Center Stage founders honored for contributions to local theater

WL-S musical takes top honors at Windmill Awards

Two women whose effort to expose their homeschool children to theater resulted in more than $101,000 in improvements to the Holland Theatre were recognized Tuesday with the theater’s lifetime achievement award.

windmill-awards-6'ABOVE: Thelma Matthews raises her fist in the air after she and Paula Strebig, left, won the lifetime achievement award at the Windmill Awards at the Holland Theatre for their work over the past 11 years with Center Stage Productions. FRONT PAGE: Morgan Badenhop, left, and Emily O’Connor, who played the stepsisters in the Bellefontaine High School musical of Cinderella, arrive at the third annual Windmill Awards at the Holland Theatre in the back of a 1962 Buick Special convertible driven by Bob Mitchell. (EXAMINER PHOTOS | REUBEN MEES)

Thelma Matthews and Paula Strebig, who founded Center Stage Productions 11 years ago and put on their last show with the troupe earlier this year, were honored Tuesday at the third annual Windmill Awards, that also saw West Liberty-Salem’s Annie Get Your Gun run away with accolades in the high school musicals and best overall production categories.

“We were completely shocked; we did not expect this at all,” Mrs. Strebig said, noting that she thought that photos gathered for the slideshow were being used for an upcoming Center Stage reunion at the theater. “They lied to us and tricked us to get us here.”

Photo slideshow and award winners' list below

The duo, who founded the homeschool acting troupe as a way to satisfy their own children’s interest in performing arts, said they were sincerely moved by the recognition.

“We have been very blessed and it’s been a good ride,” Mrs. Strebig said after receiving the award.

But they also credited the countless youths and their parents who have dedicated hours to making the performances successful.

“Center Stage wouldn’t be the same if we didn’t have an army behind us,” Mrs. Matthews said. “To the parents: Thank you for sharing your children with us, even when we acted a little crazy. This is an amazing and humbling award.”

Over the course of the past 11 years, Center Stage has presented 17 performances with the recent showing of Ramona Quimby pushing the group’s overall contribution to the Holland Theatre restoration above $100,000. Ms. Matthews and Ms. Strebig announced their retirement prior to that show and were featured in an Examiner article at that time.


And the winners are ...

• Best supporting actor: Matthew Smith, Peter Pan Jr.
• Best supporting actress: Carolyn Dunn, Peter Pan Jr.
• Best ensemble: Chase Snyder, Elam Maurer, Nate Wallace, Jonathan Tyler, Andrew Tyler and Andy Hankins, The Wheel on the School
• Best actor: Josh Cox, Peter Pan Jr.
• Best actress: Abbi Adelsberger, Peter Pan Jr.
Community Theater
• Best supporting actor: Seth Mitchell, Roar of the Greasepaint
• Best supporting actress: Sharyn Kopf, Our Town
• Best actor: Dean Altstaetter, Liberace
• Best actress: Kim Kellogg-Martin, Winter Wonderettes
High school
• Best supporting actor in a drama: Kyle Pond, Ramona Quimby
• Best supporting actress in a drama: Allison Inskeep, The Canterville Ghost
• Best actor in a drama: Cory McLaughlin, Alfred Hitchcock
• Best actress in a drama: Amy Preston, Ramona Quimby
• Best supporting actor in a musical: Josh Kreutzer, Cinderella
• Best supporting actress in a musical: Sean Pusey, Footloose
• Best ensemble: Caitlyn Baird, Logan McPherson, Catherine Sullivan, Josh Hardman and Rachel Chiles, Into the Woods
• Best actor in a musical: Brandon Smoot, Annie Get Your Gun
• Best actress in a musical: Remi Gelatt, Annie Get Your Gun
• Best set: Benjamin Logan, Into the Woods
• Best costumes and makeup: Vicci Elder, Nikki Johnson and Abigail Campbell, Peter Pan Jr.
• Best orchestra: Charles Croutwater, Dave Martin, Bill Barrett, Mike Suman and Jessie Jervis, Winter Wonderettes
• Best special effect: The Storks — Matt Adelsberger, Sheena Brown, Ty Ferguson, Matt Wildermuth, Kate Hemphill, Kim Rodabaugh, Mark Mitchell and Woodward Hampton, Wheel on the School
• Best overall production: West Liberty-Salem, Annie Get You Gun
• Lifetime achievement: Thelma Matthews and Paula Strebig, Center Stage Productions

While students from all county schools received a variety of awards for their performances, West Liberty-Salem’s musical rendition of Annie Oakley’s life took home top honors for best overall performance and its lead performers, Remi Gelatt and Brandon Smoot, won best actress and actor awards, respectively, for their roles as Annie Oakley and Ren McCormack.

“I don’t think I won the award, it’s definitely everybody,” Remi said after the ceremony. “I had so many people supporting me. I didn’t feel like it was just me winning the award; I felt like it was everybody.”

“I’m so grateful and very happy tonight,” Brandon said. “I’m just a little scatter-brained right now about it all.”

A group of RTC Industries clients was also honored with an award for best special effect for operating a giant stork puppet created by local puppeteer Pam Close for Windmill Productions’ The Wheel on the School.

All 114 nominees who arrived at the event were given the celebrity treatment as they rode in classic automobiles owned by Top of Ohio Cruisers Club members and were interviewed by Shary Duff on the red carpet where parents, friends and other thespians snapped photos.