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October 24, 2000

Calvin earns Trio of Theatre Awards

Calvin College's reputation for scholarship has long been recognized. Its reputation as a producer of top-notch theater has not. But the Grand Awards - the Grand Rapids' version of the Tony awards -- are helping change that perception.

This year Calvin earned nine of a possible 15 nominations in the new college category. And, at the October 15 ceremony, Calvin actors won three of five awards. Calvin had won only one award in the previous three ceremonies (David Leug's won last year's scenic design award).

A reworking of the nomination criteria put Calvin students on a more level playing field this year for the first time in the history of the awards. In the past, colleges were forced to compete with not only other college productions, but also with all of Grand Rapids' other non-collegiate theater companies. It often put Calvin students and other schools' students at a disadvantage.

"If a play calls for an 80-year-old, then they (non-collegiate acting companies) can use an actual 80-year-old, whereas we have a student playing an 80-year-old," said Calvin Theater Company Director Debra Freeberg. "Our students wouldn't be considered (for awards) no matter how good their work."

This year all of the area's college productions were pitted against each other in categories separate from the non-college community theatre companies.

Calvin's production of Shakespeare's "The Comedy of Errors" earned the prestigious Outstanding College Play award. Also, Terence Schoone-Jongen (above) earned the Best Actor nod for his work in "Translations" and Micah Green was named Best Supporting Actor for his work in "The Comedy of Errors."

The director of "The Comedy of Errors," Robert Hubbard, was on hand at the ceremony to accept the Outstanding Play award. He described the Grand Awards as "a good time" and said the award was affirmation that Calvin theatre is on a par with "anyone else in the city." Freeberg also was gratified by the awards. "When I arrived 10 years ago, many local folks didn't know we had a theater program (at Calvin)," she said.

For Schoone-Jongen the Grand Award was not of paramount importance. "I think that it's really neat to be recognized," he said, "but the shows I was in, especially 'Translations', were the real reward." Schoone-Jongen, a veteran of Calvin theater with five mainstage performances under his belt, is more proud of what the awards say about the quality of acting and production in the Calvin Theater Company (CTC).

The only thing really lacking at the awards ceremony was a category for production design, a consequence of financial constraints on the awards committee. As it stands right now, the Grand Awards only acknowledge collegiate Best Actor and Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Actress and Outstanding Play. That disappoints Calvin's professional staff, said Freeberg, which "has built a reputation for stellar designs." The Grand Awards hopes to add design to next year's collegiate categories.

-- with reporting by media relations writer Dane VandenBerg, class of 2001

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Contact Phil de Haan.