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LEAVES By Victor Vauban Jr. Wins The Best Play Award At The Riant Theatre's Strawberry One-Act Festival

The Riant Theatre's 32nd Strawberry One-Act Festival presented the "Best Play Award" to the drama LEAVES written by Victor Vauban Jr., and the "Best Play Award for Full Length Plays" to LIFE BOAT by Lloyd Khaner on March 24 at Theatre 54 @ Shetler Studios & Theatres.

Over 30 short and long plays and thirteen videos competed for top awards in the 32nd Season of the Strawberry One-Act Festival at both Theatre 54 @ Shetler Studios and Theatre and the Mansion/Museum, Margo Feiden Galleries Ltd from March 4 - 24. "It was a very strong season of plays," said Van Dirk Fisher, founder and director of Riant Theatre and Strawberry One-Act Festival, which is over 20 years old. "The artists really lifted the bar this year. There were so many great plays. The biggest compliment was hearing audiences say, "It's the best work I've seen this year!" Everyone seemed impress with the work and were captivated by the strong writing, directing and acting in the festival."

"Leaves" is a very moving drama about three sisters. Muriel and her two sisters had dreams of becoming the new musical sensation just like, "The Supremes" - but fate intervene. Muriel fell in love and married her college sweetheart, Curtis, putting an end to the girl group's dreams. Over thirty-years later the two sisters still resent the premature dissolution of the group blaming it on their so-called- good for nothing brother-in-law. But time hasn't been kind to Muriel and everybody learns the true meaning of family when Muriel is paid a visit by her two sisters. The play was directed by the playwright Victor Vauban Jr. and featured Antonia Badon, who won the BEST ACTRESS AWARD for her portrayal of Muriel, Patricia Fields, Shai Shockley, Ben Rowe, Charles Fenner III and Cassandra Borgella.

This is not Mr. Vauban Jr.'s first time in the Strawberry One-Act Festival. Last year his play "Martin's T.R.U.T.H." was a finalist in the festival and one of his actors, Xavier Michaels won the BEST ACTOR AWARD. "Leaves" was inspired by Victor' parents. "They were together for over 40 years and it was great to see their kind of love. The way they raised their children and their relationship was the essence of love."

"What made Victor's play, Leaves,' so unique, was that he captured a family that everybody can relate to. And the joy and love that this family has for one another. It's a relationship that we all can admire and want for ourselves," said Fisher. "This play needs to be seen by more audiences. The Riant Theatre is planning to give this play another run in August with some of the other Best Plays from the festival. The audiences that saw LEAVES were stunned when they realized what was happening in the play. People were very moved by the play and shared their comments with me after the show."

The other top winners of the 32nd Strawberry One-Act Festival are:

The BEST DIRECTOR winner: Rick Charles Mueller for "A Two Hundred Dollar Rhinoceros," a play about two characters separated by age, race and socioeconomic status who are eventually brought together through incessant meddling. One is a grizzled, weary homeless man and the other is a young, idealistic college student. This play also deals with mental illness and forgiveness. There were powerful performances by the cast, which included Royston Scott, Jake Phillips and Rew Starr. The play is written by Richard Lobel.

The BEST ACTOR winner: Marcel Werder for "Welcome To Narnia," where he plays a young men who is discovering that he is gay. "Narnia" is the story of the messy and gross "figuring it out," and all that comes with it. The play featured Marcel Werder and Lily Brown, who play best friends.

The BEST ACTRESS winner: Antonia Badon for "Leaves," which was mentioned above.

The BEST PLAY winner for a Long One-Act Play: Lloyd Khaner for "Life Boat," which is based on a true story of when a young boy is killed by a company's product, and one person has to step up and take responsibility or the entire company will go bankrupt.

The BEST DIRECTOR winner for a Long One-Act Play: Michael Blatt for "Opportunity," a dark comedy set in today's New York with six Broadway dancers having a cast reunion from their Broadway production of MCKINLEY: The other American Musical. It tackles subject matters on bullying, jealousy, sexual harassment, elitism, toxic masculinity, racism and corporate greed through the eyes of the dancing ensemble...you know ... a laugh riot. The play also included: Lauran L' Rae, Luis E. Mora, Alain Pierre, Ashley E. Matthews, Jayson Kerr and Yhá Mourhia Wright.

The BEST ACTRESS winner for a Long One-Act Play: Yhá Mourhia Wright for "Opportunity."

The BEST ACTOR winner for a Long One-Act Play: Andrew Nelson Van Saders for "Cake?," is a story for all the people who have even been low and understand what a powerful thing a small gesture can be. CAKE? Is an exploration of what it means to be lost, and what it means to find yourself when the only options are to either fall or climb back down to life. The play features Andrew Nelson Van Saders and Skyler Hoffman, Levi Kempf and Michele Bear.

The BEST VIDEO DIARY winner: Ciara Kay for "Swim Before You Drown" a dramatic comedy about recent college graduate, Harper, coping with the magnitude of life after college. In Ms. Kay's Video Diary Short Film, she shows what inspire her to become a playwright, from her early beginnings growing up in the Midwest and her Korean family.

The BEST COSTUME DESIGN winner: Jennifer Anderson for "Nelly," which takes place in the 1950's, where people learned that friendship could come in different colors.

The BEST SET DESIGN winner: Damien Roos for "Toady Hoad," in which a man amid rumors that his brother has committed a terrible crime, a hard-luck carpenter soon finds the man hiding in his home. After being questioned by the local Sherriff, he must decide whether he will help his brother allude the law or turn him in. The play featured Harrison Lubel, Mike Hill and Kyle Duke.

The 32nd Strawberry One-Act Festival judges were from the literary and casting fields. Gary Epstein from Phoenix Artists Inc., who represents actors and playwrights. Ellyn Long Marshall, a founding partner of Orpheus Group Casting, specialize in theater, film and television and production. Orpheus' casting credits include: Michelle Rodriguez in "Girlfight" and America Ferrera in "Real Women Have Curves." And Dr. Indira Etwaroo, Theatre Producer, Executive Director, Restoration ART and The Billie Holiday Theatre; Vice President, Bed Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation.

The voting was based on theatre audiences and industry judges. The 32nd Strawberry One-Act Festival also presented eight full length plays, including two plays about immigrants, BED 26 by Van Dirk Fisher and Edafe Okporo and ELVIRA, The Immigration Play by Jessica Carmona.

Fisher has produced over 1,500 one act plays at the Strawberry One-Act Festival, which was established in 1995. Under Fisher's direction, eight anthologies of The Best Plays from the Strawberry One-Act Festival have been published. Several of the plays have gone on to be produced at college and regional theaters. Acting alum include Eric LaSalle "ER," Ving Rhames "Mission Impossible 5" and Jessie Eisenberg "The Social Network." The Strawberry One-Act Festival has been called "The American Idol for Playwrights" by the New York Daily News.

For more information on the Strawberry One-Act Festival's 28th Season, please check out the website atwww.therianttheatre.com, Facebook or call

 



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