Glass City Theatre, a new company founded by TWU grads Michael Wipf and Robert Olguin, made a stunning debut at the Jessie Richardson Theatre Awards on June 20. Their production of Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Trainreceived more awards than any other show in the incredibly competitive Small Theatre category, including Best Lighting Design (Itai Erdal), Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (Olguin), and Best Production. Another TWU grad, Lois Dawson, was instrumental in starting the company and also worked on sound for the show. The production was directed by SAMC Theatre Chair, Angela Konrad, who was nominated for Best Direction.
“This show was a complete joy and it’s such an honour to receive an award that recognizes the contribution of every member of the company,” Konrad says. The award with the most prestige, Best Production, is shared by actors, designers, stage managers, and director, but Konrad acknowledges that the additional individual awards make the win even sweeter. “Rob was phenomenal in his performance as Angel Cruz – absolutely transformational – and I couldn’t be happier for him. And anyone who saw the show knows that Itai’s lighting design was really set design as well – pure minimalist magic.”
Olguin and Wipf, friends since their TWU days, started Glass City Theatre last spring. Their first production was the 2010 Vancouver Fringe Festival’s Stretch Dog, a one-man show Olguin wrote and starred in with Wipf as director. Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train, which played at Pacific Theatre in March, is the company’s first fully-mounted production.
“To receive this kind of validation for my first professional work in Vancouver is overwhelming and humbling,” said Olguin, who recently joined the SAMC Theatre faculty as an acting instructor. “I was up against actors who inspired me to do this back when I was a student at TWU. It’s remarkable to even be considered in the same category. ”
Wipf, who works as a producer for film, theatre, and events in Vancouver, was equally thrilled.
“On opening night of Jesus Hopped the 'A' Train, I knew we had a great show, however winning the Jessie for Best Production was a wonderful surprise,” he says. “We had such a fantastic cast and crew and everything came together so well. In particular, Angela Konrad's direction was a huge part of our success. Rob and I both studied theatre with Angela and were directed by her while at TWU, so to be recognized and to celebrate this achievement with both of them is really special.”
In accepting the company’s Best Production award, both Olguin and Wipf highlighted the significant support of Pacific Theatre and its Artistic Director, Ron Reed, in helping the company get started.
Reed, who is the longest-serving member of the SAMC Theatre faculty, was also a winner, receiving a Significant Artistic Achievement award for “Curation and Execution of an Outstanding Season of Theatre.” That season was nominated for 21 Jessies, including those for Glass City’s production of Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train, as well as two other shows nominated in the Best Production category: Playland and One2Theatre’s The Busy World is Hushed.
TWU grad Kaylee Harwood, currently starring as Guenevere in Camelot at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, was nominated for her performance in Carousel Theatre’s production ofSeussical the Musical. Although she didn’t walk away with the statue this year, Harwood won two Jessies in 2010, including the Sam Payne Award for Most Promising Newcomer, a promise she is realizing with her success at Stratford.