And the Drammy Committee Nominees are:

Thank you so much to all who submitted. We’re a little late because, well, I (Lava) was protesting stuff. Any who- Here are the nominees! Please take time to read what they have to say before voting begins.

These brave folks were asked to submit a short bio and the following questions:

Why do you want to be on Drammy Committee? (150 words or less)

1.  When you see a show that strikes you as well-done, what particular elements are most likely to have got you to that opinion?

2.  Is there a particular genre or style of theatre that you are particularly drawn to?  Why?

3.  The Portland theatre community is a small one, in which many of us know each other socially and/or professionally. How do you think you would be able to maintain objectivity when discussing elements of production/performance?

The community will be able to vote on these nominees starting Feb. 6th.

The nominees are :

Chris Engelke

I have volunteered at and have seen shows in the Portland metro area for around 20 years. I spent 15 years when I was younger as a musician, both in school and two years earning some income as a singer. I have seen every possible genre of shows in the area – from comedy to drama to Shakespeare to musical.  A great show, in any genre, has to have an intense emotional connection with me. I have seen great musicals where there was no storyline, but the show was so good, the songs were connected so well, the singers blended so great together, that it was a very emotional show for me.

The best musical I saw in 2016 was “Fly By Night” at Broadway Rose. This show had everything. Isaac Lamb, the director, was able to bring out the best out of everyone involved in the show. The show had things that were different than any other show I had ever seen. The biggest thing that impressed me was the scenic design by Sean O’Skea. Every single prop in the show was there on stage during the entire show. Performers did not have to go offstage to pick up or drop off a prop. Because of that, every performer was onstage the entire time. This allowed a much deeper emotional connection between them and the audience. Every single performer had a fabulous performance, no matter how big or small the part was. Gary Norman as the father was so great because he showed so much emotions behind his character whose wife had recently died at the start of the show. From Rebecca Teran to Malia Tippets to Ben Tissell, everyone showed great emotion in their parts. Joe Thiessen, as the narrator, tied everyone so great together. The person who shined the most was Tissell. This was someone I had only seen once before. He was exceptional in this show. From his character Harold moving to New York to thinking he fell in love with one sister, only to fall in love with the other one, only to have that love end tragically.  The end of the show, where Harold reunited with his father because he now knew what it was like to lose the love of their life. When he broke down and cried and hugged his father, it was one of the most emotional scenes I have ever seen. I have seen a lot of outstanding singers in musicals for many years and Tissell is one of the most special, most talented musicians I have ever seen, and I realized that after just one note.
While I am friends with a lot of performers in town, I am very unbiased when I see a show.  I have seen shows that I don’t like but my opinion doesn’t change because someone I care about is in it.

Robert Hamm

I began acting in 1990 in community theatre and first tried directing a stage play six years later.
Shortly after, I began my first playscript and I have been at it ever since.
I have designed lights, sets, special effects, and props.

After three years acting with the SF Shakespeare Festival, I joined Actor’s Equity Association.
In 1999, I was hired as Managing Artistic Director at Altarena Playhouse where, over a three year period, I production-managed some 24 productions.

I spent five years in Richard Seyd’s acting workshop and seven years in Will Dunne’s Dramatic Writing Workshop, both in San Francisco.
All in all, I have acted in at least 50 productions and countless readings. I have directed 13 full runs and many, many readings. I have written four full-length plays, innumerable shorter ones and have had one professional production of my play A Bed of My Own.

Why the Drammy Committee?

A dear friend who runs her own theatre company advises me that the Drammy Committee is a wonderful way to incorporate into a new community – meeting the people behind the productions and getting to know the various venues and companies that make the Portland theatre scene what it is.

Being relatively new to the area, I have become acquainted with – and a fan of – half a dozen or so theatres in PDX. But I know there is so much more out there – talent to be seen and people to meet. There are entire aspects of our community with which I am unfamiliar.

On the other hand, I bring a good deal of experience and knowledge to my viewing of theatre. I have learned a great deal – am learning still – and feel that I am pretty well qualified to recognize a quality production and to communicate what I feel.

To my mind there are three sine qua nones that every successful show must fulfill: writing, acting, and directing. A badly written play is an exercise in futility. Bad acting can ruin the best of plays and, in that case, the fault must be shared with the director. Bad directing can drive good actors balmy and make a good play stink. Good design (stage, light, costume, sound, props) can be a beautiful thing to behold, but it cannot save a production if the three essentials are not fully present.

I have always been drawn to the black box. It strips things down to the essentials. Once, I was doing a production of an adaptation of a Chaucer tale – with gorgeous costumes and props. Some one broke into our van and stole everything the morning of our Civic Center performance. We did it black box in street clothes – it was the best we ever did it.


Being a relative stranger in town I have little in the way of personal connections to influence me. That said, I have always prided myself both on the truthfulness of my criticism and my ability to couch critique in terms that are not gratuitously offensive. There is never a need to embarrass an artist’s earnest efforts and I think there is an obligation to be forthright and even-handed in one’s evaluation.


Patricia Hunter

Army Brat born in Texas in 1954, stationed with my family in many locales finally settling in Oregon.  Pursued my love of theatre, music and dance throughout high school and University and left for NYC at age 23. Had the good luck and honor to work with many gifted artisans in film, television and regional theatres.  Came “home” to Oregon to raise my 3 now grown children.  Enjoy advocating for local, organic food providers, Union support (SAG-AFTRA-AEA), Human Rights movements and Environmental concerns.  “ON BEING” is my favorite radio broadcast and I still read my NYTimes daily.  Oh, and I’m a huge fan of Neil deGrasse Tyson

Producing:  City Theatre Festival – NYC AEA Company. ABC Television:  Assistant Casting for Sears/Edmunds Productions, Inc. NYC. Assistant Casting for Liz Woodman Casting, CSA.   NYC Clients:  National Actors Theatre, The Guthrie, Missouri Rep. Syracuse Stage and represented Ms. Woodman at AEA Nationals in NYC. Assistant Casting – Michele Ortlip Casting, NYC. :Cincinnati Playhouse, Pennsylvania Stage, Pioneer Theatre, Intiman Theatre,The Women’s Project and Buffalo Studio Arena.  17 “Best Actress” awards from my beloved Dorset Theatre Festival.
2 Years with Uta Hagen back in the day…Guest Juror – St. Johns University “Young Actors Festival”.Resident Intern/Apprentice Action Coach 1982-1985 Dorset Theatre Festival.
“Why do I want to be on the Drammy Committee”?
When the first Drammy thing was awarded a group of us PSU graduates (under the brilliant tutelage of Jack Featheringill) had the “balls” to raise funds and produce the first “Drammy” award for “Best Production” WHEN YOU COMIN’ BACK, RED RYDER” on a shoe-string budget and were actually all on our way to launch to LA and NYC. Circa 1978.  It was a sweet goodbye to Portland to walk away with acknowledgement from the Willamette Week with such a “local” award.  That continues.  Local Productions and talent needs to be nurtured somehow…
I want to help nurture local theater by “awarding” efforts.
We all know awards are limited and slightly silly, but a “Drammy” award is still linked into many resumes and bio’s locally.
What is it that strikes you as well-done, what particular elements are most likely to have got you to that opinion?”
answer: Did the director,cast, crew and creative staff serve the playwright.  That’s our “job”.
 Is there a particular genre or style of theater that you are particulary drawn to?  Why?
answer:  No. I drink it all in.   Whatever is offered honestly.   Immersion into the script.

 “The Portland theatre community is a small one, in which many of us know each other socially and/or professionally. How do you think you would be able to maintain objectivity when discussing elements of production/performance?”

I love the local theatre community for its efforts to maintain the drive forward into using the Theatre as a mouthpiece for all things human. Maintaining objectivity when discussing elements of a production/performance include foremost:  Was the PLAYWRIGHT’S voice heard/embodied and supported by all involved: from sound design, set design, costume design, lighting design, directorial thrust, stage management and all artists/actors involved? Love when these elements meld together in a “gift” to the audience from a playwright and a company of servants.  Theatre artisans are “servants”.”
I now have an “empty nest” having launched 3 remarkable kids into Law School and colleges.  I am willing, able and want to nurture local artisans to make magic in the theaters of our blessed Northwest.  If it includes the “need” for local acknowledgement via “Drammy’s”, I would love to serve.

Bobby Jackson

Bobby’s foundation in acting began 30+ years ago in a high school drama club 1-act comedy show. He fell in love with musical theater while watching his first musical production, Kiss Me Kate, and in college he performed his first musical, Fiddler on the Roof. He has been hooked ever since. Before moving to Portland in 1995 he toured North America for three years as a director and actor with Missoula Children’s Theatre. He completed his baccalaureate degree in vocal performance at PSU, and since then he has performed with many major theaters in Portland including 11 years as AGMA chorister and numerous comprimario roles at Portland Opera, as well as Broadway Rose Theatre Co., Mock’s Crest,  Lakewood Theater Co., Pixie Dust Productions, Opera Theater Oregon, and more. His experience as a director, musical director, and actor in children’s theater, musical theater, and drama make him an ideal candidate for the Portland Drammy committee.

Why do you want to be on the Drammy committee?
Portland theater has been an extremely important part of my own performing career. However, I find that I do not have as much time and energy to perform as I once did years ago. Now I’m more particular about what projects I choose to do, and may get involved with perhaps one production every couple of years. I believe as a member of the Drammy committee I would be able to continue supporting live theater in Portland, and offer my experience and expertise to the committee’s goals in rewarding superior theater projects around the greater Portland area.

I can be moved to tears by many dramatical aspects. As a lover of musical theater I am thrilled when I hear quality singing and the synchronization of the orchestra. When I feel myself concerned and moved during a tense scene in a drama, I know that the actors have won me over emotionally. Even elements that might easily be overlooked by an average audience member can draw my eye such as a striking lighting design, or fantastic costumes.

As a musician and trained singer, I am definitely drawn first to musical theater. The element of well-composed melody and harmony combined with drama, or comedy, makes a particularly strong impact to me.

As a 20 year veteran of the Portland theater scene I am friends with many other local professionals, and familiar with nearly all of them. However, I am first a lover of theater and music, and judge each performance I see not on the basis of personal knowledge of the performers, but on the quality of each aspect of the production including the dramatic material, scene design, costumes, lighting, movement, and overall production value. I am quick to highlight the greatness of a particular show, but not afraid to point out problems when it comes to suffering elements such as unbalanced sound design, ineffective show concept, poor musicality, or yes, even imperfect acting.

James Liptak

I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. My wife,Valerie, and our family moved to Portland in 1989. We moved to Spokane, Las Vegas and eventually back to Portland in 2006: All of these moves involved ministry positions at churches or non profit organizations. I just resigned my position as creative and technical director for Dare To Live / Common Ground Ministries, an organization focussed on teen suicide awareness and prevention presenting a multi media live event in High Schools and Jr Highs. Throughout this time I have also maintained a career as a musician and recording artist.

My family and I have been extreemely active in the theater community wherever we have been, but have a special lone for the Portland theater community. We have been honored by the volunteer awards for The Portland Opera and by the Drammys. I work with various comedy and improv theaters in Portland.

Why do you want to be on Drammy Committee?

I love the Portland Theater scene. Having seen hundreds of plays and having worked with several companies as a volunteer, employee or performer, I believe I understand each theater company, their value and unique voice in the community. I would very much like to be involved in recognizing companies and individuals for their outstanding efforts.

1. When you see a show that strikes you as well-done, what particular elements are most likely to have got you to that opinion?

Number one!: The script itself
2: Casting and the director’s vision
3: Ensemble and individual performances 4: Production values

2. Is there a particular genre or style of theatre that you are particularly drawn to? Why?

There is no particular genre that I am attracted to above another: Comedy, Drama, Musical, Experimental etc. As long as…
see first question.

3. The Portland theatre community is a small one, in which many of us know each other socially and/or professionally. How do you think you would be able to maintain objectivity when discussing elements of production/performance?

Yes. (Short enough answer?)

Matt Russell

Bio: Over the past two decades, Matt Russell has worked as a freelance director, playwright, and producer in numerous theatres throughout the greater Portland Area.  Over that time, he has come to believe in and understand the power of theatre not only to entertain, but to enrich and transform lives for the better. He has a deep love of storytelling and a passion for using the art of theatre to bring people together, and to heal the problems that communities face every day. To that end, he has created Fierce Light Theatre Company, a brand new non-profit professional theatre, which is planned to open its doors later this year. Favorite directing projects include Eye of God and Curse of the Starving Class (Paula Productions, 2000), Forever Plaid (H.A.R.T., 2009), Costa Rehab(Book of Dreams, 2012), and Bus Stop (Wilsonville Stage, 2015).

Why do you want to be on the Drammy Committee? 

I desire to be on the Drammy Committee, partly because I believe there is always more to learn, and being in a group that attends and evaluates numerous productions each year is a great way to do that. It is also a chance to contribute to the local theatre community in a way that I have not had the chance to before. I believe that I have a fresh and unique perspective and would savor the opportunity to use my voice to highlight aspects of productions that are both excellent and inspiring. As the founder of a new company, I would love the chance to meet more people and to forge valuable, mutually beneficial connections in the local theatre community.

  1. When you see a show that strikes you as well-done, what particular elements are most likely to have got you to that opinion?

Strong acting performances are key. Honest, fully committed character portrayals are what draw me in as an audience member. If I believe in those characters and can identify with them in some meaningful way, then the show has my attention. Every production element has value, but they are all icing in comparison.

  1. Is there a particular genre or style of theatre that you are particularly drawn to?  Why?

I am drawn to contemporary dramas, as that is what I like to explore as a writer, director, and producer. I most love confrontational, in-your-face works that challenge an audience’s ideas and coax them out of their comfort zone. I like works that deal directly with social issues in a way that is not didactic, but can be uninhibited and not shrouded in mystery or metaphor.

  1. The Portland theatre community is a small one, in which many of us know each other socially and/or professionally. How do you think you would be able to maintain objectivity when discussing elements of production/performance?

Honestly, while I know a few people, part of my goal—as I stated before—is to get to know more. I live a little outside of town, and have not done a great deal of socializing with the theatre community at large. It has always been an important principle of mine to separate the art from the artist. I know that it’s possible to have personal differences with someone, while still acknowledging that their work is brilliant. Likewise, I have friends who I would love to acknowledge if only they were able to take their work to the next level to be the best it could be. So in evaluating a show, it is not about personal relationships, but rather the art itself.

Thank you very much for your consideration.

Matt Russell

 Brittany Small

I’m 31 years old, and have lived in Portland for about 3 years.  I grew up in southwest Kansas, and moved to Portland in September of 2013.  I have a degree in Theatre and Communications with a minor in Music from Sterling College (Sterling, KS, 2008).  Currently, I am pursuing a Master’s in School Psychology from George Fox University (Portland Campus).  When I graduate in May of 2018, I hope to work in either the Tigard/Tualatin or Portland Public school districts.  I work at Broadway Rose Theatre Company in the box office and the cafe, and have designed makeup for Beaverton Civic Theatre’s Into the Woods and The Addam’s Family.

Why do you want to be on the Drammy committee?

I’d like to be on the Drammy Committee because I’d like to have an opportunity to grow as an artist, and give something back to Portland’s unique theatre community.  I believe that I have the experience and knowledge necessary to participate.  I have been on or off stage in many capacities, and know the amount of blood, sweat, tears, greasepaint, and coffee that go into a production.  I see A LOT of theatre in Portland.  After I see a show, I have tons to say about anything and everything the production had to offer (acting, sets, overall vibe, etc.), but no one to say it to.  Being a part of the Drammy Committee would give me a chance to have a constructive place to put my excitement and/or criticism, help me grow as an artist, and give back to the theatre community that has given me so much since 2013.

When I see a show that strikes me as well done, there are usually a few things that stick out to me:  acting and production design.  When an actor is truly conveying an emotion, the audience should feel it in their bones.  For instance, after watching Annapurna by Third Rail earlier this year, I was heartbroken for weeks and truly moved.  Every show should spark something inside of us, even if it is just for fun.  Although production design usually includes lights, sets, props, costumes, and makeup, I always notice set first.  I worked as a scene painter and builder in college and we put a lot of effort into our designs, so I know it isn’t easy.  Those that can transform simple plywood into a beautiful mansion that is perfectly accented by lighting and props should be commended for their hard work.  Even if the show has the best acting in the world, a tacky set can take away from the performance.

As far as genre goes, I enjoy all theatre.  However, I often love going to see a show in a black box or unconventional space, preferably a straight play.  The smaller the cast, the more of a chance I have to connect with their characters.  I’m not really into seeing huge shows at the Keller, or going to see a show because a certain famous actor is in it.  I’ve often found the most enjoyment and connection out of the smaller, more intimate productions.  That doesn’t mean I’ve not enjoyed many a musical, burlesque, puppet show, experimental production, or the occasional murder-mystery dinner theatre.  I’ll see it all, at least once.  😉

Maintaining objectivity is something I’m not too worried about, as I don’t know too many theatrical production staff or actors personally.  I’ve seen enough theatre in town to be familiar with certain actors and directors, but am not friends with any of them.  If I were to become friends with anyone in the theatrical community, I have never been afraid to be honest with friends.  I would never nominate someone that I knew for an award if I didn’t believe they earned it, because I would never want to earn an award in such a manner.  My friends know I am fiercely honest, so the Drammy Committee should know that too.


Antonio Sonera

Antonio Sonera has been a theatre artist in Portland for 31 years. He began his career as an actor, acting in over 25 shows up until 2002. In 1992 he began directing and has made that a major focus of his career. He served as the Artistic Director of Milagro for four season and directed 17 productions for the company. In Portland he has directed for CoHo Productions, Theatre Vertigo, Portland Actors Conservatory, Tabuki Theatre, Paula Productions, Dance Naked Productions, Base Roots, and Artists Repertory Theatre. He is the founder and Producing Artistic Director of Badass Theatre Company and directed the critically acclaimed production of INVASION! in 2013. In 2008 he became the recipient of Theatre Communications Groups Fellowship: Future Leaders in American Theatre. He is one of the eight founders of the National Latino Theatre Commons. Throughout the years he has served on panels for RACC, Artquake, and Multnomah County Cultural Coalition.

Why do you want to be on Drammy Committee?

I am not only a theatre maker, but a fan of the theatre. I go and see 50 to 75 shows a year on my own. I think being a fan and a theatre maker are good qualities for a committee member to have. I have always been an advocate for the Drammy’s and creating community and celebrating theatre excellence. Serving on the committee would allow me to serve my community in a new way.

  1. When you see a show that strikes you as well-done, what particular elements are most likely to have got you to that opinion?

I don’t know that it is any particular element as much as it is how the story was served. I think a great show is one that moves you or makes a connection with you. All of the best shows I have seen have a theatricality in their story-telling, an authentic truth in their approach, a dynamic sum that is greater than all it’s parts. I know a show is well done when I am not thinking about the particular elements but the magic of it’s story-telling.

  1. Is there a particular genre or style of theatre that you are particularly drawn to?  Why?

The great thing about being a fan is that I love all genre of theatre. When I was young I first fell in love with musical theatre. Many people don’t know that I did a lot of musical theatre in high school and one of my very first shows was out at Lakewood Theatre Once Upon a Mattress in 1988. I also fell in love with Shakespeare when I saw Othello at OSF in 1982. That same year at OSF I saw Dennis Bigelow’s brilliant production of the classic Inherit The Wind. However, it was in the early 90’s that I saw small pieces like Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune or Keely and Duor Beirut that I fell in love with small new works. In 1991 I went to act for a little company called Miracle Theatre now known as Milagro, and it is where I learned to love Latino Theatre and magic realism, and where I first had an artistic home. I am a true lover of all theatre. These days I find my interests are more in new works, particularly by artists of color and women.

  1. The Portland theatre community is a small one, in which many of us know each other socially and/or professionally. How do you thinkyou would be able to maintain objectivity when discussing elements of production/performance?

I have always been good at separating my friendships and social acquaintances with my duty as a professional theatre maker. As professionals I feel our community has an understanding that the Drammy’s are to recognize excellence and would never expect special treatment because of friendships or professional relationships. I have too much respect for the process of creating theatre to let my friendships/professional relationships have influence on selecting and recognizing excellence.

Scott Stephens

I want to be on the Drammy Committee because I have seen hundreds of productions, from traveling Broadway musicals to experimental world premieres in 35-seat theatres, and have learned that any production can greatly affect its audience, regardless of budget, based solely on the commitment of cast and crew to effectively telling their story. As an audience member, I’m most moved by the actors, but the director and designers can enhance that emotional connection by shaping the way the story is perceived, and received.  The best direction, the best designs, are felt more than observed, and are usually most effective when least noticed. As a committee member, I would strive to take notice of how my connection to a performance was affected by direction and design elements, and acknowledge those subtle, sense-ual achievements in storytelling.

  1. The actors are the primary focus of a theatre production. When the non-acting elements are in sync, the production can appear seamless in relating the story, and draw you in. Afterward, you reflect on lights, sound, set and direction, and how they may have affected the actors. In the moment, the best design elements enhance the acting; one notices the elements that don’t seem to ring true.  A well-done show rings true throughout.
  2. I personally enjoy musicals for the most part, as they tend to be emotionally satisfying by curtain. But as long as I can follow the dialogue, I am up for a good comedy or drama; I have acted in all three types.
  3. Objective assessment of productions is fairly easy; there are so many parts that need to function to make any performance successful. Generally, no single element creates a problem in storytelling, and no single story is necessarily better than another. We have a strong theater community in Portland, and committed artistic choices give it variety, diversity, and impact. When the choices by actors, designers and director mesh fully, you feel it. When they don’t, you still can appreciate the individual choices and acknowledge them.

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