September 21, 2004
Organizers behind the Ari-Zoni Awards consider their annual soiree, which was held Monday at the Herberger Theater Center, as the Valley’s equivalent of the Tony Awards.
But there’s one major difference: Tony winners typically don’t share awards.
Since forming 14 years ago, organizers of the AriZonis have used their awards event — this year’s reflects on more than 100 productions from 31 participating theater companies in the 2003-04 season — to hand out an abundance of plaques, often designating multiple winners in categories.
Actors Theatre’s "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" shared the slot of best overall play (in the contracted theater division) with Phoenix Theatre’s "Morning’s at Seven " and Southwest Shakespeare Company’s "Richard III."
Both lead actresses in Phoenix Theatre’s "Chicago," Natalie Ellis and Tracy Lore, shared accolades for their work in the musical, while Mike Eddy won awards for his lighting design in four different productions with Valley Youth Theatre.
"It’s not supposed to be competitive," says Bobb Cooper, president of the AriZoni board of directors and artistic director of Valley Youth Theatre. "The way the AriZonis were founded, it isn’t about one winner, it’s about excellence."
Theater companies pay $75 to have several of their season’s shows judged for AriZoni consideration. Those shows are visited by five judges (out of a pool of about 80 theater community members and active theatergoers who volunteer each year) who grade productions.
In the realm of contracted theater, Mesa’s Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre West scored a top musical win for its "Cats," though didn’t win for other nominated season shows like "The Music Man" and "Show Boat." Phoenix Theatre also earned a top overall production plaque for its season-opening "Chicago."
In noncontracted theater, Peter Hill proved the Valley juggernaut. The artistic director for both Fountain Hills Community Theater and Phoenix’s Copperstate Dinner Theater earned top kudos for productions like the spooky "The Woman in Black" at Fountain Hills and his directing in Copperstate’s "Man of La Mancha" and "Noises Off."
Hill’s wife, Noel Irick, shared a directing win for "La Mancha," as well as winning two awards for hair and makeup design and a top actress nod for her stagework in "Noises Off."
Young Mesa playwright Cori Lynn Johnson’s original fairy tale adaptation, "Princess Furball," earned 19 nominations for the East Valley Children’s Theatre production and scored 10 wins, including original play, original playscript, lead actress (Katie Chapman), choreography and costume design in the category of children’s theater.
The complete list of Ari-Zoni winners is posted on the organization’s Web site,