New Horizon Theatre hosts annual Awards Banquet

Contributed report

May 24, 2014

New Horizon Community Theatre held its 11th annual awards banquet on May 13 at the West Point First United Methodist Church’s Zachry Center. Over 190 actors, crew, and supporters attended the event.

After the catered meal, Elizabeth Rouquie, chair of the Theatre Board of Directors, welcomed those attending and introduced Artistic Director Bill Nixon, who emceed the evening’s festivities. Board members and past scholarship and award winners were recognized.

Nixon pointed out that since its inception, 36 local high school seniors had received scholarships from the theatre. In 2010, the scholarship was renamed the Cliff Glover Drama Scholarship in honor of Board Member Emeritus Cliff Glover, who celebrated his 101st birthday by attending the banquet. This year’s recipients were Corbin Hoats and Jamil Houston.

“Statistically, the 2013-2014 season was another success story,” said Nixon. “More than 2,500 people attended the six shows.”

Over 200 actors, staff and crew produced the six shows, which included Disney’s “Mulan Jr.,” “Vintage Hitchcock – A Radio Show,” “A Christmas Carol,” “Once Upon A December,” “A Little Princess” and “Guys and Dolls.” A video presentation produced by Keith and Amy McDow highlighted the season.

Six Theater Awards were then presented. The Young Actors Award, which is voted on by the production staff, was presented to Ella Eiland for her portrayal of Mushu in “Mulan Jr.” The Chorus Award, voted on by the cast of “Guys and Dolls” went to Audrey Rushan for her onstage and backstage.

Four statuettes are presented each year. These statuettes – affectionately referred to as “Davids,” in memory of David O’Keefe, the founder of the group – are presented to cast, crew, and staff members for their efforts throughout the season. The first three awards – Best Actor, Male, in a Principal Role; Best Actor, Female, in a Principal Role; and Best Actor, Male or Female, in a Supporting Role – are voted on by the season ticket holders. The fourth award, The Director’s Award, is presented by the artistic director to the individual who has had the greatest impact on the season.

The award for Best Actor, Male or Female, in a Supporting Role was presented to Zeke Weldon for his role as Nicely-Nicely Johnson in “Guys and Dolls.” Tim Boyd won the David for Best Actor, Male, in a Principal Role for his portrayal of Nathan Detroit in “Guys and Dolls.” To complete the “Guys and Dolls” clean sweep, the award for Best Actor, Female, in a Principal Role went to Christen Manuel in the role of Miss Adelaide. The Director’s Award for backstage work went to Tonya Frank for Musical Direction.

Nixon then alluded to the theater’s growth over the past 29 years.

“While other Community Theatres in the country are struggling and closing their doors, we continue to grow,” he said. “It has been an eventful year, to say the least. We have completed two of the four phases of our expansion/restoration of the theatre, and the Capital Campaign for the final two phases has begun. We already have $260,000 of the $490,000 needed to complete these final two phases.”

Phase one includes a two-story addition that houses the theater’s new lobby, public restrooms, green room, dressing rooms, backstage bathrooms, office and board room, prop storage and set storage, costing $497,000. NHCT received $513,000 in pledges toward this phase.

“The Nader’s Project is complete,” Nixon continued. “Harris Nader and his family made a generous donation of the Nader’s Music Building across the street as well as monetary donations to convert that building into our Costume Shoppe and a Museum for George Nader’s bell collection. This new building, ‘The New Horizon Nader Annex and George Nader Bell Museum,’ will not only provide us with much needed storage and work space, but the museum will also serve as another ‘destination’ for visitors to visit the Greater Valley Area. We have received pledges totaling $27,000 for this project. Total expense on the project has been $41,000. The Costume Shoppe is complete. The Bell Museum is 98 percent complete. We are in the process of inventorying and cataloguing the bells, and we’ll be ready to open the museum next month.”

Phase two of fund raising is underway with a projected cost of $490,000. This will include renovating the existing auditorium and stage, increasing the stage to three times its current size, increasing seating from 105 to 218 with new permanent theater-style seating, eliminating the tiers and steps completely and making the entire facility handicapped accessible. Also, building a new sound and light control room, adding wing space, fly space, new lighting and sound equipment, and curtains.

When completed, the auditorium will connect to the new lobby and restroom area, and will have handicap-accessible ramps at the front and rear of the building. The timetable for this phase depends on funding, Nixon said.

“When we have the money, we will begin the renovation,” he added, excitedly.

The coming season will kick off June 23-27 with the fifth annual Summer Theatre Camp, again lead by professional entertainer and educator Julia Langley.

The regular season will kick off Sept. 4-6 with “Disney’s My Son Pinocchio, Jr.” On Oct. 30–Nov. 1, the group will present the drama “Twelve Angry Men.” Dec. 4–6 will see the Christmas classic “Miracle on 34th Street.” On Feb. 12-14, the group will mount Jones, Hope and Wooten’s comedy “A Funny Little Thing Called Love.” The players will close out the season with the popular ‘50s musical “Smokey Joe’s Café.”

The theatre is open to anyone interested in the performing arts. For more information on the group, visit the website at