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With heaps of programs cluttering the table, Dallas' theater critics set about voting on our favorites from the past season. Here's how it went down and the honorees.

Dallas-Fort Worth Theater Critics Choose Best of 2010-2011 Season

There are only two things that can calm a critic: good theater and plenty of dessert. This past Saturday, 10 Dallas-Fort Worth theater critics gathered for a lovely potluck lunch at Martha Heimberg’s house to debate the former and devour the latter.

With heaps of programs cluttering the table, we set about voting on our favorites from the past season. Productions had to open between Sept. 1, 2010 and Aug. 31, 2011 to be considered. And instead of choosing just one winner, we like to reward multiple people and productions who contributed something amazing to the ’10-’11 season.

With so many opinioned people in one room, there was no shortage of impassioned pleas or snappy comebacks. Sometimes a person or show was heavily championed but simply didn’t garner enough votes. Sometimes we deemed it necessary to spread the love—for example, if every lead actor from a production made the nominee shortlist, we decided to award the production’s ensemble instead of singling just one person out.

Behold, the official list with some off the cuff reactions from FrontRow’s Lindsey Wilson and M. Lance Lusk:

OUTSTANDING DIRECTION

Lance: We recognized Matthew Posey for the categories of “Outstanding New Play,” and a “Special Citation,” but I would like to add his name to the “Outstanding Direction” list for his work on The Butcherand Morphing, as well as an “Honorable Mention” for T.J. Walsh’s fabulous direction of As You Like Itat the Trinity Shakespeare Festival.

Lindsey: I, along with a few others, threw Pamela Myers-Morgan’s name into the hat for her direction of Well at Echo Theatre. If you can’t remember why I was so jazzed about that production, click the link.

OUTSTANDING NEW PLAY

Lance:Super strong lineup here, although I would also give a nod to Matthew Posey’s The Butcher.

Lindsey: Sadly, I didn’t get to see any of these shows. Lance, stop hogging all the new stuff!

OUTSTANDING ACTOR

  • Sydney James Harcourt, The Wiz (Dallas Theater Center)
  • Justin Locklear, Morphing(Balanced Almond)
  • Wade McCollum, Cabaret (Dallas Theater Center)
  • Barry Nash, Bob Birdnow’s Remarkable Tale of Human Survival and the Transcendence of Self (Second Thought Theatre)
  • Larry Randolph, The Madness of Lady Bright (One-Thirty Productions)
  • Max Swarner, How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying (ICT)
  • Lee Trull, Arsenic and Old Lace (Dallas Theater Center)
  • Steven Walters, Thom Pain (Based on Nothing) (Second Thought Theatre) and Henry IV (Dallas Theater Center)

Lance: Great, great winners here, and quite a strong category this season. Out-of-towner Wade McCollum deservedly finds himself on the list, along with “Best of Big D” winner Steven Walters. A testament to the outstanding quality of the Festival of Independent Theatres at the Bath House Cultural Center this year is the inclusion of Larry Randolph and Barry Nash for their otherworldly performances in those short plays.

Lindsey: Hurray! Most of my favorite men made it onto the list, and those that didn’t weren’t that far behind. And Martha Heimberg and I agreed: Can Wade McCollum just stay in Dallas? Preferably without his shirt? You can also call me a member of the Drew Wall fan club (and, no, it’s not because he’s willing to get naked onstage). I voted for his incredible work in both Red Light Winter and The Dog Problem.

OUTSTANDING ACTRESS

  • Tovah Feldshuh, Arsenic and Old Lace (Dallas Theater Center)
  • Whitney Hennen, Victor/Victoria (Uptown Players)
  • Julie Johnson, Cabaret(Dallas Theater Center)
  • Elly Lindsay, The Trip to Bountiful (Contemporary Theatre of Dallas)
  • Rhianna Mack, No Child… (Amphibian Stage Productions)
  • Tina Parker, Charm (Kitchen Dog Theater)
  • Fiona Robberson, Easter (Undermain Theatre)
  • Dana Schultes, Talking Pictures (Stage West)

Lindsey: For me, Whitney Hennen was this year’s happiest theatrical surprise.She came out of virtually nowhere to steal Victor/Victoria with a knockout voice and knee-slapping comedy skills.

Lance: It’s lovely to see that D’s recent “Best Of” winner Elly Lindsay made the list. And, even though we singled out the incredible ensemble of Red Light in another category, I would like to give a special nod to Natalie Young’s raw and vulnerable performance in that play.

Lindsey: Second that!

OUTSTANDING ENSEMBLE

  • Dividing the Estate(Dallas Theater Center)
  • My Fair Lady (Lyric Stage)
  • Red Light Winter (Second Thought Theatre)
  • Wittenberg(Amphibian Stage Productions)

Lance:I am thrilled that Amphibian’s under-the-radar, yet over-the-top awesome production of Wittenberg is mentioned here.

Lindsey:Red Light Winter, you rocked my springtime.

OUTSTANDING CREATIVE CONTRIBUTION

  • John Arnone, set design for Dividing the Estate, The Dog Problem, and Easter
  • Design team, Cabaret
  • Design team, Macbeth (Trinity Shakespeare Festival)
  • Jay Dias, music director, for his season with Lyric Stage
  • Christopher Huggins, for his choreography of the Dallas Black Dance Theatre company, The Wiz
  • Justin Locklear, costume design, for The Butcher (Balanced Almond) and Morphing
  • Anna Louizos, set design, Arsenic and Old Lace
  • George Miller, set design, for his season with Jubilee Theatre

Lindsey: We honored Jay Dias for his incredible musical direction skills, and then later that night I spent three hours basking in the many reasons why at Gypsy.

Lance:What a magnificent explosion of creativity this year. Locklear shows yet more of his bottomless talent by ending up in yet another category.

OUTSTANDING TOUR

Lindsey: Can I say no comment? No? Ok, then let’s just say I’m avidly looking forward to all the possibilities of the upcoming touring season…

Lance:David Lee Nelson… Status Update was one of the best playsof the Out of the Loop Festival.

EMERGING ARTIST AWARD

  • Justin Locklear

Lance: Justin Locklear is a complete artist: designing costumes, composing music, and of course, treading the boards with inspiration and purpose.

Lindsey: I’m calling first dibs on his next show.

SPECIAL CITATIONS

  • Matthew Posey and Balanced Almond for the creativity and originality in producing provocative new plays at the Ochre House
  • The DFW theater community for its cooperation and coordination in mounting the area-wide Foote Festival

Lance: I wish that I could give Mr. Posey two awards here. Fantastic work at a theater that is fast becoming more than just a niche space for the artistically adventurous!Nice job all-around for the area Foote Fest participants and audiences. We received an educationabout an important—not just regional—playwright, Horton Foote, and how our great theater community can come together to create art out of a common theme.

Lindsey:The coordination involved in mounting the Foote Festival was staggering, and the fact that so many of the productions turned out to be thoughtful, entertaining, and insightful—well, that was a pleasant bonus. I love it when everyone plays nice.

Participating critics:

Martha Heimberg (Turtle Creek News)

Arnold Wayne Jones (Dallas Voice)

Elaine Liner (Dallas Observer)

Mark Lowry (TheaterJones and Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

M. Lance Lusk (D Magazine)

David Novinski (TheaterJones)

Punch Shaw (Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

Perry Stewart (TheaterJones)

Lawson Taitte (Dallas Morning News)

Lindsey Wilson (D Magazine)

Image: From Red Light Winter

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