The Arden Theatre Company production of August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean, directed by Philly playwright James Ijames, was this year’s big winner at Theatre Philadelphia’s Barrymore Awards ceremony Monday night at the Bok in South Philadelphia.
The production took home nine trophies, the most of the night, including outstanding overall production of a play and outstanding direction of a play — along with both of this year’s Barrymore Awards for outstanding supporting performance in a play. (The Barrymore acting categories are gender-neutral. Two performers win, rather than one actor and one actress.)
Jess Conda and Christina “Starfire” May, the evening’s host, moved the awards show along with playful skits and witty banter.
Gem of the Ocean actors Danielle Leneé and Brian Anthony Wilson shared the stage when their supporting performance awards, the evening’s first, were announced.
Leneé gripped the ends of the podium as she took a few moments to gather herself. She said she’d been pondering where she’d display her Barrymore if she won. “There’s a place on my bookshelf in my living room.”
Winners this year took home a newly designed Barrymore trophy — a 9-inch-high rectangular sculpture in a cool, aqua color, designed by Philadelphia artist Sharif Pendleton.
Theatre Horizon’s fiery musical rendition of The Color Purple finished second to Gem of the Ocean for total awards with six awards, including outstanding overall production of a musical. Director Amina Robinson became the first black woman in the Barrymore Awards’ 25-year history to win for outstanding direction of a musical.
Gem of the Ocean and The Color Purple were the only two productions to win multiple awards this year. Arden’s nine Gem awards also made it the night’s biggest winner among theater companies. Theatre Horizon came in second among companies with its six from The Color Purple.
The Barrymore for outstanding leading performance in a play went to Brandi Burgess, for Simpatico Theatre’s Cry It Out, and Justin Jain, for InterAct Theatre Company’s The Great Leap.
Sarah Gliko of Philadelphia Theatre Company’s The Bridges of Madison County and Jessica Johnson of Theatre Horizon’s The Color Purple won the two Barrymores for outstanding leading performance in a musical.
Ebony Pullum of Theatre Horizon’s The Color Purple and Brett Ashley Robinson of Lightning Rod Special’s The Appointment won for outstanding supporting performance in a musical.
Actor/poet/director Jalene Clark Owens was awarded the coveted F. Otto Haas Award for an emerging Philadelphia theater artist. Emily Acker’s Boycott Esther at Azuka Theatre won the Independence Foundation Award for outstanding new work. Playwright and educator Edgar J. Shockley III received a lifetime achievement award.
In a full-circle moment, Brian Anthony Wilson’s supporting performance award for Gem of the Ocean turned out to be the first Barrymore win of his substantial career. He was first nominated at the inaugural Barrymores 25 years ago for his role as Gabriel in Fences, another August Wilson play.
“Tonight is magical,” he said, clutching his award to his chest. “I don’t dream this big. This feels phenomenal."
2019 Barrymore winners
Outstanding Overall Production of a Play, Gem of the Ocean, Arden Theatre Company
Outstanding Overall Production of a Musical, The Color Purple, Theatre Horizon
Independence Foundation Award for Outstanding New Play/Musical, Boycott Esther by Emily Acker, Azuka Theatre
Outstanding Direction of a Play, James Ijames, Gem of the Ocean, Arden Theatre Company
Outstanding Direction of a Musical, Amina Robinson, The Color Purple, Theatre Horizon
Charlotte Cushman Award Outstanding Leading Performance in a Play, Brandi Burgess, Cry It Out, Simpatico Theatre and Justin Jain, The Great Leap, InterAct Theatre Company
Outstanding Leading Performance in a Musical, Sarah Gliko, The Bridges of Madison County, Philadelphia Theatre Company and Jessica Johnson, The Color Purple, Theatre Horizon
Outstanding Supporting Performance in a Play, Danielle Leneé, Gem of the Ocean, Arden Theatre Company and Brian Anthony Wilson, Gem of the Ocean, Arden Theatre Company
Outstanding Supporting Performance in a Musical, Ebony Pullum, The Color Purple, Theatre Horizon and Brett Ashley Robinson, The Appointment, Lightning Rod Special
Outstanding Scenic Design, Thom Weaver, Gem of the Ocean, Arden Theatre Company
Outstanding Costume Design, LeVonne D. Lindsay, Gem of the Ocean, Arden Theatre Company
Earl Girls Award for Outstanding Lighting Design, Thom Weaver, Gem of the Ocean, Arden Theatre Company
Bauder Audio Award for Outstanding Sound Design, Daniel Ison, Gem of the Ocean, Arden Theatre Company
Outstanding Media Design, Sadah Espii Proctor, Carlos Del Castillo Aceves Morir Sonyando, Passage Theatre Company
Outstanding Original Music, Zak Berkman & Jessie Fisher, Such Things As Vampires, People’s Light
Outstanding Choreography/Movement, Nicole Burgio and Ben Grinberg, xoxo moongirl, Almanac Dance Circus Theatre
Outstanding Music Direction, Amanda Morton, The Color Purple, Theatre Horizon
Outstanding Ensemble a Play, Gem of the Ocean, Arden Theatre Company
Outstanding Ensemble in a Musical, The Color Purple, Theatre Horizon
Outstanding Outdoor Theatre Production, Contradict This! A Birthday Funeral for Heroes, Bearded Ladies Cabaret
Lifetime Achievement Award, Edgar J. Shockley III
The Brown Martin Philadelphia Award ($25,000 to recipient, $2,500 to four finalists), The Color Purple at Theatre Horizon
F. Otto Haas Award for Emerging Philadelphia Theatre Artist ($15,000 to recipient, $2,000 to four finalists), Jaylene Clark Owens
Victory Foundation Award for Outstanding Theatre Education Program ($10,000 to the recipient, $2,500 to four finalists), Theatre Horizon’s Autism Drama Program
June and Steve Wolfson Award for Evolving Theatre Company ($10,000 to the recipient, $1,000 to four finalists), Lightning Rod Special