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Calvin Up for Eight Grands
September 27, 2005

The Calvin Theatre Company has received eight nominations for Grand Awards, the annual awards for theatre excellence bestowed by the Grand Rapids theatre community.


The Calvin Theatre Company fared well at yesterday's ninth annual Grand Awards, the local awards ceremony for theatre held at the Aquinas College Performing Arts Center.

Calvin College productions, actresses and directors won four of a six possible awards for area college theatre.

That list included the prestigious Outstanding College Production award for Calvin's presentation of Richard III.

Also honored were:

  • Stephanie Sandberg (Outstanding Director of a College Production for Richard III)
  • Jacqui Deboer (Outstanding Lead Actress in a College Production Jane Eyre)
  • Becky George (Supporting Actress in a College Production for Jane Eyre)

The 2005 Grand Awards will be presented on October 9 at the Aquinas College Performing Arts Center.

"It's been gratifying to have Calvin's work recognized by the community," says Debra Freeberg, a Calvin College communication arts and sciences (CAS) professor. "I think we really have to credit the Grand Awards with helping people know how good Calvin theatre really is."

Freeberg says that in years past theatre at Calvin probably was viewed by the West Michigan community as strictly a Calvin event. She believes that the Grand Awards have spotlighted Calvin's commitment to excellence in theatre and the college's desire to present its plays to the larger community.

Calvin’s 2004-2005 theatre season is nominated in every college category of the Grand Awards.

Jane Eyre, Calvin directed by CAS professor Michael Page, and Richard III, directed by CAS professor Stephanie Sandberg, were nominated for "Outstanding Production."

Both Page and Sandberg are also nominated in the "Best Director" category.

Though the nods for her colleagues are extremely gratifying, Freeberg says, "the recognition of the work of the students is always paramount for us."

Jacqueline Deboer, a 2005 Calvin graduate from Victoria, B.C., is up for"Best Lead Actress" for her role in Jane Eyre, while sophomore Becky George of the United Arab Emirates is nominated for "Best Supporting Actress" for the same play.

"They both gave mature, nuanced and powerful performances," says Freeberg.

Senior Michael Brooks of McMurray, Pa., is nominated for his performance as Richard III, a turn Freeberg describes as "raw and mesmerizing."

And senior Alexander Agard of San Marcos, Ca., is up for "Best Supporting Actor" for his role - "a brilliant comic turn," Freeberg says - in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.

Both Freeberg and Sandberg expressed disappointment that there is no category that honors the designers who work on college productions.

"Our designers here at Calvin are some of the bet designers I've worked with," Sandberg says.

Sandberg won the first-ever directing award in the college category last year for Calvin's production of Edith Stein, which also won for "Best Production," "Lead Actress" and "Supporting Actress."

Calvin has been rewarded generously, in both nominations and awards, by the Grand Awards since their inception in 1998.

Sponsored by Fox 17 and the Grand Rapids Community Foundation, the awards are judged by a volunteer steering committee composed of one member each from every eligible college and community theatre group. Nominations are decided by nominating committees who see every production that qualifies for their particular category.

"I'm extremely honored," Sandberg says of her directing nomination, "but for me, it's nicest to see the production win because that honors all of the people who work on something. With Richard III, there's something like 50-some people working on that."

Freeberg likes the way the Grand Awards connect the Calvin to the larger world of theatre in Grand Rapids.

"What's exciting for all of us is to see the wealth of talent in this community, and the Grand Awards celebrate that," she says. "It's wonderful to see our students performing in other theatre companies in Grand Rapids. Many of these community theatres have broadened the education of our students by hiring them as stage managers. They've had internships as assistant directors. There's a great synergy between our educational processes and what they learn in the broader Grand Rapids theatre community."

~written by media relations staff writer Myrna Anderson