Pandemic shakes up Connecticut Critics Circle awards

The Connecticut Critics Circle recognized the Westport Country Playhouse's 2019 production of "Mlima's Tale" in multiple categories.

The Connecticut Critics Circle recognized the Westport Country Playhouse’s 2019 production of “Mlima’s Tale” in multiple categories.

Westport Country Playhouse / Contributed photo

It doesn’t seem possible that the Connecticut Critics Circle (CCC) Awards is 30 years old. As one of the original founders of the group, it’s always interesting to see how an organization carries on. When I checked in on the CCC website to see what it was going to do regarding the cut short theater season, I read that it had opted for recognizing outstanding productions and performers during the COVID-19 shortened theater season. That certainly makes sense.

I touched base with David Rosenberg who was instrumental in creating the group. It was Irene Backalenick and Rosenberg’s idea to start such a group. The original intent was for critics to share thoughts and ideas on theater criticism. It also served as a think tank and support group. Most importantly, we invited distinguished theater guests to our monthly meetings in order to learn new ideas that were happening in theaters and we took guided tours backstage, in costume workshops, prop shops and attended the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center in Waterford. The O'Neill Center is considered the most important organization for developing new plays.

Eventually, the CCC realized that it needed to bring attention to the great theater in Connecticut and the best way to do that was by awarding and publicizing outstanding work. Since then, the organization has changed in many different ways, but it is still bringing recognition to Connecticut’s theaters and that is a very good thing.

According to the current CCC president, Stuart Brown, instead of coming up with a slate of nominees as is usually done, the CCC members decided to “come up with a list of superior performances and artistic contributions.”

The website also stated that “The CCC wanted to differentiate this year’s awards - our 30th anniversary year - since approximately one-third of the season was canceled and, therefore, not eligible for recognition.”

Connecticut Critics Circle honorees

The Connecticut Critics Circle recognized the outstanding talent of the 2019-2020 theater season.

Juan Manuel Amador - Featured Actor, "Quixote Nuevo," Hartford Stage.

Ezekiel Andrew - Actor, "Ragtime," Music Theatre of CT.

Yana Birykova - Projections, "Mlima's Tale," Westport Country Playhouse.

Bowdie - the dog, "Because of Winn Dixie," Goodspeed Opera House.

Ami Brabson - Actress, "American Son," TheaterWorks Hartford.

Isabella Byrd - Lighting Design, "Mlima's Tale," Westport Country Playhouse and "Jane Eyre," Hartford Stage.

Kevin Connors - Direction, "Ragtime," Music Theatre of CT.

Emilio Delgado - Actor, "Quixote Nuevo," Hartford Stage.

Rachel Healy - Costumes, "Quixote Nuevo," Hartford Stage.

Dee Hoty - Featured Actress, "Cabaret," CT Repertory Theatre.

Denis Jones - Choreography, "The Flamingo Kid," Hartford Stage.

Mark Lamos - Direction, "Mlima's Tale," Westport Country Playhouse.

Lesli Margherita - Featured Actress, "The Flamingo Kid," Hartford Stage.

Britton Mauk - Scenic Design, "I Am My Own Wife," Long Wharf Theatre.

Ivory McKay - Featured Actor, "The Scottsboro Boys," Playhouse on Park.

Tyler Nowakowski - Debut, "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time," CT Repertory Theatre.

Jason Peck - Sound Design, "Birds of North America," Thrown Stone.

Jermaine Rowe - Actor, "Mlima's Tale," Westport Country Playhouse.

Helen Sadler - Actress, "Jane Eyre," Hartford Stage.

KJ Sanchez - Direction, "Quixote Nuevo," Hartford Stage.

Margot White - Featured Actress, "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time," CT Repertory Theatre.

"Lifespan of a Fact" - Ensemble, TheaterWorks.

"Mlima's Tale" - Westport Country Playhouse.

"Quixote Nuevo" - Hartford Stage.

"Ragtime" - Music Theatre of CT.