SEMBACH, Germany -- Community theater groups across Installation Management Command Europe gathered May 7 for watch parties of the 2022 TOPPERs awards. Otherwise known as the Tournament of Plays, the 61st annual awards recognized the best in theater performance and production across the region.
“We do it for three reasons,” said Dane Winters during a live interview on AFN Europe recognizing the event and the evening’s winners. The awards are to “capture and honor some really great theater that’s going on in the field.”
The professional adjudicators, who judged 13 shows in nine communities this year, also provided feedback to the actors and crews to help them further their careers. And the last reason, Winters said, “we do it is to thank the thousands of Soldiers, family members and civilians who give hundreds of thousands of hours every year putting on live theater in their community. It makes their communities better places to live.”
IMCOM-Europe Director and TOPPERs host Tommy Mize thanked the Army Europe Entertainment staff as well as the community volunteers.
“Army Entertainment programming provides a sense of community and a touch of home as we’re away from home,” Mize said. “Additionally, the shows, as well as the workshops and classes offered each year, enhance morale while teaching valuable skills. They provide models of teamwork; they hone leadership abilities; and they promote overall well-being – all of which increases the resiliency of our communities and also contributes to the readiness of our fighting force.”
Some of the big winners for the evening included the all-youth produced “Dear Anne from Nina,” from U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden’s Amelia Earhart Playhouse. The youth picked the show, produced it, directed it and acted it, Winters said. Their efforts garnered them a special award for Outstanding All-Youth Production.
Outstanding Play went to The SHAPE Players Performing Arts Center production of “Art,” from USAG Benelux while Outstanding Musical went to “Into the Woods” by USAG Rhienland-Pfalz’s KMC Onstage.
The USAG Ansbach Terrace Playhouse was recognized with a special award for its all-Soldier production of “Ten-Hut. An All Soldier Show.” The unique one-act plays were produced from “Blue Print Specials,” a WWII-era book containing scripts and directions for Soldiers to put on shows with the resources they had in warzones.
Vikki Hanrahan, the entertainment director at Ansbach’s Terrace Playhouse who unearthed the Blue Print Special in the theater basement, joined Winters to emcee the live TOPPERs event April 30 at KMC Onstage. Little did Hanrahan know, she was presenting from an alternate script.
Hanrahan invited Mize to the stage to present and introduced the 2022 IMCOM Norman H. Marcus Award for unprecedented contributions to Family and Morale, Recreation and Welfare programs in Europe. She turned in shock as Winters then proceeded to name her the recipient.
“During a career spanning approximately 41 years in and around USAG Ansbach,” Winters read, “Ms. Hanrahan provided vision, passion and leadership and ensured success across the spectrum of MWR services and activities.”
Celebrity presenters for the evening included actor, singer-songwriter, playwright and filmmaker Lin Manuel Miranda who announced Grant Coleman from Stuttgart’s “Xanadu, Jr.” and Capt. Phoun “Leone” Quach from Ansbach’s “Ten-Hut! An All Soldier Show” as tie recipients for Outstanding Debut Performance. Actor Harvey Fierstein also got to recognize two performers from KMC Onstage’s “Into the Woods” for Outstanding Lead Female Role in a Musical – Rachel Gardner as “The Baker’s Wife” and Christine Lumpkin as “The Witch.”
Actor Chris Pine recognized Anna Moritz as “Little Red Riding Hood” from KMC Onstage’s “Into the Woods” as Outstanding Youth Female Role in a Musical. And, actor David Hyde Pierce announced Spc. Ethan Hamblin as “Laurie” from the Amelia Earhart production of “Little Women” as the winner of the Outstanding Military Performance in a Musical award.
“Sixty-one years of the TOPPER awards. I just have to say, ‘Why?’ Doesn’t the Army have other things to do?” Hyde Pierce joked. “Well yes they do. But here’s why the TOPPERs have been around for 61 years – because they’re important. The arts and theater does the same thing for you in the service as it does for us civilians. It gives us a chance to be creative, a chance to unwind, a chance to laugh, to think about our lives. And whatever service we’ve devoted ourselves to, we get a chance to go back to it refreshed because of our time in the theater. So listen, one of the most important freedoms you’ve devoted your lives to defending is the freedom of expression. So that’s why Army Entertainment is important and that’s why the TOPPERS are important and they’re going to be around for another 61 years.”
Whether in front of the lights or backstage, learn more about getting involved in your local theater community: https://www.armymwr.com/ArmyEuropeEntertainment/get-involved
For a complete list of winners, visit https://www.army.mil/article/256315/
View more event photos at:
Watch the show: https://youtu.be/mhDNQWoW08g