Distinguished Merit Award

Distinguished Merit
Presented to individuals and organizations in recognition of contributions made to promote and develop the highest standards for community theatre

2019 Honorees

Photo of Debbie LitchDebbie Litch (Memphis, Tennessee) has as Executive Director, established Theatre Memphis as the model arts organization for the City of Memphis, the State of Tennessee, and the United States, through her three-fold commitment to community, artistic excellence, and financial responsibility. She accepted the leadership role of this treasured theatre at its lowest ebb since its 1921 founding, when the very viability of the theatre was under threat of bankruptcy, with a debt of $570,000.  Under the guidance of Debbie’s passionate and careful management of community volunteers, resources, and dollars, Theatre Memphis is once again flourishing--serving millions in its community by providing theater of the highest artistic excellence, utilizing the talents of over 800 volunteers who create the shows, sets, costumes, lighting, choreography, music, and direction, without regard to economic means, color, religion, age, or educational background. Theatre Memphis also serves the community through a year-round Outreach and Education Department that serves 30,000 students of the under-served through theatre education, playwriting, and on-site productions. Under Debbie's arts leadership, the brightest days are ahead for Theatre Memphis, as it celebrates the 100th  anniversary year of operation with a renewed facility and endowment fund, in the 2020-2021 season.

Volunteer Costume & Set Design Staff of US Army Installation Management Command (IMCOM) Europe Entertainment (Ansbach, Germany), delivering remarkable and impactful support to Military Services overseas. These award-winning, creative, and dedicated individuals have enhanced Army Entertainment productions across Europe for decades. The IMCOM program has a mission to provide soldiers and their families with the opportunity to participate in and see quality theatre while overseas, and since its inception in 1942, this Army Morale, Welfare, and Recreation program only functions with the support of countless volunteers who support the program with innumerable volunteer hours. The most remarkable and impactful volunteer support has come in costume and set design. In the process of supporting the Army Entertainment program, volunteer designers have shown incredible creativity and ingenuity. Their support has allowed volunteer performers to appear in productions with astonishing costume and set designs that reach professional-level quality. This includes the American non-professional premiere of Les Miserables and the Army Entertainment premieres of Cats, Titanic, Mary Poppins, and other major productions.

Previous Recipients

1979  Norman Carver* (Kalamazoo, MI)
1980  Douglas Cook (University Park, PA)
1981  Henry Fonda* (Omaha, NE)
1982  David Gooder* (Downers Grove, IL)
1983  Bea Miller* (Memphis, TN)
1984  Alaska State Community Theatre
1985  National Multicultural Theatre Association
         of Canada
1987  Twink Lynch (Topeka, KS)
1988  Kalamazoo Civic Players (MI)
1989  Charles Jones* (Omaha, NE)
1990  Hiroshi Koizumi (Toyama City, Japan)
1991  Target Stores
1992  Paul Ebert (Oak Ridge, TN)
1993  Jon Kerkhoff (Omaha, NE)
1994  Theatre Midland (TX)
1995  Sherwood Lohrey* &
         Theatre Memphis (TN)
1996  Steve Spiegel & Music Theatre
         International (New York, NY)
1997  William Talbot (New York, NY)
1998  Stage Directions Magazine
1999  David Young (Gainesville, FL)
2000  Charles Jeffers* (Hickory, NC)
2001  Jim Sohre (US Army, Europe)
2002  Enid Holm* (Odessa, TX)
         Harv Thompson (Madison, WI)
2003  Ohio Community Theatre Association
2004  Shirley Cockrell (Oneida, NY)
         Hap Ryder* (Fairbanks, AK)
         Pat White (Amherst, NH)

2005  Jerry Zimmerman (Ft Jennings, OH)
2006  John Rich (Pullman, WA)
2007  Morrie Enders (Kalamazoo, MI)
2008  Jim Buckley (Cambria, CA)
2009  Bonnie Daniels (US Army)
         Andre Bruce Ward (Memphis, TN)
2010  Penelope Notter (Grand Rapids, MI)
2011  April Cochran (Paducah, KY)
         Ginny Morrison (Seville, OH)
2012  Dennis Assaf & Jefferson Performing
         Arts Society (Metairie, LA)
         Linda McClane (Fernandina Beach, FL)
2013 Anthony Del Rosso
        & Gwendolyn Whitney
        (SHAPE Perf. Arts Centre NATO Base)
        Carolyn Pitman (Whitefish, MT) 
2014 Melanie Cornelison (Ashland, KY)
         Lisa Garza (Houston, TX)
         SCERA Center for the Arts (Orem, UT)
2015 Aubrey Dunne* (San Diego, CA)
2015 Oklahoma Community Theatre Association (OCTA)
2016 Jim Chervenka (Grand Rapids, MI)
         Celia Couture (Tewksbury, MA)
         Loween Getter (Webster City, IA)
2017  Alan Buxkemper (Stuttgart, Germany)
          Dr. Alan D. Kaplan (Manchester, New Hampshire)
          André Bruce Ward (Moscow, Tennessee)
          Tacoma Musical Playhouse (Tacoma, Washington)
2018   Andrea Campfield, Sand Springs, OK
           Gai Jones, Ojai, CA
           Dan LaMorte, U.S. Army IMCOM Europe
                   Mons, Belgium

          * Deceased



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