By Frankie Lewis
The British Players’ ceremony for the 50th Anniversary of The Ruby Griffith Awards for Excellence in Community Theatre was held at the Bretton Woods Recreation Center in Germantown, MD, on July 14, 2019. The proceedings were overseen by Mike Lewis, VP of the group. The Guest of Honour was Hilary Shostal, daughter of Ruby Griffith, who gave an entertaining account of her mother’s theatrical background before presenting the awards to the winning groups. Ruby’s grandson, Tony, also attended.
The trophy for All-round Production Excellence went to 2nd Star Productions for their entry, Ragtime. The Best Achievement Award for a Musical went to Silhouette Stages. The Best Achievement Award for a non-Musical went to The Little Theatre of Alexandria.
Runners-up in the Musical category were Children’s Theatre of Annapolis, Kensington Arts Theatre, Laurel Mill Playhouse, and Victorian Lyric Opera. In the non-musical category, runners up were Colonial Players, Silver Spring Stage, Providence Players of Fairfax.
Ruby Griffith was born in London in 1907, one of eight children. As a child, she suffered a stroke and dancing lessons were recommended. Showing potential in Classical Ballet led to her introduction to Italia Conti and enrollment in her stage school where Ruby’s acting and singing abilities were nurtured. Her career took off at fourteen when she played the lead in, “The Windmill Man.” She established a school under her stage name, Ruby Hilary. When her daughter gave birth to a son in the USA, Ruby retired and moved to Washington. Early in 1963, Ruby and Bill Griffith arrived and Bill took a job at the British Embassy where a few thespians had started a players group. They needed a leader – and the rest is history. The first play Ruby directed was, “Night Must Fall.” The last was the 1968 Music Hall. On that production’s opening night, Ruby suffered a brain aneurysm and died at the age of 61.
The Ruby Griffith Award was established soon after and has continued to reward excellence and outstanding achievement in local amateur theater ever since. The judging is undertaken by a panel of adjudicators specially trained and appointed from within the membership of The British Players.
Pianist, Sue Mason McElroy, played show tunes throughout the afternoon and Harvey Levine, a freelance photographer, took photographs of the event. The flower arrangements were done by Maggy McFerren and Cathy Crouch, the program coordinated by Sara Kane, and the front desk manned by Sigrid Blobel, Cathi Gale and Pauline Griller-Mitchell. There followed a British Afternoon Tea.
The occasion was marked by an acknowledgment of the many members who had taken part in both adjudicating and running the competition over the years. This included previous administrators Gary Beaver, Sigrid Blobel, and Greg Christopher. Entertainment was provided by veteran actresses Sara Kane and Eileen Kent – also past administrators of the awards. A separate salutation was made to Susan Frampton who was not only a past administrator but who had held the post most recently and was retiring from active participation. Her successor is Caroline Gelb, a recent past-President of the group. The certificates, shields, and trophy were presented to representatives of the winning entries received for the 2018-19 season. As a token of appreciation for community theatre, Sarah and Robert Leembruggen will generously sponsor the entry fee for participants in the 2020 RGA Awards.
RGA Trophy winners – 2nd Star Productions. (Photo by Harvey Levine)
Hilary Shostal gives a salute to her mother. (Photo by Maria Wilson)