Sierra Stages wins nine Ellies — tops among the region’s performing arts groups

Sierra Stages, based in Nevada City, received nine Elly Awards on Sunday night — a prestigious regional honor that capped its 2018-2019 season. Sierra Stages’ production of “Hand to God” took home seven Ellys and two more for Roald Dahl’s “James and the Giant Peach!”

Other highlights include two leading female Elly Awards to Lois Masten for her performances in “Hand to God” and “Times Like These.” Sharon Winegar also won two Ellys for “Hand of God,” one for direction and the other with Eric Foote for sound design.

Named for Eleanor McClatchy, a devoted patron of the arts and former publisher of the Sacramento Bee, the Elly Awards celebrates excellence in Sacramento’s local and regional community theater.

A total of 34 Elly Awards were given to individuals and theaters in the Comedy, Drama, Musical and Original Script categories plus two Lifetime Achievement awards.

The 171 Adult Elly nominations represented 147 productions from 46 participating theatres. The 34 Elly Awards recognized 13 productions and 11 theatres. The Elly Awards are sponsored by the Sacramento Area Regional Theatre Alliance.

Since it began 11 years ago, Sierra Stages has presented about 40 plays and musicals at various local venues, including the Nevada Theatre and Miners Foundry Cultural Center in Nevada City and The Center for the Arts and Off Center Stage in Grass Valley.

Sierra Stages’ nine awards were:

Roald Dahl’s “James and the Giant Peach”:
Erin Beatie and Devin Cameron Jewett  – Lighting Design, Musicals
Teresa Shea – Set Design, Musicals

“Hand to God”:
Sharon Winegar – Direction, Comedy
Lois Masten – Leading Female, Comedy
Danny McCammon – Leading Male, Comedy
Michael Pierce and Peter Mason – Set Design, Comedy
Eric Foote and Sharon Winegar – Sound Design, Comedy
Paulette Sand-Gilbert – Make-up Design, Comedy, Drama or Musical
Sierra Stages – Overall Production, Comedy

“We’re taking our biggest risk to date by including ‘Hand to God’ in our 2019 Season,” said Sierra Stages managing director Peter Mason in the spring. “We presented the play as a reading in 2017 as part of our Theater by the Book series, and we were extremely concerned that it would be too offensive for the community.

“We were surprised when the reading attracted a capacity crowd and more surprised (and pleased) when the audience leaped to their feet and cheered at the end! We immediately began discussing whether to do a full production amid our continuing concern that our regular audience members would be offended by the play’s raw language, adult and sexual situations, violence, and views on religion.

“We ultimately decided to do a full production of ‘Hand to God’ for several reasons: It is very funny and well-written; it is thoughtful in its exploration of how we confront and deal with grieving; it brings a younger demographic to the theater and further expands our audience; and it hugely fun for the actors and our production staff.”

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