NIETF celebrates excellence in local theater

NIETF celebrates excellence in local theater

Glamour, glitz, theatrics, but most importantly, community. The 27th annual Northwest Indiana Excellence in Theatre Foundation (NIETF) Gala was a special night for the theater community to celebrate the hard work accomplished throughout the 2018-2019 season. 

“This is the one night every year that the theater community gets to come together to celebrate excellence. We enjoy our theater family together and we celebrate excellence on stage, off stage, backstage, and in the community,” said Becky Jascoviak, President of NIETF.

“This event is important to allow like-minded people to get together and celebrate our collaborative art,” said Jared Liddle, emcee for the 15th year.

Described as the Tony’s for Northwest Indiana, Saturday’s “An Evening in the Woods” Gala found attendees transported to a secret garden in the woods right in the beautiful Hellenic Cultural Center in Merrillville. Community members reconnected with old and new friends alike.

“I like coming to the gala to see all of the different people within the theater community and it’s a chance to socialize and spend some time together. It’s always nice to be recognized for doing a good job, but we’re all doing community theater because we love to do it. And NIETF brings us all together,” said Phil Myers, attendee. 

A cocktail hour allowed members to mingle and speculate over who would take home awards.

“No one knows who’s won. An outside accounting firm tabulates the votes and they are the only ones who know the names in the envelopes,” said Angela Heid, Vice President of NIETF and Technical Director for the gala.

After a sumptuous dinner was the main event: the awards ceremony. All areas of the theater community were honored with awards from Best Sound to Best Actor, and each award was heartily applauded. 

Many of the acceptance speeches emphasized the importance of the NIETF community. 

“It’s a sense of community and feeling accepted in a group of people who are so diverse. We get to do what we love and people understand why you do it,” said Sandy Stotts, attendee, and past winner.

Beyond individual awards, each year NIETF recognizes volunteers nominated by each theater, bestows the Presidential Award for Excellence, and provides a money prize to a local theater to use for upcoming projects with their Project CAST. This year’s winner, Genesius Guild, was extremely thankful for the award money that will go toward new sound equipment.

“We get to award scholarships and nurture that new, fresh, exciting passion for theater,” Liddle said. “We honor our volunteers, people who tirelessly donate their time, treasure, and talent, and those people aren’t always in the spotlight. And we get to honor someone who has served in our community and established a legacy with the President’s Award of Excellence. We’ve got the new, the heart, and the legacy.

With 22 local community theaters, Northwest Indiana offers unique opportunities for those who love to perform and those who love to attend.

“Most areas are lucky if they have one. The theater is great! People don’t always get to see big Broadway-type shows so it’s great that they get to come out and see community theater,” said Rob Hunt, board member, and gala chair.

A great big round of applause to all the winners tonight and thank you to NIETF for continuing to support and encourage Northwest Indiana’s theater community.

For more information about NIETF visit them at

This year's winners are:


Principal Actor in a Musical: Tyler Mills as Ash; Evil Dead, Chicago Street Theatre

Principal Actress in a Musical: Sheree Gudeman as Francesca Johnson; Bridges of Madison County, 4th Street Theater

Featured Actress in a Musical: Tie

Holly Schroeder as Marge; Bridges of Madison County, 4th Street Theater

Caroline Herrera as Lita Encore; Ruthless, Hammond Community Theatre

Featured Actor in a Musical: Chong Choe as Miles; A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Genesius Guild

Cameo in a Musical: Julie Breford as Karen; Snapshots, a musical scrapbook, Genesius Guild

Viewer’s Choice Personnel in a Musical: Tyler Mills routine after cutting off his hand; Evil Dead, Chicago Street Theatre

Viewer’s Choice Technical in a Musical: Mike Glorioso, Matt Valuckis and Marty Weisenbacher - Animatronics/blood; Evil Dead, Chicago Street Theatre

Set Design – Musical: Sean Schwaller and Mike Glorioso - Evil Dead, Chicago Street Theatre

Lighting in a Musical: Keith Loeffler - Evil Dead, Chicago Street Theatre

Sound Design – Musical: Mary A. Bird Matern - Evil Dead, Chicago Street Theatre

Costume Design – Musical: KeriAnne Valuckis - Evil Dead, Chicago Street Theatre

Choreography – Musical: Daniel Castro - Footloose, Premiere Performance

Music Direction – Musical: Jeff Otto - Bridges of Madison County, 4th Street Theater

Vocal Direction – Musical: Linda Pauli - Bridges of Madison County, 4th Street Theater

Director – Musical: Caroline Herrera - Ruthless, Hammond Community Theatre

Best Musical: Evil Dead, Chicago Street Theatre


Principal Actress in a Play: Amanda Tomczak as Robarta; Danny and the Deep Blue Sea, Chicago Street Theatre

Principal Actor in a Play: Donald Beck as Joe Keller; All My Sons, 4th Street Theater

Featured Actor in a Play: Donald Beck as Mrs. Bumbrake/Teacher; Peter and the Star Catcher, 4th Street Theater

Featured Actress in a Play: Tie

Erin Sharpe as Berthe; Boeing Boeing, Chicago Street Theatre

Patty Bird as Gretchen; Boeing Boeing, Chicago Street Theatre

Cameo in a Play: Chong Choe as Banjo; The Man Who Came to Dinner, Genesius Guild

Viewer’s Choice Personnel – Play: Stephanie Meyer, Ashleigh Happer, and Hilary Jordan - The Weyrd Sisters ensemble set changes; Macbeth, Chicago Street Theatre

Viewer’s Choice Technical – Play: Rip Johnson/John Wotkun  - Working water pump; The Miracle Worker, Beatniks on Conkey

Set Design – Play: Kevin Doler - All My Sons; 4th Street Theater

Lighting in a Play: Angela Heid & Dan Watt - Peter and the Star Catcher, 4th Street Theater

Sound Design in a Play: Angela Heid - Peter and the Star Catcher, 4th Street Theater

Costume Design in a Play: Stanlee Hodsden - Peter and the Star Catcher, 4th Street Theater

Director – Play: Steve Rohe - All My Sons; 4th Street Theater

Overall – Play: Peter and the Star Catcher, 4th Street Theater

Presidential Award for Excellence - Hammond Community Theatre and Beatniks on Conkey

Cast Award - Genesius Guild

Outstanding Achievement - Marcia Burbage

Volunteers of the Year

4th Street Theater - Sarah Lackey

Beatniks on Conkey - Lindsey McDermott

Chicago Street - Marcia Burbage

Gary Shakespeare Company - Stephanie Naumoff

Genesius Guild - Antoinette Gomez, Amanda King, and Bob Vickers

Hammond Community Theatre - Lindsey McDermott

Highland Parks' Performing Arts Group - Alex Traina

Improductions LLC - John Lattuada

L'arc en Ciel Theatre Guild - Keith Underwood

Seedlings Theatre Company - Jerry Jascoviak

Valparaiso Theatrical Company - Ken Siegfried

St Christopher Society Inductees:

Amanda Hull

Tom Knoerzer

Lisa Woodruff Hedin