NJT has received top honors


New York City has the Tony Awards; St. Louis has the Kevin Kline Awards, established by the Oscar and Tony-award winning actor and St. Louis native Kevin Kline. Remarkably, The New Jewish Theatre of St. Louis, competing directly with such production companies as The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, has received several nominations and awards since the award was established in 2005.

In addition, St. Louis Magazine included NJT on its annual “A-List” for 2007, listing the magazine’s top choices for entertainment, the arts and dining.

“We are immensely gratified that The New Jewish Theatre has been given these coveted honors and recognitions,” said Kathleen Sitzer, NJT’s artistic director in an interview with the St. Louis Jewish Light in the “Green Room” outside the Sarah and Abraham Wolfson Studio Theatre, the NJT’s black box venue at the Carlyn H. Wohl Building of the Jewish Community Center.

“Just to be nominated for a Kevin Kline Award in Theatre is a tremendous honor, but to have received both nominations and awards both years has been a great source of satisfaction among our actors, directors and production crews. We were also very pleased to be included in the coveted annual “A-List” in St. Louis Magazine for 2007, naming NJT as St. Louis’ Best Theater Company,” she said.

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Looking back on the Kevin Kline Awards, which were established in 2005 and first awarded for that year in March 2006, Sitzer recalled, “In the first year of the awards, which covered part of our 2004-2005 season, NJT productions received three nominations for best supporting actor: for John Kinney’s portrayal of a young boy in Unexpected Tenderness; for Gary Wayne Barker’s portrayal of Booley, the title character’s son in Driving Miss Daisy; and Jim Butz for his role in The Merchant of Venice. Our production of that Shakespeare work was nominated for Best Play, and Norman McGowan’s received a best actor nomination for his role in I’m Not Rappaport.”

For work produced at NJT in 2006, Donna Weinsting won the Kevin Kline Award for Best Actress for her role as Bessie the grandmother in From Door to Door, “and we were very proud of her accomplishment and well-deserved award,” said Sitzer.

Other nominations in 2006 included Ruth Heyman for best supporting actress as the sister of a wheel-chair-bound main character in Arthur Miller’s play Broken Glass, which had a Holocaust subtext.

Lavonne Byers received a best actress nomination for her portrayal of Dr. Gorgeous in Wendy Wasserstein’s The Sisters Rosensweig, and Edward Coffield was nominated for best director for the NJT’s production of From Door to Door.

“Considering the nature of our competition, up against big budget venues, and the relative newness of our New Jewish Theatre, we are thrilled that work by our people has received so many nominations and awards. Our hope is that we will continue to gain such recognition for our work in the future,” Sitzer reflected.

In the July 2007 edition of St. Louis Magazine, the publication listed The New Jewish Theatre on its annual “A-List” under the category of Theater Company, including the words, “Theater works because it runs deep–even shtick runs deeper than you’d think–and taps universals. New Jewish Theatre Company proves that with every production. Thoroughly Jewish, culturally rooted, sharply intellectual, the plays are so well chosen, directed, acted and produced that a Buddhist monk and a Southern Baptist football coach could both emerge changed by the experience.”

In addition to the Kevin Kline and St. Louis Magazine recognitions, NJT’s plays have received favorable reviews not only in the St. Louis Jewish Light, but also in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, The Riverfront Times and radio station KWMU. “We appreciate all of our favorable recognition and awards, but we do not intend to rest on our laurels,” Sitzer told the St. Louis Jewish Light.

“These favorable events challenge us to continue our commitment to theatrical excellence, entertainment and important, provocative work in the seasons ahead,” she concluded.