Cloris Awards Honor Local Theater

Madison Ray hosted the 2020 virtual Cloris Awards this past weekend, honoring both theater organizations and personalities around Greater Des Moines. Photo: Cloris Awards.

Theater artists and fans across Central Iowa tuned in Sunday for the sixth annual, and first virtual, Cloris Awards Ceremony. Eleven participating theater companies received special “DIY Cloris Awards,” as this year, the panel of volunteer judges saw only 27 of the 45 scheduled shows before the COVID-19 pandemic halted the season.

Rather than competing for the typical production-based awards, the participating companies agreed to stand in solidarity with those who were not able to produce any shows and honor one another with “do-it-yourself” awards they created themselves.

For example, the Des Moines Playhouse won the “Best Use of Recycled Materials in a Play (and Musical)” Award for salvaging the waterproof set from “Singin’ in the Rain,” which closed in March after just two performances, and repurposing it this summer for an outdoor stage for drive-in shows. Iowa Stage Theatre won the “Season of Firsts” Award for producing two shows in repertory (a company first), a new production of “A Christmas Carol” (an Iowa premiere), and the politically inspired musical “Adore Us! Line” (a world premiere). Pyramid Theatre Company won the “Resilience” Award for giving Black artists a platform to tell stories of experiences and struggles of being Black in the United States.

Also, Jay Michael Jagim received a lifetime achievement award for his behind-the-scenes contributions to numerous companies and dozens of productions in Greater Des Moines. “Jay’s theatrical talent and achievements are legendary,” Iowa Stage Theatre Artistic Director Matthew McIver said. “His tireless work behind the scenes to raise standards, grow companies and create new spaces for theater are less well known, but just as vital.”

Host Madison Ray, a theater artist and musician, offered a rallying cry to an industry that is still struggling during the pandemic. Most theaters have been dark since March. “We’re in this together,” he said. “There have been so many industries that have been bailed out, and we, also, could use some of that love. We’re hanging on by a thread, and getting everyone in our community, including our politicians, off the bench is going to be paramount to our long-term survival.”

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