Special Recognition | AACT

Special Recognition

Special Recognition
Presented to persons & organizations whose contributions are far-reaching & of a special nature

2023 Honorees

Photo of Tom BoothTom Booth (Wren, Mississippi), who died in January 2023, was a passionate advocate for community theatre. He held a Bachelor’s in Education from Mississippi State University and a Master’s in Accounting from the University of Southern Mississippi. He taught high school in Meridian, Mississippi, for several years and was an active volunteer at Meridian Little Theatre. In 1992, Tupelo Community Theatre (TCT’) became his second home, where he was an active volunteer, actor, and director for 10 years before he was named the company’s first Executive Director in 2002. He led the organization through more than 20 years of phenomenal growth, including the opening the TCT Off-Broadway venue—which led to TCT receiving AACT’s Twink Lynch Organizational Achievement Award in 2014. Tom served as president of Mississippi Theatre Association (MTA) and leadership positions with the Southeastern Theatre Conference (SETC) board of directors. He also served as Member-at-Large on the AACT Board of Directors and as Treasurer.

Photo of Murray ChaseMurray Chase (Venice, Florida) has served as Producing Executive Director of Venice Theatre for the past 28 years. In addition to supervising the theatre’s daily business operations, he has also directed multiple shows each year and occasionally acted in them. Murray oversees the theatre’s Mainstage, Stage 2, Youth and Family, and Concert seasons, as well as its comprehensive education program on its three-building campus. The theatre is now recovering from a devastating hit from Hurricane Ian, in which most of its Mainstage building was destroyed or severely damaged. Full restoration is expected April-May 2024. Murray thanks the community theatre world for its support—both emotional and financial. Donations have been received from as far away as Bangladesh. With AACT, Murray has served as Region Representative, Board Member-at-Large, Vice President, and President.

Photo of Kathy ConlonPhoto of Sal DeMercurioKathy Conlon and Sal DeMercurio (Grosse Point, Michigan)
Grosse Pointe Theatre says it is fortunate to have this talented duo who met while working on a production and later married. Both talented in their own right, the retired schoolteachers share their passion for theatre and education by participating in programs and productions that enhance the theatre experience for people of all ages. Whether it’s designing and teaching in the group’s Youth on Stage program; adjudicating the groups Scholarship Program (celebrating its 50th anniversary this year), teaching workshops, participating in AACT competitions, or teaching set design and scenic artistry in the scene shop, their knowledge of theatre craft benefits Grosse Pointe Theatre (GPT) and the next generation of theatre artists. In 2010, in honor of their friends Carol and Jac Purdon, Kathy and Sal created GPT’s Purdon Studio Theatre, a black box venue for performing non-traditional plays in an intimate setting.

Photo of John DavisJohn Davis (Evergreen, Colorado), who died in January 2023, had a lifelong love affair with live theatre that began at University High School in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and continued as a student at Oberlin College in Ohio, where his interest turned to the technical aspects of theatre. John and wife Kathleen joined the Evergreen Players in Evergreen, Colorado, in 1966, and enjoyed every facet of theatre and theatre-board life for 56 years. As a lighting designer, he had a talent that brought depth to the production without bringing attention to the lights themselves. Instead, his designs accentuated moments and moods. The Evergreen Players began participating in Colorado Community Theater Coalition (CCTC) festivals in the 1990s, and John went on to stage manage for CCTC and other festivals around the country. He served on the CCTC and AACT boards, as AACT Festival Commissioner and Chair of the Governance Committee and was named an AACT Fellow in 2019.  

Photo of Misty ShipmanMisty Shipman is an enrolled member of the Shoalwater Bay Indian Tribe in Washington State and a descendent of the Chinook and Chehalis peoples. Her film work has been shown both nationally and internationally, including at LA SkinsFest and the Native Women in Film Festival. Her short plays, Spirit, and Christmas Stars, were presented in one-act play festivals at Stage Left Theater in Spokane. Misty is a recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts grant through ArtsWA and Potlatch and Evergreen grants for her work in film and musical theatre. She holds an M.F.A. in Writing from the University of Idaho and a Ph.D. in Native American Literature and Film from Washington State University. She sees community theatre in America as a place “for stories like mine, stories of Indigenous power and strength, stories of beauty and sorrow, stories of redemption, told in our own voice, in our own languages, in our own way, for us.”

Previous Recipients

2022  Ann Davis (York, Pennsylvania)
           Mandi Theater (Buffalo Grove, Illinois)
2021  Stephen Peithman (Woodland, California)
           Colleen Stock (Reston, Virginia)
2020   Richard Roberts (Stuttgart, Ger­many)
           Dane Winters (Kaiserslautern, Ger­many)
2019   Valerie Kavanaugh (Averill Park, New York)
           Theatrix (Franken Kaserne, Ansbach, Germany)
2018   Fred Wise (Newark, Ohio)
           Cheryl & Tom Novo
       U.S. Army IMCOM Europe Entertainment
               Kaiserslautern, Germany
2017  Chester Eitze (Austin, Texas)
          Installation Management Command – Europe Region Entertainment
          Nathan Records (Kaiserslautern, Germany)
          The Frank Lee Family and
           the Jack K. Ayre & Frank Ayre Lee Theatre Foundation
           (Fort Worth, Texas)
2016  Dr. Tim Ballweber and Ballweber Orthodontics (Helena, Montana)
          Sue Ellen Gerrells (Alabaster, Alabama)
          Rhonda Wilson (Gainesville, Florida)
2015   Dr. Mary Kay Switzer (Banning, CA)
       Greater Grand Forks Community Theatre (Grand Forks, ND)
2014  Wil Breden (Wellesley, MA)
          Twink Lynch (Topeka, KS)
          Kirk Players (Mundelein, IL)


2013  Michael Fenlason (Tucson, AZ)
          Jan Mitchell (Menifee, KY)
2012  Merrie Dawkins (Rockingham, NC)
2011  Ruth Legg* (Geneva, NY)
          L. Ross Rowland* (Muncie, IN)
2010  Dan LaMorte (US Army, Europe)
2009  Robert G. Anderson (Starkville, MS)
          John Kollack (Clarkesville, GA)
2008  Victoria L. Hanrahan (Ansbach, Germany)
2007  Angela L. Ardolino (Miami, FL)
2005  Kathie Maldonado (Hobbs, NM)
2004  Patty Duke (Northern ID)
2003  Vilseck Bavarian Arts Guild (Vilseck, Germany)
2002  Frank Peot (Sun Prairie, WI)
2001  1st Battalion, 79th Field Artillery
          (Fort Sill, Lawton, OK)
      Women's Exchange of Sarasota (Sarasota, FL)
2000  Kurt Majkowski (Eau Claire, WI)
1999  Stephen Peithman (Davis, CA)
1998  Studio de Monaco - World Festival of Amateur Theatre
          Dundalk (Ireland) International Maytime Festival
          Toyama (Japan) International Theatre Festival
1997  International Thespian Society
1996  A. R. Gurney

          * Deceased


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