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Geyer gets ready for Tottie Awards

| Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013, 9:02 p.m.
For The Independent-Observer
Karen Snyder had a big evening at the 2012 Totties, taking home honors for best performance by an actress, best director and the prestigious Golden Doorknob Award. The 2013 Tottie Awards is 7 p.m. Saturday at the Geyer Performing Arts Theater. Rachel Basinger | For The Independent-Observer

In 2008, as a way to kick off the 20th anniversary of the Geyer Performing Arts Center, board members for the theater came up with the idea to have an awards event fashioned after the Tony Awards.

And that was how the Tottie Awards came to be. This year, the event will be held at 7 p.m. Saturday to kick off the 25th anniversary year of the theater.

Today, those who participate in the productions at the theater look forward to the night where everyone can come together, visit those they might not have seen in awhile, dress up in their finery and applaud those for their hard work and talent.

For the most part, the event has been well-received, but there have been aspects, such as a newly created youth category last year, that have not been so well-received.

This year, that category is gone and every actor and actress, regardless of age, was considered based on performance alone.

Brad Geyer, president of the theater's board of directors, said the board had good intentions as to why they tried it, but it just didn't work out.

Because of that, 10-year-old Grace Rusnica of Hempfield Township, received her first nomination for best performance by a leading actress in a musical for her role as Mary Lennox in The Secret Garden.

Rusnica has been acting for about two or three years and was most recently seen playing the lead role of Annie at the Palace Theater in Greensburg.

Her mom, Lynn Rusnica, was the one who told her that she had been nominated.

“I knew it was a possibility, but I wasn't sure that I would be nominated since that was my first leading role,” she said. “I know that there are many talented actresses I am going up against, but I'm more excited than nervous.”

Rusnica said she plans to write a speech for the evening “just in case.”

On the flip side, Scottdale area resident Martha Oliver has been involved with acting at the theater since 1988.

She said sometimes she wishes the Totties weren't a competition.

“I think it's wonderful to recognize the work at the theater, but I wish it was more of a celebration of shows we have had throughout the year,” Oliver said. “To me, that would be a much more satisfying event, but I understand why they are doing it.

“It's a wonderful evening for everyone to come together,” she added.

Geyer said this year those individuals on both the Actors and Artists of Fayette County, as well as the GPAC boards of directors chose the nominees.

“I think it was a great way to do it this year,” he said. “The more people involved in the process, the better the representation.”

Geyer added that while some people don't like the competition side of the awards events, others look forward to it.

“I think it makes us all just a little better,” he said. “Some people set out on their journey with a show with the thoughts of a Tottie and they work harder to reach that goal.

“I think it's a night to honor our actors,” Geyer sad. “It's not as much about the awards as it is about saying thank you to each other.”

Also as part of the evening, they plan to honor some people who were part of theater in 1988 and there also be other celebrations in recognition of the beginning of the theater.

The event is open to the public.

Rachel Basinger is a freelance writer.