CAMBODIAN ROCK BAND, Chay Yew, Daisuke Tsuji, HOLD THESE TRUTH’s Ryun Yu Win San Diego’s 2019 Craig Noel Awards; Full List of Winners

The cast of “Cambodian Rock Band” (from left): Joe Ngo, Moses Villarama, Abraham Kim, Jane Lui, Daisuke Tsuji, James Ryen (understudy), and Brooke Ishibashi. Photo courtesy of La Jolla Playhouse/Facebook
Chay Yew. Photo by Lia Chang
Chay Yew. Photo by Lia Chang

Lauren Yee’s “Cambodian Rock Band” and Jeanne Sakata’s “Hold These Truths” are the gifts that keep on giving. La Jolla Playhouse’s production of “Cambodian Rock Band” won 3 2019 Craig Noel Awards including Outstanding Dramatic Production, Outstanding Direction of a Play for Chay Yew and Outstanding Featured Performance in a Play for Daisuke Tsuji

The year’s Outstanding Solo Performance award went to Ryun Yu, who starred in Jeanne Sakata’s “Hold these Truths” at San Diego Rep.

Ryun Yu, Daisuki Tsuji, Brooke Ishibashi and La Jolla Playhouse Producing Director Eric Keen-Louie at the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation in San Diego for the 2019 Craig Noel Awards on February 10, 2020. Photo courtesy of The San Diego Theatre Critics Circle

The San Diego Theatre Critics Circle presented the 2019 Craig Noel Awards before an audience of more than 450 guests at the annual ceremony on Feb. 10, 2020, at the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation in San Diego. Now in its 18th year, the Craig Noel Awards honor the achievements of professional theaters in San Diego County.

Ryun Yu as Gordon Hirabayashi in “Hold These Truths”. Photo credit: Patrick Weishampel/Courtesy Portland Center Stage
Ryun Yu as Gordon Hirabayashi in “Hold These Truths”. Photo credit: Patrick Weishampel/Courtesy Portland Center Stage

Ryun Yu Stars in San Diego REP’s Production of Jeanne Sakata’s HOLD THESE TRUTHS, November 14 – December 8 

The Old Globe’s “Almost Famous” won the award for Outstanding New Musical. Moonlight Stage Production’s “West Side Story” is the year’s Outstanding Resident Musical. And playwright Miranda Rose Hall’s “The Hour of Great Mercy” was named Outstanding New Play in its world premiere at Diversionary Theatre.

Backyard Renaissance Theatre Company was singled out for the annual Don Braunagel Award for Outstanding Achievement by a Small Theater Company for its body of work in 2019.

The rarely-presented Director of the Year honor went to Rob Lutfy, who helmed four strong productions in 2019 at Cygnet Theatre, where he serves as associate artistic director.

The 2019 Actors of the Year are Cashae Monya and Michael Cusimano, who both performed impressively in four or more productions last year.

The year’s Outstanding Ensemble award went to the cast of Cygnet Theatre’s “Angels in America,” Parts 1 & 2. The cast included Connor Sullivan, Wil Bethmann, Alex Bodine, Rosina Reynolds, James Newcomb, Rachael VanWormer, Kevane La’Marr Coleman and Debra Wanger.

The first-ever Outstanding Specialty Artist award went to dialect and accent coach Vanessa Dinning who worked on eight productions at six San Diego theaters in 2019. And the year’s Outstanding Young Artist is 12-year-old Catalina Zelles.

This was the first year the San Diego Theatre Critics Circle presented non-gender-specific awards in all of its performance categories, a cause celebrated by Jeremy Wilson, a non-binary artist who won the Lead Performance in a Musical award for the title role in Diversionary’s “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.” At the podium, Wilson said it was an honor to win in the mixed-gender category because it made them feel “seen” and validated by the community at large.

The 2019 Craig Noel Awards Are:
Outstanding Dramatic Production
“Cambodian Rock Band,” La Jolla Playhouse

Outstanding New Musical
“Almost Famous,” The Old Globe

Outstanding Resident Musical
“West Side Story,” Moonlight Stage Productions

Outstanding New Play
“The Hour of Great Mercy” by Miranda Rose Hall, Diversionary Theatre

Don Braunagel Award for Outstanding Work by a Small Theater Company
Backyard Renaissance Theatre Company

Outstanding Director of the Year
Rob Lutfy (“The Virgin Trial,” “The Last Five Years,” “Pride and Prejudice,” “Marie and Rosetta”)

Actor of the Year
· Michael Cusimano (“Girlfriend,” “The Last Five Years,” “A Jewel in the Crown City,” “Lamb’s Players Festival of Christmas,” “The Tale of Despereaux”-swing)
· Cashae Monya (“Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” “Intimate Apparel,” “A Jewel in the Crown City,” “Little Shop of Horrors”)

Outstanding Young Artist/Sandra Ellis-Troy Scholarship
Catalina Zelles – “Gabriel,” North Coast Repertory Theatre

Outstanding Specialty Artist
Vanessa Dinning (dialects/accents/musical performance)

Outstanding Direction of a Play
Chay Yew – “Cambodian Rock Band,” La Jolla Playhouse

Outstanding Direction of a Musical
Barry Edelstein – “Life After” – The Old Globe

Outstanding Musical Direction
Bryan Perri – “Almost Famous,” The Old Globe

Outstanding Choreography
Colleen Kollar Smith – “Matilda the Musical,” Moonlight Stage Productions

Outstanding Scenic Design
Tony Cucuzzella – “An Experiment with an Air Pump,” Backyard Renaissance Theatre Company

Outstanding Sound Design
Steven Leffue – “Angels in America,” Parts 1 & 2, Cygnet Theatre

Outstanding Costume Design
Elisa Benzoni – “Amadeus,” North Coast Repertory Theatre

Outstanding Lighting Design
Japhy Weideman – “Life After” – The Old Globe

Outstanding Projection Design
Blake McCarty – ” 33 1/3 House of Dreams,” San Diego Repertory Theatre

Outstanding Ensemble
“Angels in America,” Parts 1 & 2, Cygnet Theatre

Outstanding Solo Performance
Ryun Yu – “Hold These Truths,” San Diego Repertory Theatre

Outstanding Lead Performance in a Play
· Tamara McMillian – “Intimate Apparel,” New Village Arts
· Andrew Oswald – “The Hour of Great Mercy,” Diversionary Theatre

Outstanding Featured Performance in a Play
· Jessica John – “An Experiment with an Air Pump,” Backyard Renaissance Theatre Company
· Daisuke Tsuji – “Cambodian Rock Band,” La Jolla Playhouse

Outstanding Lead Performance in a Musical
· Sophie Hearn – “Life After” – The Old Globe
· Jeremy Wilson – “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” Diversionary Theatre

Outstanding Featured Performance in a Musical
· Courtney Arango – “West Side Story,” Moonlight Stage Productions
· Charles Evans, Jr. – “Million Dollar Quartet,” Lamb’s Players Theatre

The 2019 awardees were chosen by a nine-member body of professional critics who write for San Diego newspapers, magazines, online publications and blogs.

This year’s awards ceremony was organized by event chair Julie Sarno. Financial support was provided by individual donors Larry and Dawn Alldredge; Lon and Denise Bevers; Stanley Cohen; Jay and Julie Sarno; Bill and Judy Garrett; Harvey and Sheryl White; Dea and Osborn Hurston; Weston Anson; Wendy Nash; Jerry Buckley; Nancy Richards; Ralph Johnson; Arthur and Marilyn Neumann; and Darlene Davies. The event was also underwritten by sponsors: the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation; UC San Diego and Mike Napoli & Performing Arts Live.

Founded in 1983 and re-established in 2002, the San Diego Theatre Critics Circle is an independent, nonprofit organization of print and online theater critics dedicated to open and honest dialogue about theater in San Diego County and to honoring artistic excellence. The members of our organization are professional critics writing for daily newspapers, magazines, entertainment trade publications and websites in San Diego County. In 2002, the awards were renamed in honor of Craig Noel, longtime artistic director at San Diego’s Old Globe Theatre and the founding father of San Diego’s theater community, who passed away in 2010.

For information, visit sdcriticscircle.org or their Facebook page

Lia Chang. Photo by Garth Kravits

Lia Chang is an actor, a multi-media content producer and co-founder of Bev’s Girl Films, making films that foster inclusion and diversity on both sides of the camera. Bev’s Girl Films’ debut short film, Hide and Seek was a top ten film in the Asian American Film Lab’s 2015 72 Hour Shootout Filmmaking Competition, and she received a Best Actress nomination. BGF collaborates with and produces multi-media content for artists, actors, designers, theatrical productions, composers,  musicians and corporations. Lia has appeared in the filmsWolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman. She stars in and served as Executive Producer for the short independent films Hide and Seek, Balancing Act, Rom-Com Gone Wrong, Belongingness and When the World was Young. She is profiled in Jade Magazine and Playbill.com. She is profiled in Jade Magazine and Playbill.com.

All text, graphics, articles & photographs: © 2000-2020 Lia Chang Multimedia. All rights reserved. All materials contained on this site are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of Lia Chang. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content. For permission, please contact Lia at liachangpr@gmail.com

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