sleep dazed response is "for what?". She then tells me that I have two Zoni nominations. My 1st and 2nd nominations ever. Concrete recognition from the Greater Phoenix acting community, my response..." Oh cool".  Hurray for sleep addled enthusiasm.  It is nice to be recognized, win or lose. It's been a great run thus far. I hope it lasts for a while longer."

Riley Thornton
Best Actor in a Major Role - Youth Play - Studio 3 Performing Arts - Treasure Island

"I was at home going over my lines for 13 The Musical (coming up at Greasepaint) when my mom texted me to ask me if I knew I had been nominated for a Zoni. I was shocked!  I have never been nominated for a Zoni before - this is my first time being nominated. I am grateful and excited for the ceremony!"

Ryan Usher
Actor in a Major Role - Non-Contracted Play - GCU's Ethington Theatre - Scapino

"I was lying in bed and my friend texted me saying "congrats on the nom" I instantly freaked out and paced around my room while trying to load the zoni Twitter page, this was my second time being nominated and it almost brought me to tears. The show Scapin was the swan song of my college career, directed by my greatest mentor and favorite director Michael Kary and my cast was all of my closest friends. We worked so hard on the piece and it felt like the perfect culmination of my final year at GCU seeing it get nominated for so many awards. "

Best Actor- Youth Musical nominee Skyler Washburn
in The Secret Garden - Youth Works at Theater Works
photo: Wade Moran
Skyler Washburn
Actor in a Major Role - Youth Musical - Theater Works YouthWorks - The Secret Garden
Actor in a Supporting Role - Youth Musical - Desert Foothills Youth Theater - Avenue Q School Edition & Starlight Community Theater - Oliver!

"I heard about my nomination this year I was sitting in the very room where they were announced. Since we were all asked to hold our outbursts in until the end of the reading for each section I had to stifle my excitement and jump for joy in my mind! That goes for all my friends too, when they get nominated I am just as excited. I've been nominated many other times and I believe I was only present for two other previous readings. Other times I was just at home getting texts from my friends or Facebook messages. This year the Zoni noms were tweeted out on twitter so nobody had to do that. While it was handy, I kinda miss the speedy texting frenzy from events of yesteryear. It would always feel like some kind of covert operation to send or receive messages about the nominations before they were posted online for public viewing. As I said earlier, I've been nominated quite a few times in the past, but that doesn't mean that I've won yet. (Hint: I haven't.) Maybe this year will be the year? I mean its the first time I've ever gotten three at once! I think I've had two at a time once before but three is absolutely a new one for me. Speaking of, I better add these noms to my resume for the time being!"

Camden Wawro
Actress in a Supporting Role - Youth Play - Spotlight Youth Theatre - John Lennon and Me
Actress in a Supporting Role - Youth Musical - Theater Works YouthWorks - The Secret Garden

"I was at rehearsal for Les Mis at Theaterworks when the nominations came out. I was actually in the restroom, and when I came back to the studio everyone was freaking out. They were all congratulating each other, then they started congratulating me. Of course I didn't know yet, so I was a little confused. When my stage manager told me I was nominated for not one, but two awards, I made this funny little squee noise. Everyone was making sounds like that, and jumping up and down, and hugging each other. At least half the people in the room had been nominated for something. I just kept thinking about how lucky I was to be surrounded by such talented people. This is my second time being nominated, and it's an honor to be be in a categories with such exceptional performers."

Sarah Wolter
Guest Actor - Theater Works - City of Angels

"I was at home when I heard the news, via Facebook, and I am extremely proud to be recognized among some of my favorite AZ actors.  I have been nominated before in the past, especially in the Guest Contract category - most recently for National Pastime and Ragtime, both at Theatre Works. I was lucky enough to win for Ragtime, but my "big" Zoni year was in 2008. I was nominated for four Zonis that year, and took home three. It was bonkers. I grew up in Arizona, and was heavily influenced by the local theatre scene; so to receive such an overwhelming endorsement from the community I had admired and looked up to for years was incredibly meaningful to me.  I live in LA now, and I love it - but it is extremely cut throat. Finding a network of mutual support and respect is hard to come by out here. That is why I consider myself very lucky to still receive a warm welcome anytime I return to Az to work; and the acknowledgment by the Zoni Committee is just the ultimate cherry on top."

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