News Column

Wes Studi, Kitty Roberts receive special TATE awards; ATC recognized for excellence

June 24, 2013


June 24--American Theatre Company won the award for Outstanding Production for "Of Mice and Men" at the fifth annual Tulsa Awards for Theatre Excellence, presented Sunday night at the Cascia Hall PAC.

The company's staging of John Steinbeck's fable, about two drifters trying to hold on to the smallest of dreams during the harshest days of the Great Depression, won the $10,000 cash prize, the second time ATC has won this award. It also took top honors at the 2010 TATE awards for "12 Angry Men."

The final production of Theatre Tulsa's 90th anniversary season -- the 1960s-era farce "Boeing-Boeing" -- won second place, earning $5,000. This is the first time Theatre Tulsa has won a TATE award since winning the top prize in 2009 with "Up the Down Staircase."

Third place and a $2,500 cash prize went to Heller Theatre for "Time Stands Still," a play by Pulitzer Prize winner Donald Margulies that dealt with the trauma of war and the price people pay to write about it. This was Heller's third time to win at the TATE awards

Odeum Youth Theatre won the $2,500 prize for Outstanding Youth Production for its production of Shakespeare's "Hamlet." It was the first win for this group, breaking Clark Theatre's string of four consecutive wins in this category.

American Theatre Company producing artistic director, Kitty Roberts, received the Mary Kay Place Legacy Award.

The TATE awards are underwritten by the George Kaiser Family Foundation, to help support and encourage local, nonprofit theatre companies.

Eleven productions were submitted for consideration for the Outstanding Production award, and three shows were up for Outstanding Youth Production.

But the real star of the evening of Oklahoma native Wes Studi, the recipient of this year's Distinguished Artist Award. Studi charmed the audience, first during a question-and-answer session before the awards ceremony, then during his acceptance speech.

Studi, known for intense performances in films such as "Dances With Wolves," "Heat," "Last of the Mohicans" and "Avatar," displayed an impish sense of humor when answering questions that ranged from the experience of working with actor Daniel Day-Lewis to his thoughts on the forthcoming movie of "The Lone Ranger," with Johnny Depp as Tonto.

"This is a comic book," Studi said about "The Lone Ranger." "The Lone Ranger never existed. Tonto never existed. So there's no reason to think in terms of tribal authenticity, or that -- " he paused, and dropped his head as if in embarrassment, " -- that awful bird on the head," referring to Depp's costume in the movie.

Studi had heard the stories that Day-Lewis, who starred with Studi in "Last of the Mohicans," would remain in character throughout the time it took to make a film. Studi recalled asking Day-Lewis about this over a drink.

"He knocked back his Irish whisky like that," Studi said, miming the action. "Then he said, 'I like to stay a little private, so I tell people I remain in character so they will leave me alone.' "

Studi got his start in acting in the early 1980s working with local companies such as American Indian Theatre Company and the Gaslight Dinner Theatre. He recalled that the Gaslight would pay "$12 a show, plus all you could eat. And two glasses of wine -- but only on weekends."

Studi turned serious, when a question about his character in "Last of the Mohicans" gave him the opportunity to talk about how the idea of "conquer and make it ours" threatens the earth we share. "Every change has an affect on the system," he said, whether it is removing oil or ore from the ground. "We need to figure out a different way, a better way, to do that."

He recalled two "defining moments" in his time in Tulsa that made him determined to be an actor. One was playing a role in a production of Peter Shaffer's "The Royal Hunt of the Sun," in which Studi's costume consisted entirely of a loincloth, and how striding about the stage so attired "was the first time I had this glorious feeling of being free on stage. Once I did that show."

The other was during a rehearsal for a show called "Ravenswood," in which Studi played a man in a wheelchair, and the reaction his daughter, then 7 years old, had when she saw him acting that part.

" 'Daddy, what happened to you?' she said, and that just melted my heart," he said.

In accepting the acrylic statue that came with the award, Studi thanked the Tulsa theatre community, "because this is where I began. I wouldn't be here without you. And I wouldn't be able to hold this award above my head and say, 'My God! I'm a real freaking actor!' "

James D. Watts Jr. 918-581-8478


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