Oak Ridge plays earn Elly nods
Elly judges celebrated Oak Ridge High School’s productions of “The Sound of Music” and “The Diary of Anne Frank” with Elly nominations announced last week.
Actor Ryan Van Overeem earned a supporting male nomination for his portrayal of Max Detweiler in the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical. “The Diary of Ann Frank” received five nominations: Keith Walisa, leading male; Luke Rolls, lighting design; Austin Daly, Larry Summerfield and Luke Rolls, set design; Holli Stapelton, sound design; and best overall production.
The nominations overjoyed now-retired drama teacher Janet Henke, who stepped out of the spotlight this past June.
“I’m very excited,” she said. “I hope for my students. They really do deserve that recognition; they worked so hard on those shows.”
Henke called Van Overeem “so talented” and said she really enjoyed watching him grow on stage during his four years in drama.
“He has a charisma and an energy when he’s on stage and the audiences just love him,” she said. “People would come up to me and say, ‘Who is that young man?’”
Van Overeem recently appeared as Mayor Shinn in El Dorado Musical Theatre’s “The Music Man” earlier this year. At Oak Ridge, he also appeared in “Noises Off,” “All Shook Up,” “And Then There Were None” and “Rumors.” He’s currently attending Folsom Lake College.
Keith Walisa played Otto Frank in Oak Ridge’s spring 2014 show. At the time, the heavy-hearted role took its toll. “Otto did all he could to protect everyone,” Walisa said during a rehearsal. “I try to imagine what it was like for him to fail … It’s awful.”
“He’d never done a big role like that,” Henke said. “His friends and I encouraged him to audition. He had this tenderness that Otto Frank needed and he really worked hard.”
Walisa, now a senior, joined drama as a sophomore and prior to his nomination-worthy performance in “The Diary of Anne Frank,” he worked behind the scenes as a stage crew member for “The King’s New Threads,” an ORHS original play based on “The Emperor’s New Clothes” by Hans Christian Andersen. He also performed in “Noises Off,” “All Shook Up,” “And Then There Were None” and “Sleeping Beauty.”
Both Van Overeem and Walisa won Oak Ridge Excellence in Entertainment awards for their respective roles last school year. “It’s like our Oscars,” Henke said.
Henke was also excited by Luke Rolls’ nominations. The ORHS alum volunteered his time and talents to ensure the productions have quality lighting and sets. “He put in hours and hours and hours,” she noted.
Not unlike the frequent director herself, who said she will miss her students but not those long days. Speaking with Village Life on Oak Ridge’s first day of the 2014-15 school year, Henke said, “I got up later than I normally would! I used to get up at 5 a.m. (and sometimes stay at work until 10 p.m.). I don’t know how I did it.”
Despite a tiring schedule, Henke, who worked in the El Dorado Union High School District for 24 years said she would do it all over again. The double major in English and drama taught at Oak Ridge for 21 years, teaching at risk students, English and finally, for the last five years, drama.
“I didn’t know what I was getting into,” she said of taking on drama. “But I have absolutely no regrets. It was a wonderful way to end my career.”
Named for the late Eleanor McClatchy, a devoted patron of the arts and former publisher of the Sacramento Bee, the Elly Awards celebrate excellence and the outstanding achievements of community theaters and artists in the Sacramento area. Created 32 years ago by local community actors, the Elly Awards have grown from a local Sacramento tradition to now include theaters within a 70-mile radius.
More than 430 Elly nominees for the 2013-14 season were announced at an informal nomination reception on Sunday, Aug. 3. This past season 231 shows were submitted by 78 theaters; 58 theaters and 124 productions received nominations.
In honor of the 32nd annual Elly Awards, the Sacramento Area Regional Theater Alliance will host two ceremonies next month. The Youth Elly Award ceremony will be held at 7 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 7, at Roseville Theatre Arts Academy. The Adult Elly Award ceremony will be held at 7 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 21 at the Red Lion Inn — Woodlake Hotel in Sacramento.
For more information and a complete nomination list visit sarta.com.