by Amy K. Lavender

The film industry has the Academy Awards; music has the Grammys; Broadway has the Tonys.

Well, Atlanta theatre has its own awards ceremony to celebrate area professionals and recognize their excellence–the Suzi Bass Awards, and three of this year’s nominees call the University of West Georgia’s theatre department home.

Showtime
Joe Monaghan, from left, Stephanie Polhemus, and Alan Yeong of UWG's theatre department have all been nominated for Suzi Bass Awards for their excellence in theatre production in the areas of lighting, props, and costume design, respectively. 

Alan, who is the Costume Shop supervisor as well as a professor at UWG, said he is proud of the work he did for “Miss Saigon.”

“It turned out well,” Alan said. “My goal is always to make sure I help to enhance and support my director’s vision. I think I did that really well, and I was able to help my actors create their characters with my costumes, so I’m happy.”

The setting for “Miss Saigon” was on Serenbe’s outdoor stage, which Alan said provided a bit of a challenge.

“It was interesting to work outdoors, which I haven’t done in a long time. It was a curve ball to tackle, so that was a good experience for me,” Alan explained. “I had to take into consideration the weather, the wear and tear, the maintenance. I needed to use materials that would keep under the weather.”

Stephanie had a similar experience since “Charlotte’s Web” was also an outdoor production.

“There was a little overlap in props and scenery because it was outdoors in the petting zoo area of Serenbe,” Stephanie said. “The biggest challenge was trying to figure out how to make the web and the letters in this environment where there’s no back stage. But we were able to get creative and allow the actress to make it happen very quickly and efficiently on stage.”

You may ask why Alan, Joe, and Stephanie are being recognized for their work off-campus. Like most theatre professors and instructors, they have professional jobs they maintain outside of academia. All three work freelance in theatres all over metro Atlanta, designing costumes, lighting or props for multiple productions a year. They all agree that this is important to the caliber of education they are able to provide to their students.

“It’s absolutely vital to maintain professional work while teaching in theatre,” Joe says, “for many reasons. One of which is I only design one show a year at school, and if you only design one show a year, you get very rusty between shows. Additionally, those professional contacts not only keep me going as an artist, they’re also great connections I can use for my students.”

Stephanie notes that it helps all of them better mentor their students, but it also helps them grow and learn as well.

“It’s important to work professionally while teaching because I’m still learning,” she explained. “Every show is different, and I learn new things on each show. So you’re constantly learning and developing, and I think if you don’t work professionally then you’re kind of stuck in one spot and, eventually, you’ll be outdated.”

Stephanie, who is a UWG alumna, said this is her first Suzi Bass Award nomination. This is Alan’s third nomination and Joe’s fourth.

“Of course, it’s an honor just to be nominated,” Alan said. “But none of us do it for the recognition. I like what I do because I have the chance to constantly create new worlds, to envision a world through the eyes of the playwright and the director and collaborate with my actors, and to help create this vision to tell a story. That’s the fun part.”

Gallery photos by BreeAnne Clowdus/Serenbe Playhouse

Posted on October 5, 2016