San Diego female Actor of the Year Nadia Guevara. Photo by Ion Moe

2018 was a superb year for San Diego theater, and to honor the best of the best, the San Diego Theatre Critics Circle presented the 17th annual Craig Noel Awards for Excellence in Theatre.

As a member of the Critics Circle — nine professional critics who write for San Diego newspapers, magazines, online publications and blogs — I was thrilled to be one of the presenters at our gala event on Feb. 11, at the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation. More than 500 guests were there to celebrate our wonderfully  talented, heart-filled theater community.

Twenty-eight awards were presented, including Actors of the Year,  Outstanding Dramatic Production and Resident Musical, and a special, rarely given, Director of the Year  award.

Two productions won four awards each:

  • The Old Globe’s “A Thousand Splendid Suns” won for Outstanding Dramatic Production, Direction, Lighting and Scenic Design.
  • Lamb’s Players Theatre’s production of “Once” earned awards for Outstanding Resident Musical, Ensemble, Musical Direction and Lead Performance By a Female in a Musical (Caitie Grady).

San Diego Repertory Theatre’s “A Doll’s House, Part 2” picked up two prizes for Outstanding Dramatic Production and Outstanding Lead Performance in a Play (Sofia Jean Gomez).

Anna Ziegler’s “The Wanderers,” produced by The Old Globe in its world premiere and directed by Globe artistic director Barry Edelstein, won the award for Outstanding New Play.

The Director of the Year, David Ellenstein, helmed five strong productions in 2018, including four at his own theater, North Coast Repertory Theatre, and one at The Roustabouts Theatre Co.

The Roustabouts Theatre Co. was singled out for the annual Don Braunagel Award for Outstanding Achievement by a Small Theater Company for its body of work in 2018.

The 2018 Actors of the Year, Kevin Hafso Koppman and Nadia Guevara, each performed impressively in three productions last year, and each also directed a production.

A well-deserved  Outstanding Special Event citation honored a first-time collaboration among San Diego Opera, Bodhi Tree Concerts and SACRA/PROFANA, which together co-produced “All is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914.”

The complete list of 2018 Craig Noel Awards recipients follows.

Outstanding Dramatic Production (tie)

  • “A Doll’s House, Part 2” – San Diego Repertory Theatre
  • “A Thousand Splendid Suns” – The Old Globe

Outstanding New Play / Performing Arts Live Prize

“The Wanderers” by Anna Ziegler – The Old Globe

Outstanding Resident Musical

“Once” – Lamb’s Players Theatre

Director of the Year

David Ellenstein – Body of Work 2018

Don Braunagel Award for Outstanding Achievement by a Small Theater

The Roustabouts Theatre Co.

Actors of the Year – Male and Female

Outstanding Young Artist/Sandra Ellis-Troy Scholarship

Noah Baird – “Disney’s Newsies,” Moonlight Stage Productions

Outstanding Special Event

“All is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914” – Co-produced by San Diego Opera, Bodhi Tree Concerts and SACRA/PROFANA

Outstanding Direction of a Play

Carey Perloff – “A Thousand Splendid Suns,” The Old Globe

Outstanding Direction of a Musical

Sam Woodhouse – “Fun Home,” San Diego Repertory Theatre

Outstanding Musical Direction

Scott Lacy – “Once,” Lamb’s Players Theatre

Outstanding Scenic Design

Ken MacDonald – “A Thousand Splendid Sons,” The Old Globe

Outstanding Sound Design (tie)

  • Melanie Chen Cole – “Men on Boats,” New Village Arts
  • Will Pickens – “Uncle Vanya,” The Old Globe

Outstanding Costume Design

Fabio Toblini – “The Importance of Being Earnest,” The Old Globe

Outstanding Lighting Design

Robert Wierzel – “A Thousand Splendid Suns,” The Old Globe

Outstanding Ensemble

“Once,” Lamb’s Players Theatre

Outstanding Lead Performance in a Play, Male

James Sutorius – “The Father,” North Coast Repertory Theatre

Outstanding Lead Performance in a Play, Female

Sofia Jean Gomez – “A Doll’s House, Part 2,” San Diego Repertory Theatre

Outstanding Featured Performance in a Play, Female

Joy Yvonne Jones – “Voyeurs de Venus,” Moxie Theatre

Outstanding Featured Performance in a Play, Male

Wrekless Watson – “Cardboard Piano,” Diversionary Theatre

Outstanding Lead Performance in a Musical, Female

Caitie Grady – “Once,” Lamb’s Players Theatre

Outstanding Lead Performance in a Musical, Male

Zackary Scot Wolfe – “Avenue Q,” New Village Arts

Outstanding Featured Performance in a Musical, Female

Eboni Muse – “Hairspray,” San Diego Musical Theatre

Outstanding Featured Performance in a Musical, Male

Bryan Banville – “Monty Python’s Spamalot,” Cygnet Theatre

Outstanding Choreography

Jill Gorrie – “Hairspray,” San Diego Musical Theatre

Founded in 1983 and re-established in 2002, the San Diego Theatre Critics Circle is an independent, nonprofit organization of print and online theater critics dedicated to open and honest dialogue about theater in San Diego County and to honoring artistic excellence.

In 2002, the annual awards were named in honor of Craig Noel, longtime artistic director at San Diego’s Old Globe Theatre and the founding father of San Diego’s theater community, who passed away in 2010.

Pat Launer, a member of the American Theatre Critics Association, is a long-time San Diego arts writer and an Emmy Award-winning theater critic. An archive of her previews and reviews can be found at patlauner.com.

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