Full house at newly renovated Solano College theater celebrates Arty awards

The Daily Republic FEATURE, Amy Maginnis-Honey, September 18, 2017

FAIRFIELD — The 33rd annual Arty Awards gala kicked off with members of the opening act on a make-believe tour of the newly renovated Solano Community College Performing Arts Center.

“It’s a very pretty view,” said one of the women, as they entered from the right side of the stage and down the center aisle. “I think I heard something,” said another.

As they made their own way to the stage, another noticed a packed house. “I see theater people,” she said.

The group of five then broke into “We’re at the Artys,” adapted from “42nd Street’s” “We’re in the Money.”

Host Jennifer Schemke joked that she wanted to tell the audience her name was Stephen Colbert. Colbert was hosting the Emmys at the same time the Performing Arts Network was honoring live theater in the area.

The Fairfield native recounted, and demonstrated, her first stage role at the tender age of 4. She stood still, moved a few steps and looked around.

She encouraged those giving acceptance speeches to keep their talk to a minimum and asked for a brief sample of the “shut up” music to indicate time was up. Schemke also warned if anyone went on too long, the women with sashes might go ninja. She was referring to reigning Solano County titleholders who assist at the event.

A pregnant Taylor Bartolucci claimed one of the first awards of the evening, noting she has less than two weeks to her due date and wasn’t sure she would be able to attend the gala.

Darcia Tipton picked up her Arty and offered thanks for the “new” theater. She’s been working at the college for more than 25 years.

When presenter David Leonard returned to the stage after Tipton, he quickly noted, “This theater is on loan. I’ll take it back some day.” Leonard, who served as the 2016 Artys host, ran the college’s theater program for almost 20 years.

June Alane Reif and Richard Pallaziol of the Napa-based Valley Players had some fun their first time presenting at the Artys.

Reif explained the group puts an emphasis on empowering women over 40 in the theater.

“I know what you are thinking,” Pallaziol said. “I don’t look a day over 35.”

Arty winners thanked spouses, family, fellow cast mates. Some were caught by surprise.

“I didn’t totally think this would happen,” said Michael Rupprecht. “It’s nice to get rewarded for doing things you love.”

“Who would have thought I would win an award for cross dressing,” said Harrison Schaufel of his role in  “Sister Act.”

Two young recipients, Ainsley McNicoll and Richard Lasslo, just about matched the podium height.

“I love the Miracle Worker,” Ainsley noted of the show that won her an Arty for youth in an adult/high school comedy or drama.

Cast members from Missouri Street Theatre’s “Sweeney Todd” rushed from their afternoon matinee to attend the event, some of them still wearing their makeup.