David S. Kessler, an avid, area-wide theatergoer who this year broke through the other side of the stage by writing, producing and performing Wombat Drool at Capital Fringe, is the recipient of the 2015 Gary Lee Maker Award for outstanding audience member, DC Theatre Scene editor Lorraine Treanor announced today.
Kessler will receive a handsome glass sculpture, along with season subscriptions from the nominating companies, Folger Theatre and Flying V, in a brief ceremony on October 2nd before Folger’s 8pm performance of texts&beheadings/ElizabethR by Karin Coonrod.
The Gary Lee Maker Audience Award, founded by DC Theatre Scene in 2011, recognizes the importance of audience to the performance and to the sustenance of theatre itself. Nominations are made by area theatre companies, with the recipient chosen by a committee composed of former Maker Award recipients and Gary Maker’s closest friends. It is the only one of its kind in the country.
“David has been a fan and supporter of Flying V since before Flying V even officially existed,” Flying V’s Jason Shlafstein wrote in nominating Kessler. About 6 months before the company was created, a core nucleus of us launched a ‘test show’ at the Capital Fringe – The Hunchback Variations by Mickle Maher, a Chicago playwright. [Maher is well known to Washington audiences for the verse play There is a Happiness That Morning Is, which has twice been produced by WSC Avant Bard.] David was so enthused with the show that he found me at the Fringe tent to effusively offer his congratulations and promised to follow our future work.”
He continued, “He was a man of his word and more – becoming one of the company’s biggest fans, following us to different venues, being one of the first to like us on Facebook, always spreading the word about the quality of our shows and lifting our spirits. He does this for the artists as well – following their work from company to company. His passion is such that he is now Facebook friends with Mickle Maher as he reached out after our production to let the out of town playwright know just how highly he regarded our production.”
Folger’s Peter Eramo wrote “[Kessler’s] a terrific guy. He’s an usher here at Folger Theatre, and is incredibly supportive of Fringe – he’s the guy who sees EVERY Fringe show – and he’s just an all-around great person.”
In previous years, Kessler had been nominated by Forum Theatre and Happenstance Theatre Company as well.
“David embodies the spirit of Gary Maker,” said Lorraine Treanor, who headed up the selection committee. “He embraces theatre across the board; he ushers; he lends a hand where needed; he lets people know how good theatre is in our area. He makes being an audience member an art form.”
When informed of the award, Kessler admitted he’s had a very good year. Wombat Drool was a hit show at Capital Fringe. And Rachel Manteuffel profiled him in the Washington Post Magazine on March 6 of last year. That story focused on his retirement as the senior zookeeper in the Washington Zoo, where he had worked for thirty-nine years. While it mentioned that he “sees as many shows in the Capital Fringe Festival as possible” Manteuffel’s profile also gave us a picture of Kessler the man.
“He knows each of the hundred-odd residents of the Small Mammal House by their six-digit reference number. He has also published or co-written about a dozen research papers. Written three unpublished novels. He once went on a radio show to compose sonnets on demand. He mentors high school students and oversees their research projects,” she wrote. “He lives in Silver Spring and has been married for 30 years — he still writes his wife, Patricia, sonnets.”
In addition to Kessler, 2015 Maker Award finalists included Louis Delair (nominated by Arena Stage), Elmore Brown (nominated by Toby’s Dinner Theatre), Carl and Undine Nash (Hub Theatre), Bob Reeg (Theater J) and John Hauge (Quotidian Theatre).
DCTS and the Gary Maker Award Committee inaugurated the award in 2011, bestowing it on David Tannous. Subsequent Award winners were: Alison Drucker and Tom Holtzman (2012); Linda Bryce (2013) and Barbara Bear (2014).
Tickets to the October 2nd performance of texts&beheadings/ElizabethR are available.
Details and tickets