Fighting back appreciative tears, Joshua Morgan declared “Aaron Posner is like a theatrical father” to No Rules Theatre Company. The day after Father’s Day, Monday, June 17, the young company, about to finish its fourth season, honored Posner as the 2013 RuleBreaker Award winner at the historic Anderson House mansion in Washington, DC.
A rule breaker in this instance is a good thing. No Rules created the awards to recognize individuals who have made a dynamic impact with their leadership, ingenuity, sense of collaboration and creativity. As the newest rule breaker, Posner joins past winners: actor/director Holly Twyford and directors Jeremy Skidmore and Michael J. Bobbitt.
The awards reception took place in the stately Gilded Age ballroom of the Anderson House. Posner and an appreciative crowd were treated to fine food, musical performances and personal tributes. Described by Morgan as a “hodge-podge of songs and numbers,” a number of the selections held personal significance to Posner.
The performers sharing a connection to the director and playwright included his wife Erin Weaver and James Gardiner who had the night off from Signature Theatre’s Company.
Posner has directed Weaver in classics, original plays and musicals, most recently co-starring with Gardiner in Signature’s The Last Five Years. As they sang “The Next Ten Minutes,” recreating a poignant moment from Jason Robert Brown’s score, Posner silently mouthed the words of the romantic duet.
Other veteran Posner actors gave their own musical tributes. Kimberly Gilbert accompanied herself on the ukulele and then was joined by Katy Carkuff for “By My Side” from Godspell. Weaver and Gardiner’s understudies from The Last Five Years, Angela Miller and Sam Edgerly, performed songs from How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying and Into the Woods. Farrell Parker and Dorea Schmidt also performed.
Several times throughout the evening, Posner, watching in rapt attention, brushed back a tear.
It was actress Holly Twyford who elicited the biggest laugh of the night. She strode into the ballroom as accompanist Joshua Morgan began the introduction to one of the biggest hit songs from Jesus Christ Superstar.
“I don’t know how to love him, what to do, how to move him,” Twyford’s distinctive voice filled the room, directing the song to Posner. “He’s a man, he’s just a man. And I’ve had so many men before …”
The actress who makes no secret of her sexual orientation looked at Posner with a knowing gaze – and impeccable timing – and simply said, “No.”
As Posner and the crowd recovered from laughter, Twyford performed the urgent “Marry Me Now,” by Craig Wright, written for an adaptation of Twelfth Night directed by Posner, in which Twyford played Viola.
Making her remarks on behalf of Posner, Twyford made it clear she had no notes. “As a director, so many times Aaron has asked how does something feel ‘actually, actually in your heart?’ So that’s how I am going to speak tonight. There is too much cynicism in the world as it is.”
She cited Posner’s honesty as one of his rule-breaking qualities. “Your honesty is usually right on, sometimes brutally so. That honesty has made me a better actor. And a better person. You mean the world to me.”
Twyford was instrumental in bringing Posner to Washington more than a dozen years ago when he came to see her in a Folger Theatre production. That visit led to discussions with producing director Janet Griffin and his directorial debut at Folger, As You Like It. Many Shakespeare productions and adaptations have followed; he will direct Romeo and Juliet at the Folger for the 2013-14 season.
“As our first Artistic Associate and my constant collaborator at Folger Theatre, we’ve benefitted from having at least one of Aaron’s productions on our stage every year since 2001,” Griffin offered as part of a video tribute shown at the event Monday night. “Each one has been fantastically imaginative, truthful, and serious–even when they were very, very funny.”
Among the other friends and collaborators who gave tribute to Posner via video were veteran actor Rick Foucheux and choreographer and director Matthew Gardiner.
Posner has been a mentor to No Rules leaders Joshua Morgan and Brian Sutow. When the young company needed to find a new venue last year, it was Posner who advised them to approach Signature Theatre, where they now have an artistic home for several more seasons.
“Aaron has encouraged us to continually think outside the box,” said Morgan while Sutow praised Posner for “his imagination that knows no bounds.”
When Posner joined Sutow and Morgan at the podium to accept his award, the No Rules directors presented their 2013 Rule breaker with something he could actually break: A ruler.
“The real award is still on order,” Morgan said as he handed over the wooden stick. Posner wasted no time, proudly displaying the ruler before he cracked it across his knee.
Accepting the award, Posner heaped praise on other artists as well as the supporters of theatre. “To live between these two worlds – the performers and designers and the audience members – is incredible. I get to live my life in the middle of it and I should be honoring all of you.”
“Including my incredible wife Erin,” he added.
Turning to Morgan and Sutow, Posner also celebrated the emergence of No Rules as a young theatre company. “No Rules is growing and they are headed someplace. Anything that helps small, emerging companies do what they need to do, I am all for it. And I am very grateful for the award.”
Aside from honoring Posner, the awards reception also served as a fundraiser for No Rules Theatre Company which continues its unique status as a dual city theatre company with a presence in DC and in Winston-Salem, N.C.
Morgan explained the twofold purpose of the RuleBreaker Award. “The award not only allows us to honor people who have been instrumental in helping No Rules take some big steps forward, but hopefully to draw in a larger pool of people to join the No Rules Theatre Company family.”
“If we are going to survive in a heavily saturated market, it’s important for us to grow our audience and donor support. The many new faces we saw at the event was a sign of how successful the evening was.”
Aaron Posner’s “sort of” adaptation of Chekov’s The Seagull, Stupid Fucking Bird ends a run at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company Sunday, June 23. Details.
Next up for No Rules Theatre Company: The No Rules Show will run July 10-21 at Signature Theatre’s ARK Theatre. Co-created by Brian Sutow and Joshua Morgan, The No Rules Show is billed as “half revue, half talk show with no rules,” Joshua Morgan will play piano and host a variety of local celebrity guests in this intimate show.