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Steven Maler's Free Shakespeare Earns Him Elliot Norton Prize; A.R.T. Leads The Nominees

The immersive set of "Natasha, Pierre and The Great Comet of 1812" at the American Repertory Theater. (Courtesy Gretjen Helene/American Repertory Theater)
The immersive set of "Natasha, Pierre and The Great Comet of 1812" at the American Repertory Theater. (Courtesy Gretjen Helene/American Repertory Theater)
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Joyce Kulhawik is an Emmy Award-winning journalist, member of The Boston Society of Film Critics and a regular contributor to The ARTery. She is also the president of the Boston Theater Critics Association, which hosts the Norton Awards. 


Steven Maler, the founding artistic director of Commonwealth Shakespeare Company, is this year’s winner of the Elliot Norton Prize for Sustained Excellence. Maler has been producing free, bold productions of the Bard’s work in Boston for the past 20 years, the last 19 on Boston Common. The Norton prize is the capstone of the 34th annual Elliot Norton Awards, which will be presented by the Boston Theater Critics Association at the Citi Shubert Theatre on May 23.

Steven Maler is the founding artistic director of Commonwealth Shakespeare Company. (Courtesy Commonwealth Shakespeare Company)
Steven Maler is the founding artistic director of Commonwealth Shakespeare Company. (Courtesy Commonwealth Shakespeare Company)

This year, the American Repertory Theater leads with 15 nominations across five productions, with five nominations for "Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812" which turned 70 pages of Tolstoy's "War and Peace" into a musical and earning kudos for production, its immersive design, director Rachel Chavkin, three of its leading actors as well as the entire ensemble.

The Huntington Theatre Company follows closely with 13 nominations across five productions, with six for William Inge's poignant American classic "Come Back, Little Sheba" including production, director David Cromer and actors Derek Hasenstab and Adrianne Krstansky. Krstansky was also nominated for outstanding actress in New Repertory Theatre's rolling world premiere "Blackberry Winter."

The milkman, Michael Knowlton, and Lola, Adrianne Krstansky, in the Huntington's "Come Back, Little Sheba," directed by David Cromer. (Courtesy T. Charles Erickson/Huntington Theatre Company)
The milkman, Michael Knowlton, and Lola, Adrianne Krstansky, in the Huntington's "Come Back, Little Sheba," directed by David Cromer. (Courtesy T. Charles Erickson/Huntington Theatre Company)

SpeakEasy Stage Company is next with 12 nominations across four productions, five of those nominations for the musical "Violet" by Jeanine Tesori of Tony-winning "Fun Home" fame, and nominations for production, director Paul Daigneault and three of its four leads including veteran Kathy St. George in a dual role.

The nominations also include an Oscar winner (Mark Rylance in the A.R.T.'s "Nice Fish"), a Tony winner (Jessie Mueller in A.R.T.'s new musical "Waitress"), a Tony nominee (Anita Gillette in Huntington's "A Confederacy of Dunces") and a Boston-born movie star (Jennifer Coolidge in Nora Theatre Company's "Saving Kitty"). This year, there were so many musicals onstage, those categories expanded from four to six.

Finally from fringe to large categories, diversity was the theme. Navigating the racial, ethnic, socio, sexual and political divide took us from "Milk Like Sugar," "How I Learned What I Learned," "The Convert," "appropriate," "Saturday Night/Sunday Morning" and "The Launch Prize," to the parodistic "An Octoroon," "Bootycandy" and "Thoroughly Muslim Millie," to "Casa Valentina," "Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them," and back to classics like "The Diary of Anne Frank" and "The Boys in the Band."

Brandon Green and Shawna M. James in Company One Theatre's "An Octoroon." (Courtesy Paul Fox/Company One Theatre)
Brandon Green and Shawna M. James in Company One Theatre's "An Octoroon." (Courtesy Paul Fox/Company One Theatre)

Those are the broad strokes, here are the details of the 34th Annual Elliot Norton Awards nominations:

Outstanding Visiting Production

  • "Needles & Opium" (Robert Lepage and Ex Machina, presented by ArtsEmerson)
  • "Ghost Quartet" (presented by American Repertory Theater)
  • "1984" (the Headlong, Almeida Theatre and Nottingham Playhouse production, presented by American Repertory Theater)

Outstanding Production by a Large Resident Theater

  • "Come Back, Little Sheba" (Huntington Theatre Company)
  • "Milk Like Sugar" (Huntington Theatre Company)
  • "Nice Fish" (American Repertory Theater)

Outstanding Production by a Midsize Theater

  • "Casa Valentina" (SpeakEasy Stage Company)
  • "The Convert" (Underground Railway Theater)
  • "Bootycandy" (SpeakEasy Stage Company)

Outstanding Production by a Small Theater

  • "The New Electric Ballroom" (Gloucester Stage Company)
  • "Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them" (Company One Theatre)
  • "The Diary of Anne Frank" (Boston Children’s Theatre)

Outstanding Production by a Fringe Theater

  • "A Beautiful Day in November on the Banks of the Greatest of the Great Lakes" (Apollinaire Theatre Company)
  • "Dying City" (Happy Medium Theatre)
  • "The Launch Prize" (Bridge Repertory Theater of Boston)

Outstanding Musical Production by a Large Theater

  • "Waitress" (American Repertory Theater)
  • "Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812" (American Repertory Theater)
  • "A Little Night Music" (Huntington Theatre Company)

Outstanding Musical Production by a Midsize, Small or Fringe Theater

  • "Violet" (SpeakEasy Stage Company)
  • "Thoroughly Muslim Millie" (Gold Dust Orphans)
  • "My Fair Lady" (Lyric Stage Company of Boston)

Outstanding Design, Large Theater

  • "Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812" (American Repertory Theater: Scenic design by Mimi Lien, costumes by Paloma Young, lighting by Bradley King, sound by Matt Hubbs, wigs and makeup by Rachel Padula Shufelt)
  • "Come Back, Little Sheba" (Huntington Theatre Company: Scenic design by Stephen Dobay, costumes by Sarah Laux, lighting by Mike Durst, sound by Jonathan Mastro)
  • "1984" (American Repertory Theater: Design by Chloe Lamford, lighting by Natasha Chivers, sound by Tom Gibbons, video by Tim Reid)

Outstanding Design, Midsize, Small or Fringe Theater

  • "Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them" (Company One Theatre: Scenic design by Cristina Todesco, lighting by Jen Rock, costumes by Rafael Jaen, sound by Ed Young, properties by Molly FitzMaurice)
  • "Mary Poppins" (Wheelock Family Theatre: Scenic design by Janie E. Howland, lighting by Franklin Meissner Jr., costumes by Elisabetta Polito, sound by Roger J. Moore, props by Marjorie Lusignan)
  • "appropriate" (SpeakEasy Stage Company: Scenic design by Cristina Todesco, costumes by Tyler Kinney, lighting by Wen-Ling Liao, sound by Arshan Gailus)

Outstanding Actor, Large Theater

  • Derek Hasenstab, "Come Back, Little Sheba" (Huntington Theatre Company)
  • Will Lyman, "King Lear" (Commonwealth Shakespeare Company)
  • Mark Rylance, "Nice Fish" (American Repertory Theater)

Outstanding Actress, Large Theater

  • Adrianne Krstansky, "Come Back, Little Sheba" (Huntington Theatre Company)
  • Anita Gillette, "A Confederacy of Dunces" (Huntington Theatre Company)
  • Ramona Lisa Alexander, "Milk Like Sugar" (Huntington Theatre Company)

Outstanding Actor, Midsize Theater

  • Greg Maraio, "Casa Valentina" (SpeakEasy Stage Company)
  • Maurice Emmanuel Parent, "The Convert" (Underground Railway Theater)
  • Johnnie McQuarley, "Othello" (Actors’ Shakespeare Project)

Outstanding Actress, Midsize Theater

  • Adrianne Krstansky, "Blackberry Winter" (New Repertory Theatre)
  • Cloteal Horne, "Saturday Night/Sunday Morning" (Lyric Stage Company of Boston)
  • Jennifer Coolidge, "Saving Kitty" (Nora Theatre Company)

Outstanding Actor, Small or Fringe Theater

  • Mikey DiLoreto, "The Boys in the Band" (Zeitgeist Stage Company)
  • Brandon Green, "An Octoroon" (Company One Theatre)
  • Robert Walsh, "Gloucester Blue" (Gloucester Stage Company)

Outstanding Actress, Small or Fringe Theater

  • Stephanie Recio, "Dry Land" (Company One Theatre)
  • Debra Wise, "Mistero Buffo" (Poets’ Theatre) and "Matchless & The Happy Prince" (Underground Railway Theater)
  • Zehava Younger, "The Diary of Anne Frank" (Boston Children’s Theatre)

Outstanding New Script

  • "Baltimore," by Kirsten Greenidge (New Repertory Theatre and Boston Center for American Performance)
  • "Blackberry Winter," by Steve Yockey (New Repertory Theatre)
  • "The Launch Prize," by MJ Halberstadt (Bridge Repertory Theater of Boston)

Outstanding Solo Performance

  • Phil Tayler, "Buyer & Cellar" (Lyric Stage Company of Boston)
  • Tangela Large, "Mr. Joy" (ArtsEmerson)
  • Eugene Lee, August Wilson’s "How I Learned What I Learned" (Huntington Theatre Company)

Outstanding Director, Large Theater

  • David Cromer, "Come Back, Little Sheba" (Huntington Theatre Company)
  • Rachel Chavkin, "Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812" (American Repertory Theater)
  • Robert Icke and Duncan MacMillan, "1984" (the Headlong, Almeida Theatre and Nottingham Playhouse production, presented by American Repertory Theater)

Outstanding Director, Midsize Theater

  • Scott Edmiston, "Casa Valentina" (SpeakEasy Stage Company) and "My Fair Lady" (Lyric Stage Company of Boston)
  • Summer L. Williams, "Bootycandy" (SpeakEasy Stage Company)
  • Paul Daigneault, "Violet" (SpeakEasy Stage Company)

Outstanding Director, Small or Fringe Theater

  • Robert Walsh, "The New Electric Ballroom" (Gloucester Stage Company)
  • Summer L. Williams, "Colossal" and "An Octoroon" (Company One Theatre)
  • Shawn LaCount, "Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them" (Company One Theatre)

Outstanding Musical Performance by an Actor, Large Theater

  • Scott Stangland, "Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812" (American Repertory Theater)
  • Lucas Steele, "Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812" (American Repertory Theater)
  • Wade McCollum, "Ernest Shackleton Loves Me" (ArtsEmerson)

Outstanding Musical Performance by an Actor, Midsize, Small or Fringe Theater

  • Dan Belnavis, "Violet" (SpeakEasy Stage Company)
  • John Devereaux, "Rent" (Fiddlehead Theatre Company)
  • Tim Lawton, "Thoroughly Muslim Millie" (Gold Dust Orphans)

Outstanding Musical Performance by an Actress, Large Theater

  • Jessie Mueller, "Waitress" (American Repertory Theater)
  • McCaela Donovan, "A Little Night Music" (Huntington Theatre Company)
  • Denée Benton, "Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812" (American Repertory Theater)

Outstanding Musical Performance by an Actress, Midsize, Small or Fringe Theater

  • Jennifer Ellis, "My Fair Lady" (Lyric Stage Company of Boston) and "Wonderful Town" (Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston)
  • Alison McCartan, "Violet" (SpeakEasy Stage Company)
  • Kathy St. George, "Violet" (SpeakEasy Stage Company)

Outstanding Ensemble, Large Theater

  • "Come Back, Little Sheba" (Huntington Theatre Company)
  • "Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812" (American Repertory Theater)
  • "A Little Night Music" (Huntington Theatre Company)

Outstanding Ensemble, Midsize, Small or Fringe Theater

  • "The New Electric Ballroom" (Gloucester Stage Company)
  • "Casa Valentina" (SpeakEasy Stage Company)
  • "Saturday Night/Sunday Morning" (Lyric Stage Company of Boston)

A special citation will be awarded to Matthew Aucoin, for his opera "Crossing," a theatrical hybrid of opera, dance and poetry bringing Walt Whitman to moving and mysterious life.

Composer Matthew Aucoin in rehearsal. (Courtesy Jeremy Daniel/A.R.T.)
Composer Matthew Aucoin in rehearsal. (Courtesy Jeremy Daniel/A.R.T.)

Tony and Drama Desk Award-winning actress Mary Louise Wilson is Guest of Honor and will receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from the BTCA. Members of the BTCA include Don Aucoin, Jared Bowen, Terry Byrne, Carolyn Clay, Nick Dussault, Iris Fanger, Joyce Kulhawik, Kilian Melloy, Bob Nesti and Ed Siegel.


The 34th annual Elliot Norton Awards will be held at the Citi Performing Arts Center Shubert Theatre, 265 Tremont St., Boston, on Monday, May 23 at 7 p.m. Tickets are priced at $35; savvy shoppers will take advantage of $10 off the regular ticket price through May 1, using the code NORTIES10. Tickets are on sale at the Citi Center Box Office, online or by calling (866) 348-9738.

Joyce Kulhawik Twitter Contributor, The ARTery
Joyce Kulhawik, best known as the Emmy Award-winning arts and entertainment critic for CBS-Boston, is the president of the Boston Theater Critics Association.

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