Art Cole Award

Art Cole Lifetime of Leadership
Honors a lifetime of leadership in community theatre by members of AACT who have provided leadership at the national level, in addition to local and/or regional levels

2014 Honoree
Murray Chase, Venice, FL

Murray ChaseMurray Chase (Venice Theatre) has served as the Executive/ Artistic Director of Venice Theatre for 17 years, following six years as Executive/ Artistic Director of Corinth Theatre-Arts in Mississippi. Under his leadership, the theatre has grown to become the 3rd largest community theatre in the U.S. and the largest per capita. Murray has directed approximately 200 shows including many award winning efforts. He has served as president of Venice MainStreet Board of Directors, as division chair and festival chair of the Southeastern Theatre Conference, as division chair of the Florida Theatre Conference, as a grants panelist for the Florida Arts Council and the Mississippi Arts Commission, as chair of the Sarasota County Arts Council, and with the Venice Chamber of Commerce he served on the City of Venice Anniversary Committee and the Cultural Executives Committee. Nationally, Murray serves AACT as the Executive Vice President and on the Endowment, International, and Festival Committees, and is leading his theatre in hosting the AACT International Community Theatre Festival for the second time.

2014 Honoree
Norman Small, Winter Haven, FL

Norman SmallNorman Small (Theatre Winter Haven) has contributed to community theatre across state, national and international borders. He founded and has been the Producing Director of Theatre Winter Haven for the past 44 years. He is a published author (The Making of Drama, Holbrook Press-1972) and an award winning director. Norm lead Theatre Winter Haven to a first place win at the 1987 International Play Festival in Dundalk, Ireland and has taken five AACTFest winning productions to the national festival. His most recent national festival entrant was the 2013 production of Golda's Balcony, which ended its banner year with a performance in Germany. Norm served on the AACT Board for five years including a term as VP Planning and Development. His contributions on the national level continued an additional six years with his participation on various AACT committees. Norm is a recipient of the Florida Distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award in Community Theatre, as well as both the AACT David C. Bryant Outstanding Service and Fellow Awards.

Previous Recipients

1987   Art Cole (Midland, TX)
1988  Sydney Spayde (Iowa City, IA)
          John Wray Young (Shreveport, LA)
1989  Mort Clark (North White Plains, NY)
1991  Sherwood Lohrey (Memphis, TN)
1992  Harv Thompson (Madison, WI)
1993  Norman McPhee (Racine, WI)
1994  Jim Carver (Kalamazoo, MI)
1995  Enid Holm (Odessa, TX)
1996  Betty Tomlinson (Spokane, WA)
1998  L. Ross Rowland (Muncie, IN)
1999  Bea Miller (Memphis, TN)
2000  Rusty Clauss (Alexandria, VA)

2001  Rod McCullough (Lancaster, PA)
2002  Twink Lynch (Topeka, KS)
2003  Shirley Harbin (Detroit, MI)
2004  John Viars (Des Moines, IA)
2005  Jack Phillips (Downers Grove, IL)
2008  Joanne Berry (Bay City, MI)
          Stephen Peithman (Davis, CA)
2009  Frank Peot (Sun Prairie, WI)
2010  Tom Cowley (Ponca City, OK)
2011  Jim Sohre (Army Europe Command Entertainment
          Sherman C. Ward (Alexandria Bay, NY)
2012  Bill Muchow (Minneapolis, MN)
2013 Mary Britt (Ocala, FL)

Art Cole

Photo of Art ColeThis award is named in honor of Art Cole, who founded the Midland Community Theater in 1946. He served as president of the Southwest Theater Conference, chairman of the Theater Panel for Gov. John Connally’s Texas Conference on the Arts, and vice president of the National Theater Conference. He was one of the small band of community theatre directors and visionaries to meet in Chicago in 1958, under the aegis of the American Educational Theatre Association (which latter became the American Theatre Association), to found the American Community Theatre Association as a provisional program of AETA.  ACTA became a full-fledged division of AETA in 1963, and Art served as President from 1968-70.

He organized the first national community theatre festival and was elected to the Governing Council of the International Amateur Theater Association. He was the first recipient of the American Community Theater Association’s David Bryant Award and was named best director at the International Drama Festival in Dundalk, Ireland, with the production of Butterflies are Free.  He also was an AACT Fellow, and chairman of the Theater Advisory Panel to the Texas Commission on the Arts and president of the International Amateur Theater Association. He died in 2013 at the age of 92.




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