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The Gilbert Theater presents the Second Annual Pryer Awards on June 23, from 6-9 p.m. This annual celebration of theater and thespians was begun to commemorate the work of Gilbert founder, Lynn Pryer. 06-18-14-lynne-pryer.gif

Fayetteville audiences might recall the article published in Our State Magazine announcing Pryer’s retirement as artistic director of the Gilbert in 2012. The article chronicled Pryer’s theatrical experience, which began in the garage of his childhood home in Fortuna, Calif., in the early 1940s, where he used a burlap curtain and charged the neighborhood children 10 cents to see a show.

Pryer moved to Fayetteville after retiring from his job as a children’s librarian and founded The Gilbert in 1994 in the basement of his home. In 2001, zoning complications prompted the theater to relocate — first to the Arts Council building on Hay Street, then to its current location on the corner of Green and Bow streets. Pryer reigned as artistic director at The Gilbert for 18 seasons and 100 plays, thus the creation of the annual Pryer Awards to celebrate his work.

“The Pryer Awards were a great success last year. Some wonderful local artists were honored: James Dean, Joyce Lipe and Matt Lamb among them. This year we welcome the talents of the Rent cast to entertain us as well as local favorites, Dr. Gail Morfesis, Laurel Flom, Tyler Pow and Sara Beth Short (local Gilbert actors who worked in shows this season and last). The silent auction will boast beautiful art and pottery pieces, jewelry, electronics and more,” said Robyne Parrish, current artistic director. “There will be food, door prizes and drink. Everyone in the community who supports the Gilbert Theater and the arts should attend this fundraiser. It is a tribute to our actors, designers and volunteers who work tirelessly to make the arts community in Fayetteville what it is — fantastic!”

The awards are set at the end of each season like the Tony or Oscar awards and the nominees are determined by audience votes, which are gathered at the conclusion of each performance. The shows, casts and crews in the running for this season are from the performances of the musical Rent, A Christmas Carol, Pan, Sherlock Holmes, The Sleeping Detective and A Company of Wayward Saints. It will be an evening packed with entertainment, food, beverages and fun.

Since its creation, The Gilbert has provided an artistic home for many area thespians, directors and writers. Fayetteville playwright, Stephen Miles, described The Gilbert’s artistic mission by saying, “I think the big draw is the diversity of presentation. There is no place [in Fayetteville] that anyone can go, outside of the Gilbert, to see some of these new, innovative plays. The theater covers about everything.”

The theater’s mission promotes fresh, local talent, whether it is a playwright, director or actor. Several of this season’s shows were debuts of works by local playwrights including Pan, written by Jeremy Fiebig and Sherlock Holmes, The Sleeping Detective from the pen of James Dean. The multitalented Dean won the best actor award last year and is on this year’s roster of nominees.

Don’t miss this opportunity to support local art and artists. Tickets are $40 dollars and are available while they last through the Gilbert website (www.gilberttheater.com) or by calling the box office at (910) 678-7186.

Photo: The Pryer Awards, named in honor of Lynn Pryer (center), founding director of The Gilbert Theater, honors local thespians.

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