By Diane Urbani de la Paz
Peninsula Daily News
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Readers Theatre Plus, the nonprofit troupe that uses plays and musicals to raise money for local causes, presented the second annual Dewey Awards.
These prizes — small trophies, no cash — are named for musical director and actor Dewey Ehling.
Ehling, 85, leads many local ensembles, including the Peninsula Singers and Port Townsend Community Orchestra, in addition to directing this summer's Readers Theatre Plus production of “The Mikado.”
First off Sunday, Ehling received an honorary Dewey Award for his years of service.
“I've worked in musical theater all my life,” he said, and Readers Theatre Plus productions have been among the most rewarding of this long career.
It's because of “the lack of ego
. . . and because we get to give as much as we give” to local nonprofits, Ehling said.
Readers Theatre Plus beneficiaries include Sequim and Port Angeles high school students who receive college scholarships from the troupe every spring, and groups such as Peninsula Friends of Animals and the Sequim Guild for Seattle Children's Hospital.
Sharing proceeds with these groups “is very meaningful to me,” Ehling said.
The Dewey Award for best supporting actress went to Dani Keller for her role in “Cotton Patch Gospel,” a country-musical retelling of the New Testament, staged at the Dungeness Schoolhouse last November.
For best supporting actor, Arie Vlaardingerbroek won for his work in “The Last Lifeboat,” the story of RMS Titanic designer Bruce Ismay.
The play by Luke Yankee had its premiere in Readers Theatre Plus' staging at the Schoolhouse in April 2012.
The Best Actor award went to Brian Doig for his work in “The Yeomen of the Guard,” the Gilbert & Sullivan opera that Peninsula Singers and Readers Theatre Plus staged last summer at the Schoolhouse.
Doig wasn't present to accept his trophy because, according to Dries, he is recovering from a lung transplant.
The Best Actress honor went to Shelley Taylor for her portrayal of Vivian, the woman Ismay adored but did not marry due to social class difference, in “The Last Lifeboat.”
Then came two more Deweys for “Lifeboat”: Best Director for Jim Dries and finally the Best Production trophy.
The Dewey Award for Best Ensemble went to the cast of “The Shadow Box,” last spring's play about three families facing terminal illness.
Pat Owens directed it and, when a cast member had to bow out, stepped in to portray one of the main characters.
Carol Swarbrick Dries, a member of the “Shadow Box” ensemble, hailed her fellow actors, calling the play one of the best experiences she's had on stage.
That's saying something, since her long career has taken Swarbrick Dries to Broadway, the Los Angeles Opera and Seattle's 5th Avenue Theatre.
In 2006, Jim and Carol Swarbrick Dries founded Readers Theatre Plus and have since raised considerable funds for local charities.
They're looking forward to the 2013-2014 season, which will begin in October with “A Century of Sequim,” a compilation of stories from the Sequim of yesteryear.
And on Thanksgiving weekend, Readers Theatre Plus will present David Sedaris' “The Santaland Diaries,” with Richard Stephens as the elf.
To find out more about the troupe, visit www.ReadersTheatrePlus.com or phone 360-797-3337.
Features Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5062, or at email@example.com.