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Center Stage

Cloris Awards recognize metro’s best


Community awards unite, celebrate region’s theater

Co-chairs of last year’s Cloris Committee were Cyndi Pederson (left) and John Busbee (right), along with Cloris Leachman (center). Photo by Libby Crimmons.

Co-chairs of last year’s Cloris Committee were Cyndi Pederson
(left) and John Busbee (right), along with Cloris Leachman (center).
Photo by Libby Crimmons.

Unfurl the red carpets. Let the spotlights blaze. The 2017 Greater Des Moines Cloris Leachman Excellence in Theater Awards will be presented in the grandeur of Hoyt Sherman Place at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 27. The third annual Cloris Awards recognize the best in locally produced theater.

“We’re proud to support the Cloris Awards and homegrown theater any way we can. It’s such an important part of central Iowa’s cultural landscape,” says Hoyt Sherman Place executive director Robert Warren.

This year’s ceremony, the first at this venue, will be hosted by two local theater veterans and broadcast personalities — Maxwell Schaeffer, of KIOA radio, and Jackie Schmillen, of KCWI-TV. These two talented celebrities will anchor an evening of recognition, occasional performances, music and grand humor as 12 greater Des Moines participating companies gather to share the magic and power of live theater.

The 2017 Cloris Awards already has considered 40 shows from 12 companies, producing more than 350 performances. These participants are Ankeny Community Theater, Des Moines Community Playhouse, Des Moines Young Artists’ Theater, Goldfinch Theater Co., Kata Klysmic Productions, Open Door Rep, Pyramid Theater Co., Noce, Repertory Theater of Iowa, StageWest Theater Co., Tallgrass Theater Co. and Urbandale Community Theater.

Prep Iowa

This celebration gives the production people an opportunity to gather and recognize each other’s recent achievements. These awards also let the larger community see what the local mix of professionals and volunteers creates through an eclectic body of producing organizations.

This is the third year in which several Cloris Awards are presented for achievements in acting, directing and design. Two special awards, for best production and best ensemble, recognize work by producers of theater for younger audiences, families and young performers.

In the fall of 2014, five local theater advocates gathered to launch a local award program. Various iterations of this idea had previously floated around: Present an awards ceremony giving recognition to locally produced theater. Patterned after other metro theater awards, such as Chicago’s Joseph Jefferson (Jeffie) Awards and Washington D.C.’s Helen Hayes Awards, the Cloris Awards represent an adjudicated reflection of the previous theatrical season in greater Des Moines. Experienced theater reviewers give their time and expertise to attend theater productions, processing contenders through a blind voting process.

It didn’t take long to determine a name for these awards. Cloris Leachman instantly rose to the top as the namesake for these awards. Her stellar career, which began at the Des Moines Playhouse, exemplified the standards that anyone connected with a stage production aspires. Having Leachman at the 2016 Awards was a special milestone in the Cloris Awards development. She was joined by her daughter, granddaughter — Eddie Rissien is a Hollywood producer, Roosevelt High School classmate and fellow Playhouse alum — and his wife.

A strong community is one which recognizes its achievements while also supporting its cultural infrastructure. Projects such as the Cloris Awards is one way the greater Des Moines community can prove its self-supporting worth on a national scale. So, make room Jeffie and Helen Hayes awards. Cloris is taking the stage back in her hometown.

Overheard in the lobby: The Iowa Stage Theatre Company opens their debut season with the Stephen Sondheim musical “Company” on Sept. 22. The theatrical collaborative Adolescent Anarchy — through Des Moines Young Artists’ Theatre — begins its three-day run of “The Giver” on Aug. 11. ♦

John Busbee is a creative project developer, critic, playwright, author, producer and media professional. He has produced his weekly show, The Culture Buzz, on KFMG since 2007.

Cloris Awards Nominations Announcement Party

Thursday, Aug. 10, 6:30 p.m.

The Basement at Des Moines Social Club

Free and open to the public. Cash bar, with light hors d’oeuvres.

Cloris Awards Ceremony

Sunday, Aug. 27, 6:30 p.m.

Hoyt Sherman Place





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