Thursday, August 29, 2019

the 2019 ariZoni nominees react to being nominated

by Gil Benbrook

PHX Stages reached out to dozens of 2019 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 their nomination means to them.

The 2019 ariZoni Awards ceremonies take place on Monday September 23rd at the Scottsdale Center for the Arts- Tickets are on sale now.

CLICK HERE to order your tickets and for more information.

CLICK HERE for a complete list of 2019 ariZoni Theatre Awards of Excellence nominees

Zoni nominees Alaina Beauloye (right) and Josh Hunt (Fight Choreography) 
in The Man with the Pointed Toes

photo by Nick Woodward-Shaw

Alaina Beauloye
Actress in a Major Role-Play, Hale Centre Theatre -  The Man with the Pointed Toes

"I was at home playing with my sweet pug, Winston, when I got a message from my good friend Raymond Barcelo. I was very surprised and honored by the nomination. And I am very thankful! I have won 3 ariZoni awards in the past for my work as Mrs. Lovett, (Sweeny Todd), Norma Desmond, (Sunset Boulevard), and Christine Colgate, (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels). I really love this play and the cast. I did it the very first time Hale theatre produced it, 16 years ago! And almost every time they’ve done it since then."


Zoni nominees Brandon Brown and Christina McSheffrey
in Ring Round the Moon

photo by Tim Trumble
Brandon Brown
Actor in a Major Role-Play, Grand Canyon University's Ethington Theatre -  Ring Round the Moon
Actor in a Supporting Role-Play, Hale Centre Theatre -  Disney's Newsies

"This was my first time being nominated! When I found out about the nomination, I was actually in a rehearsal for the next show at my college. There were quite a few people in the rehearsal who were also nominated and worked on the show last year. It was cool to share the moment with people who were also a part of the process and were proud of the work put into that show. I feel super lucky and excited to share a nomination with so many other talented people from all over the valley!"

Gretchen Carpenter
Actress in a Major Role-Youth Play, CYT Phoenix -  Disney's Beauty and the Beast
Actress in a Major Role-Youth Play, CYT Phoenix -  You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown

"When I heard that I was nominated, I was at my grandparents house for dinner. Two of my friends had attended the reading of the nominees that night and I received a text message from one of them that I had been nominated twice for Actress in a Major Role in a Musical (Youth). I was completely in shock! I was not expecting anything, and to be nominated twice is such an honor! My family was so proud of me and we can’t wait to attend the ceremony!"

Jim "Doc" Coates
Actor in a Major Role-Play, Don Bluth Front Row Theatre -  Deathtrap

"Back-story: After four decades as a successful professional character actor in supporting roles -- from Puck to Polonius -- I've never been nominated for anything . . . EVER! This has always amused me.

WHERE was I?
At home that evening, after this year's ariZoni nominations were announced, I got a text from my DEATHTRAP director, Lee Cooley, "Are you awake?"

WHAT is my reaction?
WOW! After 40 years, I get my first acting award nomination EVER for my very first major role EVER! Well, look out, World!  I'm not just a character actor, . . . Hell, I'M A LEADING MAN! "

Hector Coris
Actor in a Major Role-Musical, TheaterWorks -  A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

"I was home enjoying a non-rehearsal night and my friend Tina messaged me with the news. Look, everyone jokes about the Zonis, they gripe about the Zonis, they pretend to be indifferent towards them. Hell, I do those things. And there are those for which the nomination-reading is the highlight of their year. Some salivate over the chance to be adjudicated. I've been nominated 3 or 4 times as an actor and won once for directing. I don't care how much of a curmudgeon your pretend to be about them - it's always exciting to get nominated. It means that a very small number of people checked some boxes after seeing your show. Then I multiply those people by the hundreds of audience members who laughed collectively at our on-stage antics, divided by the exquisite, twisted and sublime casts and crew we work with. I've already won. The win is in the process. The win is in the production. When the curtain comes down, I win -- Every. Single. Time."

Jacob Currie
Actor in a Supporting Role-Youth Musical, CYT Phoenix -  Disney's Beauty and the Beast

"I was aware that the nominations where being announced that day, so the possibility was constantly in the back of my head. I had just finished dinner and walked back my room. Upon entering, I found my phone bombarded with “congratulations” texts. Instantly, my heart jumped. Within a second, I heard my mom call my name. I darted down the stairs, practically falling over. She was on speaker phone with the Artistic Director of CYT, who told me that I was nominated. I did it all. I screamed, jumped in place, giggled, and rolled all over the floor. I was so excited and still am! This is my first time being nominated for an AriZoni and I feel so blessed to be recognized as a performer, especially being a teenager. The rest of the night I was stuck with a permanent smile on my face that probably remained even as I slept."

 Zoni nominee Duane Daniels (right) and  Brittney Watson
in Let the Right One In

photo by John Groseclose

Duane Daniels
Actor in a Supporting Role-Play, Stray Cat Theatre -  Let the Right One In

"I went to the reading of nominees at The Phoenix Theatre Company. I won a Leading Actor award last year so I was excited to hear the nominees as soon as possible. I had seen a lot of good theatre this year and had a few favorite shows and performances that I was rooting for. I am also an acting coach and wanted to see if any of my current or former students would be recognized. So it was great to hear my name in the Supporting Actor category but it was just as rewarding to hear one of my former students (Megan Holcomb) nominated twice! Congratulations Zoni nominees!"

Austin Delp
Actor in a Major Role-Musical, Hale Centre Theatre -  The Scarlet Pimpernel

"I had actually just finished striking the set of an outdoor performance of Hamlet  that I was performing in, out in Branson, MO when I found out. I had messages from some of the amazing cast mates I had the privilege to perform The Scarlet Pimpernel with. I honestly just couldn’t stop smiling from seeing messages from some great people I haven’t seen in a long while, and seeing that many of them were recognized and nominated for their work as well made it all the more special. All the amazing memories of that show and that cast came flooding back into my head, and I’m reminded of how fortunate I am to get to do what I love every single day.

I’m just so incredibly thankful to have even been considered to play the role. Playing Percy was truly a dream role, and I really mean a “dream.” To be nominated for messing with Bryan and Rochelle every night, goofing around with my Bounder brothers, and even for the amount of inside jokes created from every time I made a mistake, is pretty darn cool. It was truly the most fun I’ve ever had on stage and will forever hold a special place in my heart.

And to my Bounder brothers: 'To rendor total candor gander pander splandor MALES!' "

Owen Downsker in 13
photo by Robert Waller
Owen Donsker
Actor in a Major Role-Youth Musical, Spotlight Youth Theatre -  13

"When I heard that I was nominated for a Zoni award, I was at a restaurant with my family eating dinner celebrating my Dad’s birthday.  We were sitting down, watching the live stream of the names getting announced, and we shouted with joy when we heard my name… TWICE! This is my first time getting nominated for a Zoni award, and I am very excited to be able to be recognized for my talent. I absolutely love the feeling of getting a round of applause showing the audience enjoys what I do, and to be nominated is the best feeling ever."

Amanda Glenn
Actress in a Major Role-Musical, TheaterWorks -  Disney’s The Little Mermaid

"I was in rehearsal for Bright Star at Hale when I found out about being nominated.  (Shameless plug: It’s going to be a GREAT show – come see it!)  A cast mate suddenly turned around and said, “Congrats Amanda!”  It was certainly not something I was expecting and I had to ask them what they were talking about. It may seem silly, but of all the roles I’ve played, Ariel in The Little Mermaid has meant the most to me.  Primarily because it was a role I never thought I’d have the opportunity to play, given the way I look.  I’d written it off and never added it to my list of dream roles because I firmly believed it would never happen for me. So to be nominated for this role specifically, is meaningful to me.  I had so many mothers of children of color approach me and thank me for being a role model their child could see themselves in. And if you haven’t guessed already, I’m SO stoked to see Halle Bailey star in the new live action Little Mermaid!   But, the praise really belongs to Chris Hamby and the production team for being so open to blind/alternative casting. I don’t consider myself to be the soapbox-type, but I do feel strongly that representation matters, especially for children.  And I’m very optimistic about the direction in which casting is headed.

Nicholas Gunnell
Actor in a Major Role-Musical, Hale Centre Theatre -  Big River
Actor in a Major Role-Musical, Mesa Encore Theatre -  Mary Poppins

"August 5th is actually my wife and my wedding anniversary (3 years!) and we were celebrating at Benihana. During our dinner I was messaged by my best friend, Hector Coris, congratulating me on my two nominations! I was honestly surprised that I was nominated in general, but twice was very overwhelming. To add to the story, a woman sitting next to me heard us talking about the Zonis and she leans over and says that she is a theatre mom and wanted to know what I was nominated for. She saw Mary Poppins back in November and was very impressed with the show and didn't even recognize me as Bert!  Being nominated and winning Best Lead Actor in a Musical in 2016 for Bobby Strong (Urinetown) at Mesa Encore Theatre was a treat and I couldn't be more happy to be nominated again for another show directed by the amazing David Chorley and also for my portrayal as Huck Finn in Big River at Hale Centre Theatre. Needless to say, being recognized for your work is an amazing feeling and I wouldn't be able to create these characters without the amazing people who worked with me, on stage and off."


Zoni nominee Ben Harris, and Roy Hunt, in The Foreigner
photo by Stephanie Tippi Hart
Ben Harris
Actor in a Major Role-Play, Fountain Hills Theater -  The Foreigner

"When I saw myself on that list I believe I had been looking over schedules for two overlapping productions to see what I could offer to make casting me work for everyone! Which goes right in line with my work in Foreigner: they graciously worked around my late start (some unfortunate emergencies left the role open with hardly three weeks util opening) and two other shows I was juggling at the time! This is my first time personally nominated for the Zonis in my three seasons here. In fact, I've never even gotten the chance to go, I've always been in rehearsals! I'm floored to be a part of so many shows that are all over the nominations this year (Scarlet Pimpernel, Annie, Big River, Pointed Toes, Foreigner). I am so thankful to have been given the chances to share across the Valley and have found a place among such excellent company, families, for this season.
To see my performance had been recognized among the some of the finest actors in the Valley, and so many more in the Zonis as a whole, was nothing short of moving. My goal as a performer has always been to help the audience find even one moment or memory they can carry with them; I was beside myself that "Charlie" (a character I personally connect with; introspective, zany layer after layer) stood out so.  I didn't actually cry til I shared it with my Grandfather a few minutes later, and we revelled in the honor of the nomination!

I know several of the others in my category personally:  it is going to be tough competition for that plaque and I wish them all the best!  It's hard to express my gratitude and excitement: I'm getting emotional just in anticipation for next month and what's in store.  As the saying goes: Blasney, Blasney! [Ain't this nice?]"

Will Hightower
Actor in a Major Role-Play, Hale Centre Theatre -  Cash on Delivery

"After a wonderful week of theatre working with Arizona Theatre Company on their new play development workshop, I opted to stay in on the night of the Arizoni Nominations to rest. After waking up from a light nap, I checked Facebook to see which of my friends were nominated for their great work this past season. To my surprise, as I was reading through the list of announced nominations looking for many of my friends and colleagues, I spotted my name under the “ACTOR IN A MAJOR ROLE” category for my work on Cash on Delivery with Hale Centre Theatre.

Upon learning of my nomination, I was humbled, surprised, and pleased to be recognized for my work. There have been so many great performances and productions this past year all around the valley and it is an honor to be highlighted alongside so many talented artists.

This is my second nomination for Best Actor in a Major Role but Cash on Delivery was my first production with Hale Theatre Centre. Most often I attend the AriZoni Awards as a representative of Stray Cat Theatre to celebrate the theatre's provocative, edgy, and high-quality work on vital contemporary material. In addition to my work as an artist, I am also the sitting board president of Stray Cat Theatre.  Previously, I was nominated for Best Actor in a Major Role for my work on stage in John by Annie Baker during the 2016-2017 season. I was humbled to later receive that award alongside many other fellow Stray Cat artists."


Zoni nominees Nicholas Gunnell and Heidi Liz Johnson in Mary Poppins
photo by Stephanie 'Tippi' Hart-Dragonfly Studio Photography

Heidi Liz Johnson
Actress in a Major Role-Musical, Mesa Encore Theatre -  Mary Poppins

"I was in rehearsal for my next project, Bright Star at Hale Centre Theatre, when I found out about my nomination. I was on stage going over some blocking when one of my castmates (and a fellow nominee! Congrats, hon!), Cameron Rollins, caught my eye offstage and started to mouth something at me. I had no idea what he was saying, and after a few attempts, he waved me away and mouthed that he'd tell me later. It took me a few minutes to realize he was mouthing "Mary Poppins", and it then struck me what he was referring to once I remembered that the reading of nominees was happening that night. When I got off stage, he gave me a hug and confirmed that I had been nominated for my role in Mary Poppins. I was very surprised but just as honored! This nomination is my fourth, but with each nomination, I am humbled and flattered to be recognized for my work as to me, it's simply my joy to be a part of the local acting community. I'm constantly reminded of how lucky we, as actors, are to do what we do, and it never ceases to amaze me that I have the pleasure and privilege to share my passion for the theatre with audiences. A huge thank you to the ariZonis for creating this celebration of the theatre in Arizona!"

Sabrina Kiepke
Actress in a Supporting Role-Youth Musical, Spotlight Youth Theatre -  You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown

"While I was checking my facebook feed I saw that my friend, Thea Eigo, had posted about her well-deserved nomination and that’s when I saw my name on the list as well. I was completely shocked! This is my first Zoni nomination ever and I am still in disbelief.

When I moved to Arizona, the first theatre I ever auditioned for here was Spotlight Youth Theatre and I used the song “My New Philosophy” for my audition. So playing Sally Brown at Spotlight was a real full circle moment for me.  To receive a Zoni nomination for this role is just so beyond amazing.  I was also very excited for my super-talented cast mates who were also recognized.  Sharing the stage with all of them was such a fun experience. "

Zoni nominees Addison Bowman and Teddy Ladley
in Disney's Beauty and the Beast

photo by Carly Weekley
Teddy Ladley
Actor in a Major Role-Youth Musical, TheaterWorks -  Disney’s Beauty and the Beast

"So I think I was hanging out at my house after the opening weekend of Parade, and my friend Jonice Bernard texted me over Snapchat and said "Hey, congrats on your Zoni nomination!" And I was like "WHAT?!?! NO WAY!"(Cause I've never won one, let alone been nominated for one!) So I said thank you and I went to check the link on Facebook, and saw that I had received my first ever nomination for actor in a major role in a youth musical! I was so excited! Naturally, as I think most people do, I looked to see if other musicals I was in/ other people I know also had been nominated, and I was so thrilled to see that both Forum and Beauty and the Beast did really well! I have quite a few friends who were also nominated (rightfully so) and I also know of many others who rightfully could have been nominated as well. It just made me realize how fortunate and blessed I am not only to have been recognized for the work that I've put into shows, but also to be in a place and surrounded by people who value hard work and dedication from all theater peoples: actors, directors, choreographers, lighting technicians, and costumers, as well as theater productions as a whole (and techies- they need more love in theater!). All I can say is thank you so much for this generous and fantastic recognition and nomination, and I hope there are many more to come in the future! "

Noah Lanouette
Actor in a Major Role-Youth Musical, Spotlight Youth Theatre -  Little Shop of Horrors
Actor in a Supporting Role-Youth Play, Spotlight Youth Theatres -  Dog Sees God

"When I heard about my Zoni nominations, I was sitting at the Zoni reading at Phoenix Theatre and I got to hear my name be called firsthand! I was incredibly honored to have been recognized by the Zoni Awards, because I really poured my heart and soul into the characters that I played and it is great seeing how it paid off. It was also really exciting because I had never been nominated for a Zoni before, so to be nominated for two Zoni awards made me super happy! I'm anxious to hear the results, but for me, the nomination is what matters the most!"

Jay Melberg
Original Score-Youth, Fountain Hills Theater -  James and the Giant Peach

"My name is Jay Melberg and I heard about my nomination on the live Zoni broadcast Monday night August 5th. I was watching Facebook and rooting for all my actor friends/directors/creative artists
and I heard my name being nominated for Original Score in a youth play James and the Giant Peach at Fountain Hills Youth theater! I am very honored to be included in the ariZoni nominations this year. And thank you to Ross Collins who asked to write the music! I have been nominated in the past for Original composition with  the show Christmas Carol  the Musical at Fountain Hills Theaters in 2013. Also The Runner Stumbles, 2014,and one other but I forgot! I have been nominated for Music Direction several times but I love to compose for theater productions. Ross gave me some prelimary ideas to start and then I went to a tech rehearsal one night and got the ideas from  watching the show itself. I always ask myself, " What emotions and actions are we trying to communicate to the audience?" And then four songs turned into twelve!! LOL! It was a great experience and I love working with the kids at FHYT!"


Falin Ossipinsky
Choreography-Youth Musical, Spotlight Youth Theatre -  You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown

"When I heard about my Zoni nomination I was with Jack (my boyfriend and fellow zoni nominee!) watching the facebook live video of the nomination readings. They had gotten to the youth choreography category, and I honestly didn’t even think of the choreography I had done this season. I was anxiously waiting to hear about the shows I had performed in this season, definitely nothing I had done myself! My name was actually last on the list of nominations, so it certainly took me by surprise! This nomination was 100% unexpected, but was definitely an awesome surprise. I’d been nominated a few years ago as a supporting actress in a youth play, but this is my first time for choreography! You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown was the first full length musical I got to choreograph. It certainly was an intimidating task for me, but it’s so gratifying to be recognized for my work. To hear my name read aloud among all of these beautiful and incredibly talented individuals, was really surreal. I wasn’t sure if I was hearing wrong, or just hearing things! Having the opportunity to choreograph such a fun show and work with such a talented team of directors, as well as a stellar cast, was wonderful. Having the opportunity to have that work recognized, is so very magical. Many thanks to everyone involved with the ariZoni awards, and for all they do to show recognition for everyone’s hard work and dedication in the theater community!"

Jessica Ottley
Media Design, Hale Centre Theatre -  Disney's Newsies

"I was walking out of work at the Hale Theatre talking with my co-worker/friend Britney when I saw I was mentioned in a comment on Facebook from 'He Who Must Not Be Named'... (cough... Gil... cough)... It was just a simple and vague message congratulating me on my nomination for a Zoni. There wasn't any indication as to what for, but I assumed it was for projections I made for one of 3 shows. I had to wait until everything was posted online to find out which nomination I received.

Honestly, I was shocked to have been nominated for anything. This was my first time being nominated for an award like this. I mean, what I do is pretty subtle and no where as awe-inspiring as what the actors do on stage. One thing I love about what I do though is that I work with a TON of people behind the scenes who aren't ever featured in the spotlight but are truly talented at what they do! For example, our CSRs are amazing at working with the patrons who come to our shows. Their kindness and people skills is just one aspect of the theater experience. I could list everyone behind the scenes: painters, carpenters, stage crew, lighting designers, costumers, managers, directors, choreographers...etc, and it is really just inspiring to be just one little cog in the magnificent clockwork that makes up the Hale Theatre. "

Gracie Palmer
Actress in a Major Role-Youth Play, Starlight Youth Theater -  The Velveteen Rabbit

"I was playing at the park with my friends on a Saturday afternoon when I saw it shared on Facebook that I was nominated.  I started jumping up and down and running around the park and my friends were laughing at my but it was awesome I got to tell them right away about it because they are just getting started in theater and they were happy for me.  I am so happy to be nominated because I love acting and performing so much and I am glad others like what I do!  I am also super happy that our show, my fellow actors and our director Ric Alpers got nominated--especially Ric Alpers because he is so amazing to come and work with us and he helps us be better actors and I would not even be here now and maybe not even acting anywhere now if it wasnt for him so thank you Mr. Ric!"

Zoni nominees Walt Pedano (center), Matthew Fields Winter (right), and Mo Simpson (left)
in Death of a Salesman

photo by Paige Corbin
Walt Pedano
Actor in a Major Role- Play, Scottsdale Desert Stages Theatre -  Death of a Salesman

"I was watching the Dbacks game at home. (still moving a little slow from the multiple hip replacement surgeries I recently had) when I heard the news. I have been nominated a few times, but production nominations are what I enjoy most. Because any well crafted performance would be lost without everything working well I have had performances (Teach in American Buffalo and Victor in The Price and Lenny in Lenny Bruce) that I have worked just as hard and am very proud of that received no real recognition and that is never a problem. I work for the joy of the character and am lucky enough to have crawled into some wonderful people and along the way have wonderful memories of the casts and productions. This nomination is really for all the people who volunteer their time and effort and receive no real recognition and work just as hard or harder than I do!

Ami Porter
Actress in a Major Role- Play, Mesa Encore Theatre -  The Lion in Winter

"Where was I when I heard about my Zoni nomination? Well…. It was a dark and stormy night….Not quite! It had been a very long day of laundry loads, dinner making, and school prepping. I had stopped to rest on the couch for some ‘scrolling and trolling’ on Facebook. I had completely forgotten that the ariZoni nominations were being announced that night until I happened upon a friend’s story. I was checking it out to see which of my amazing friends had been nominated and was just getting ready to see how many ‘Cambrians’ there were, when I stumbled across my own name!

We moved to Arizona about five years ago and I had never heard about the Zoni awards. Not until being cast in my first play, The Man Who Came to Dinner at Hale Theatre, did the term and its true meaning become known to me. Since that time, I have had the opportunity to be in many Hale productions and have seen so many talented actors, directors, and crew be nominated and awarded Zoni’s. I felt way out of their league, and the prospect of ever receiving a nomination was inconceivable. But last Monday evening, the inconceivable was birthed (what a terrible analogy….)

Anyway, here I am, a first time nominee, feeling so humbled to be recognized, especially knowing how many other well deserving artists there are. Being able to step into Eleanor of Aquitaine’s skin was a dream come true. To be able to share the stage with such a passionate and committed cast and be led by Janis Webb- a woman I have long admired and looked up to- made the dream out of this world.

Zoni nominee William Rippenkroeger (left), Ezra Neighbors, and Jack Francis
in The Crumple Zone

photo courtesy Nearly Naked Theatre
William Rippenkroeger
Actor in a Major Role- Play, Nearly Naked Theatre -  The Crumple Zone

"When I heard about my nomination I was in North Carolina visiting my brother who I hadn’t seen in almost 2 years. I was working on some new music on my computer and hadn’t checked my phone in a while. Everyone came into the room to surprise me and tell me the news. I was stunned to have been nominated in the adult category. I won two years ago for a lead role in the youth category but this is my first time being nominated in the adult category. I’m so excited to have just been nominated, and I want to say congratulations to the rest of the nominees."

Zoni nominee Kaitlyn Russell (left) and Kade Bailey,
in front of Zoni nominee Jessica Ottley's media design in Disney's Newsies

photo by Nick Woodward-Shaw 

Kaitlyn Russell
Actress in a Major Role-Musical, Hale Centre Theatre -  Disney's Newsies

"I was at home watching Masterchef with my boyfriend when a few of my Newsies castmates texted me to tell me the news about being nominated! This is my first Zoni nomination ever and as one can imagine, I am over the moon. Having been part of Newsies at the Hale Theater was such a wonderful experience and bringing Katherine Plumber to life has always been a dream of mine -- so this Zoni nomination was extra sweet. It’s also incredibly inspiring to be nominated alongside such talented women. There is something so special about the Arizona theater community and I’m so proud to be a small part of it. It is so humbling to be recognized by the community I grew up in for the craft I’ve been honing for as long I can remember. And more than that, it feels wonderful to be part of a community that makes recognizing its artists a priority. I can’t wait to attend the Zoni’s this year and to meet all of the amazing nominees. "

Rachel Schumacher
Lighting Design-Play, Grand Canyon University's Ethington Theatre-  Peter and the Starcatcher

"I was eating tacos actually! At Joyride on Central and I noticed an absurd about of notifications from my facebook app, which for me is how my theatre department at GCU keeps up to date. I saw the nominee list and my insistently talkative mouth that night was speechless for a few very long seconds. Peter and The Starcatcher was a collaboration amongst several talented student designers that created magic on stage. None of us designed with intent to be recognized and it's beautiful to see that the show which touched us, was not only seen but felt by other people as well. That maybe a few hearts synced up in that theatre. And to be listed in the same category as my superiors, individuals I work with and learn from is beyond special! "

Wesley Skinner
Original Score, TheaterWorks -  Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde

"Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde will be my second Zoni nomination. I won in the same category last year with my score for Theaterwork’s Frankenstein. I was actually practicing when I heard about my nomination. I’m a doctoral student at ASU for my cello performance. I often play for the area orchestras and theater companies in addition to holding a studio of about 25 students across the valley. Composition is something that I have kept somewhat to myself until recent years. My composition career sprouted from a desire to improvise at the cello. When I was in school at the Cleveland Institute of Music, I would listen to folk bands play at the local dive bar across the street from the Institute after they would kick me out of the practice rooms when the school closed at night. Though not my intention, I eventually would be asked to join some of the bands on stage because I kept showing up with my abnormally large and awkwardly shaped 'guitar case.' This was totally the spark of my compositional endeavors and I did not really share my compositions until I wrote the score for Frankenstein. Luckily, Theaterworks enjoyed my score and I was called back for the second score, Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde."

Patty Stephens
Actress in a Supporting Role-Play, Don Bluth Front Row Theatre -  Deathtrap

"When I got the news that I was a nominee, I was in California awaiting the birth of my 2nd grandchild. When I saw FB posts of congratulations, I assumed it was about the upcoming birth of my granddaughter.  It took a day or two for me to realize that I had been nominated.  When I realized it, I was flabbergasted. this is my first nomination.  I've been doing community theatre in the valley since 2003. Several years ago I had to take a break from theatre which I thought would last 6 - 9 months.  It lasted 5 years.  What I learned during my hiatus is that acting/performing is not my hobby.  It's not a past time or what I do for fun.  IT. IS. MY. PASSION.  It is what breathes life into my soul and what gives the rest of my life meaning.  At the beginning of 2018 I was finally in a place where I thought I could dip my toes back into the pool.   I was scared.   Can I still do this? Was that old adage, 'use it or lose it' true? God bless Erica Parish who directed a show at Don Bluth Front Row Theatre.  She took a chance and cast me. I thank Don Bluth Front Row Theatre for seeing a spark in me, casting me in several of their shows since then. Because of my hiatus, I learned to never to take this gift God has given me for granted and to never assume that I will have it forever.  I will always be grateful for every opportunity I am given to be on stage."

Zoni nominee Joy Bingham Strimple (right) and Tom Koelbel in Blithe Spirit
photo Courtesy of Don Bluth Front Row Theatre

Joy Bingham Strimple
Actress in a Major Role-Play, Don Bluth Front Row Theatre -  Blithe Spirit

"I love coming to the reading at Phoenix Theatre,  It's exciting to see familiar faces and the anticipation of the readings.  As an adjudicator myself, it's always thrilling to know that a show and actors and technicians have made it through the ballot process and might have a chance to win!  The atmosphere is electric and everyone is encouraging.  Personally, my show Blithe Spirit was a romp.  My cast mates & crew had so much fun in its creation, wild abandonment or was that just me?  We loved each other and could have gladly run another 6 weeks.  Our audiences apparently agreed as they were so generous in their comments"

Jack Yampolsky
Actor in a Supporting Role-Youth Musical, Spotlight Youth Theatre -  You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown

"I was sitting upstairs at my house and my friend Julia texted me saying congrats. I was so confused until she explained that I got nominated. This is my first Zoni nomination so I was overjoyed. I immediately checked all the nominations and texted all of my friends who were nominated saying congrats."

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