Theater performers win ‘Toppers’ awards

Paula Fairbrother
and Laurie Ellington
Contributing writers

***image1***KMC area theater groups received a total of seven “Topper” awards at the U.S. Army Europe Tournament of Plays in Heidelberg recently.
Ramstein’s Razz-Ma-Tazz Family Theater took home three of the prestigious awards for their musical “Pinocchio” and KMC Onstage garnered four of the golden statues for their drama, “A Raisin In the Sun”.
Local acting talent shone in the awards received: five of the seven awards were for outstanding performances. Airman 1st Class Phillip Wentz, vehicle weapons specialist with the 435th Security Forces Squadron, was awarded Best Actor in a Musical while Joseph Sweet, accounting technician with the 435th Services Squadron, won Best Actor in a Drama.
Other awards went to Senior Airman Ryan Matasovky, bower production journeyman with the 735th Civil Engineer Squadron, and Capt. Leona Schuh, executive officer with the 86th Air and Space Communications Group, both for Best Supporting Actor or Actress in a Minor Role.
Capt. Felicia Moore, executive officer of Headquarters, Headquarters Detachment 51st Maintenance Battalion, won Best Female Debut Performance in a Play.
The technical achievements of the theater groups were also recognized: Paula Fairbrother for Best Makeup for a Musical and Maj. Jerry Glattfelt, anesthesia element chief with the 435th Medical Squadron, for Best Technical Director for a Drama.
In addition to the awards received, the two groups received a total of 22 nominations.
For the “Toppers,” being nominated is almost as exciting as winning an award.
Only the very top contenders in each category are nominated, so the nominations are in themselves a high recognition.
“I was just so excited to be nominated because nobody ever recognizes the piano player,” said Rebecca Schulte, Musical Director for “Pinocchio.”
The Tournament of Plays is a friendly annual competition of military theaters throughout Europe, from England to Italy.
This year, a record 25 shows competed in the categories of Comedy, Musical and Drama.
These shows represent the collective efforts of hundreds of volunteers, working thousands of hours to bring live theater to their communities.
More than 650 guests from both Army and Air Force theater programs were on hand at the Village Pavilion in Heidelberg to cheer on their fellow actors and theater technicians.
Dignitaries and military leaders from all over Europe gathered to present the awards. Lt. Gen. William Ward, U.S. Army Europe lieutenant commander, opened the ceremony, which included awards presentations by 415th BSB Commander Lt. Col. David Hall and Col. Michael Delman, 435th Mission Support Group commander.
Jim Sohre, Installation Manage-ment Agency -Europe entertainment director, host of the ceremony, said, “Comm-unity theater is a great team building effort that relies on volunteer performers and technicians of various talents and skill levels.
“It provides not only a great outlet for a diverse range of job contributions, but usually also becomes an extended family of friends comprised of servicemembers of all ranks, family members of all ages, Department of Defense civilians, host nation and even international participants.
“The volunteers who make up these production teams are not only providing the gift of live entertainment to their community, but are also notably raising the quality of life and serving a vital function in promoting good host nation relations by sharing U.S. culture. By including Air Force community theatre groups, we enrich the program for all, by nurturing a networking system to share resources and provide a forum for encouraging excellence. We have so many ‘purple’ communities, that we value every participant’s ability to contribute.”