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Critics’ Nods Favor Smaller Theaters

TIMES STAFF WRITER

In an echo of Tuesday’s Oscar nominations, “independent” productions surged ahead of the “majors” in nominations for the annual Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Awards, announced Wednesday.

All five nominees for outstanding production were staged in theaters with fewer than 100 seats, including A Noise Within’s “Great Expectations,” which netted six nominations--more than any other single show.

Nevertheless, the city’s biggest theatrical producer, Center Theatre Group, still managed to garner 20 of the 60 nominations--far more than the total for any other producer. The CTG/Ahmanson production of “Carousel” nabbed five, even though it wasn’t nominated in the outstanding production category. CTG/Mark Taper Forum’s “Changes of Heart” received four, tying with the sub-100-seat productions of “Eleemosynary” and “She Loves Me” for third place among single shows.

South Coast Repertory, last year’s big winner with 11 awards from 12 nominations, received only five nominations this year but also produced “Collected Stories,” which won the $3,000 Ted Schmitt Award for best world premiere for playwright Donald Margulies.

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Among other special awards announced Wednesday, the Margaret Harford Award for sustained achievement in smaller theater goes to Actors Co-op, a company based in two spaces at Hollywood’s First Presbyterian Church, while lifetime achievement in lighting and set design were won by Martin Aronstein and the team of Deborah Raymond and Dorian Vernacchio, respectively. The set design award is new, endowed by the Fountain Theatre in memory of the late designer Robert W. Zentis and called the Bob Z Award.

Laurel Green, a mainstay of Justin Tanner’s company at the Cast Theatre, won an annual award for an emerging comic actress, which includes a $5,000 prize endowed by the estate of the late actress Natalie Schafer.

The awards will be presented at the Sportsmen’s Lodge in Studio City on March 17 in a ceremony emceed by Lynn Redgrave and honoring Jack Lemmon.

The nominees:

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* Production: “Breaking the Code,” Blank Theatre Company; “Eleemosynary,” West Coast Ensemble; “Golden Boy,” Pacific Resident Theatre Ensemble; “Great Expectations,” A Noise Within; “Heartbreak Help,” Cast Theatre.

* Direction: Jules Aaron, “Company”; Marilyn Fox and Gar Campbell, “Golden Boy”; Marilyn Fox, “Playboy of the Western World”; Peter Grego, “Eleemosynary”; Mark Rucker, “The Taming of the Shrew.”

* Writing: Lee Blessing, “Eleemosynary”; Jack Heifner, “Homefires”; Donald Margulies, “Collected Stories.”

* Writing/Adaptation: Barbara Field, “Great Expectations”; Stephen Wadsworth, “Changes of Heart.”

* Lead Performance: Meredith Bishop, “Eleemosynary”; Kandis Chappell, “Collected Stories”; Dennis Christopher, “Breaking the Code”; John Michael Higgins, “Changes of Heart”; Elaine Welton Hill, “Light Up the Sky”; Cherry Jones, “The Heiress”; Donald Sage Mackay, “Great Expectations”; Mary Lou Rosato, “Changes of Heart”; Marian Seldes, “Three Tall Women”; Katy Selverstone, “Golden Boy”; Julia Sweeney, “God Said, Ha!”

* Featured Performance: Jeffrey Alan Chandler, “Ah, Wilderness!”; Ellia English, “Dinah Was”; Rachael Harris, “Homefires”; Jill Hill, “Great Expectations”; Tom Hillman, “She Loves Me”; Michael Manuel, “Great Expectations”; Deborah Strang, “Great Expectations”; Tamara Zook, “Homefires.”

* Ensemble Performance: the cast of “Mad Forest.”

* Scenic Design: John Arnone, “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying”; Bob Crowley, “Carousel”; Ralph Funicello, “The Taming of the Shrew”; Alex Grayman, “She Loves Me”; Yael Pardess, “Blade to the Heat.”

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* Lighting Design: Beverly Emmons, “The Heiress”; Rick Fisher, “An Inspector Calls”; J. Kent Inasy, “Mad Forest”; Anne Militello, “Blade to the Heat”; Paul Pyant, “Carousel.”

* Costume Design: Jane Greenwood, “The Heiress”; Florence Klotz, “Show Boat”; Shon LeBlanc and A. Jeffrey Schoenberg, “She Loves Me”; Martin Pakledinaz, “Changes of Heart”; Shigeru Yaji, “The Taming of the Shrew.”

* Sound Design: Jon Gottlieb, “Blade to the Heat”; Steve Canyon Kennedy, “Carousel”; Andrew K. Yeater, “The Rimers of Eldritch.”

* Musical Direction: Roger Cantrell, “Show Boat”; Kevin Farrell, “Carousel”; Percy Hart, “The All Night Strut.”

* Choreography: Sir Kenneth Macmillan, “Carousel”; Chris Salmon, “She Loves Me”; Susan Stroman, “Show Boat.”

*

Special awards

* Lifetime Achievement Award: Jack Lemmon

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* Ted Schmitt Award: Donald Margulies, “Collected Stories”

* Margaret Harford Award: Actors Co-op

* Angstrom Lighting Award: Martin Aronstein

* Natalie Schafer Award: Laurel Green

* Bob Z Award: Deborah Raymond and Dorian Vernacchio


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