WT Theatre closes out year with awards banquet, Kennedy Center honors

Top Branding Iron Theatre award winners are, front from left, Fayth Thompson and Angelica Pantoja and, back from left, Rachel House, Abigail Martin, Brooklin Herring, Caleb Martinez, Raimar Ortiz and Sanai Lowe. (Courtesy Photo)

CANYON West Texas A&M University Theatre wrapped up a successful 2023-2024 season by honoring outstanding students and celebrating national and regional festival awards.

Several students were honored at the annual Branding Iron Theatre Awards for their work on the program’s four stage productions over the last academic year.

“So much of the year we focus show by show, but on the evening of BIT Awards, we get to celebrate the entire year along with the growth of our students,” Callie Hisek, the Royal R. Brantley Professor of Theatre Studies and theatre program coordinator, said in a news release. “Our students can celebrate in each other’s achievements and cheer each other on, which is always great to see and hear.”

Top BIT Awards were won by Brooklin Herring, a May graduate from Lubbock, Overall Achievement Award; Angelica Pantoja, a junior acting major from Lubbock, Achievement in Acting Award; Caleb Martinez, a May graduate from Seagraves, Achievement in Musical Theatre; Fayth Thompson, a junior theatre education major from Crane, Achievement in Theatre Education; and Raimar Ortiz, a May graduate from Lubbock, Achievement in Design and Technology.

Rachel House, a junior design technology major from The Colony, won the New Theatre Buff Award.

Branding Iron Theatre acting award winners include, from left, Abigail Martin, Savannah Bohl, Edgar Camarena, Leighson Selman, Tucker McCann and Kyndall Knapp. (Courtesy Photo)

Sanai Lowe, a senior musical theatre major from McKinney, and Abigail Martin, a May graduate from Amarillo, each won the Treston Johnson Spirit Award.

Best lead performers were Edgar Camarena, a December graduate from Amarillo, as Sir Harry in “Once Upon a Mattress” and Leighson Selman, a May graduate from Amarillo, as Agnes in “She Kills Monsters.”

Best supporting performers were Savannah Bohl, a junior acting major from Muenster, as Kaliope in “She Kills Monsters,” and Martin as Ilona Ritter in “She Loves Me.”

Best feature performers were Kyndall Knapp, a junior acting major from Sweetwater, as Farrah the Faerie and Tucker McCann, a sophomore performance major from San Angelo, as Steve, both in “She Kills Monsters.”

Best production stage manager was Riley Harbour, a junior performance major from Amarillo, for “She Kills Monsters.” Best hair and makeup was Brooklynn Johnson, a junior design technology major from Lubbock, for “She Kills Monsters.” Best costume design was Kelli Zapalac, a May graduate from Schulenburg, for “Once Upon a Mattress.”

Best scenic design was Herring for “She Loves Me.” Best lighting design was Noah Seth Santos, a senior design technology and performance major from Lubbock, for “Once Upon a Mattress.” Best sound design was Thompson for “Rumors.” And best properties design was Isa Slaughter, a sophomore musical theatre major from Odessa, and Makayla Puryear, a junior acting major from Lubbock, for “Rumors.”

Branding Iron Theatre design award winners include, front from left, Makayla Puryear, Riley Harbour and Noah Seth Santos and, back from left, Kelli Zapalac, Fayth Thompson, Isa Slaughter, Brooklin Herring and Brooklynn Johnson. (Courtesy Photo)

Additionally, WT Theatre also scored several national and regional commendations from the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival.

At its 2024 national production awards ceremony, WT’s “Bull in a China Shop,” produced in March and April 2023, won a Citizen Artist Award for promoting long-term societal impact in artistic terms.

Selman and Signe Elder, a December graduate from Lubbock, were cited for Distinguished Achievement in Performance. Leigh Anne Crandall, instructor of theatre, was awarded Distinguished Achievement in Costume Design. And Christian Howard, a 2023 graduate from Lubbock, was honored with the Special Achievement in Original Music Composition award.

WT’s April production of “Rumors” won several commendations at the regional level for KCACTF: Excellence in Collaboration and Production; Lizbeth Juarez, a sophomore theatre major from Grand Prairie, for Excellence in Wigs, Hair and Makeup; McCann for Excellence in Performance; Ortiz and Angelo O’Dierno, associate professor of theatre, for Excellence in Scenic Design; Slaughter and Puryear for Excellence in Properties Design and Production; and Sam Fry, a senior theatre major from Canadian, and Echo Sunyata Sibley, assistant professor of theatre, for Excellence in Directing.

WT’s February production of “She Loves Me” also garnered several commendations at the regional level: Meritorious Achievement for the full ensemble and actors Abigail Martin, Caleb Martinez and Oscar Hample, a May graduate from Wasilla, Alaska; in direction for Bradley Behrmann, assistant professor of musical theatre, and Kamryn Alvarez, a senior theatre major from Earth; in music direction for Chloe Ridolfo, a May 2023 graduate; and in scenic design for Brooklin Herring.

William Cade, a junior theatre major from White Oak, and Rylee Bass, a junior theatre major from Brownsboro, both earned Irene Ryan acting nominations for “Rumors,” and Clara Moos, a junior musical theatre major from Plano, and Logan Lawhon, a freshman musical theatre major from Midland, earned nominations for “She Loves Me.”

They’ll take part in Irene Ryan Scholarship auditions in February in Abilene at the Region 6 festival.

The Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival is a national theater program involving 18,000 students annually from colleges and universities across the country. According to its website, it “has given more than 400,000 college theater students the opportunity to have their work critiqued, improve their dramatic skills, and receive national recognition for excellence.”

WT Theatre’s 2024-2025 season will feature musical “Alice by Heart” by Duncan Sheik, Steven Sater and Jessie Nelson from Sept. 26 to Oct. 6; comedy “The Gamester” by Freyda Thomas, based on “Le Joueur” by Jean-François Regnard from Oct. 24 to Nov. 3; drama “Artemisia” by Lauren Gunderson from Feb. 6 to 16; and musical comedy “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” by Stephen Sondheim, Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart from April 24 to May 4.