New ‘Cloris’ award for local theaters

Des Moines Register – Michael Morain – mmorain@dmreg.com – November 19, 2014

New York has the Tonys. Chicago has the Jeffs. Denver has the Henrys.

Several other good-sized cities hand out theater awards named for every Tom, Dick or Harry. But nobody has the Clorises — until now.

A new award, tentatively named for Des Moines native and Oscar winner Cloris Leachman, is in the works to recognize local talent at a handful of theater companies throughout greater Des Moines. The inaugural 2014-2015 season winners in a dozen categories — for acting, stagecraft, and overall production — will receive their bling and make their speeches at a ceremony in August at the Des Moines Social Club.

“We’ve all seen local theater improving by leaps and bounds recently, and an award program seems to be the appropriate response,” Cityview theater critic John Domini wrote in a letter to this year’s selected companies: the Des Moines Community Playhouse, Des Moines Onstage, Iowa Shakespeare Experience, Repertory Theater of Iowa, StageWest and Tallgrass Theatre. The new Goldfinch Theater Company is also in the mix with next month’s “Macbeth,” with the Iowa Nice Guy, Scott Siepker, in the not-so-nice title role.

Des Moines native Cloris Leachman won an Academy Award for her role in the 1971 movie “The Last Picture Show” and has starred in dozens of shows in the decades since. She’s shown here in 2008, during her stint on ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars.”(Photo: Craig Sjodin, ABC/AP Photo)
The award program may expand in future seasons to include additional companies as well as programs for and by children.

Domini will serve on the this season’s three-member jury with John Busbee, the host of “The Culture Buzz” on KFMG 99.1 radio, and me, the Register’s theater critic. Social Club executive director Zachary Mannheimer and education director Marnie Strate will handle some of the logistical details.

And for the record, Leachman, 88, landed some of her first acting roles at the Des Moines Community Playhouse, whose staff has invited her to the awards ceremony next August.