Geyer kicks off 25th anniversary celebration with Tottie Awards

| Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2013, 10:28 a.m.

Five years ago, 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 hold an awards event fashioned after the Tony Awards.

Thus, the Tottie Awards were born.

This year, the Tottie Awards will be held 7 p.m. Saturday to kick off the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the theater.

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

For the most part, the event has been well received. There have been aspects, like last year's new youth category, that were not so well received, though.

Brad Geyer, president of the theater's board of directors, said the board had good intentions, but it just didn't work out. That category is now gone.

This year, all actors and actresses, regardless of age, were considered based on performance, including 10-year-old Grace Rusnica of Hempfield Township.

Rusnica 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 in the lead role of “Annie” at the Palace Theater in Greensburg.

Her mother, Lynn Rusnica, told her 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,” Grace Rusnica said. “I know that there are many talented actresses I am going up against, but I'm more excited than nervous.”

She plans to write a speech , “just in case.”

On the flip side, Scottdale area resident Martha Oliver has been involved with acting at the theater since 1988. She said that 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 board members from Actors and Artists of Fayette County and Geyer Performing Arts Center chose this year's nominees.

“I think it was a great way to do it this year,” Geyer 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. It's not as much about the awards as it is about saying thank you to each other.”

Also as part of the evening, the theater's beginnings and some people who were part of the theater in 1988 will be honored.

Everyone is welcome to attend. There is no charge.

Rachel Basinger is a freelance writer.

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