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Theater Group Prepares for Red Carpet

Elden Street Players receive 24 WATCH nominations for 2005 productions.

Roll out the red carpet, break out the high heels, cocktail dresses, cuff-links, tuxedoes and suits — it is award season.

While celebrity actors have already worn their designer gowns and nailed their acceptance speeches, actors from Herndon's Elden Street Players are preparing for their big night — the sixth annual Washington Area Theatre Community Honor, or WATCH, awards.

Similar to the Tony Awards, the evening event is not quite as formal as the celebrity galas, although a jacket is requested this year.

WATCH is an organization "founded for the adjudication and presentation of annual awards recognizing artistic and technical excellence in community theatre" in the Washington, D.C. area, according to the official Web site. By honoring local community theater groups the hope is that the awards will foster and encourage growth of community theater, promote and enhance the image of community theater, and educate and inform the general public about the theatrical opportunities provided by member theaters.

Nominated for 24 various awards for productions done in 2005, the Elden Street Players will learn their fate Feb. 26 during the awards gala at The Birchmere in Alexandria.

"Elden Street is one of the top three groups this year again," said Todd Huse, artistic director and secretary of the 20-year old community theater group. "We're pleased that our peers recognize our work."

Also a WATCH chair, Huse said that to be nominated for an award is almost as good as winning. With 95 productions — 70 plays, 25 musicals — and 290 actors judged, being chosen as a finalist is nothing to be ashamed of.

"The diversity of the type of plays that we've done that have been recognized," said Richard Klare, executive producer for the Elden Street Players, "that shows that the group is not just going to be able to do one thing."

INCLUDED IN THIS year's 24 nominations are two possibilities to win for outstanding play. The two plays nominated were "The Weir," where five characters spent the play telling stories at a bar along the Irish countryside, and the "Mystery of Irma Vep," where two actors played the entire cast.

"What was fascinating about the 'Mystery of Irma Vep' was really the cast and what they brought to the table," said Jeff Boatright, Elden Street Players president. "The whole cast was two people."

The other interesting thing about the two plays is that they were directed by newcomers to the Elden Street Players. Because the theater group, which has a core group of returning volunteers, opens its doors to new actors, directors and producers, the content and direction of plays is always changing, Boatright said.

"Elden Street is kind of like a gypsy company," said Huse. "People come in and go out; they're not there all the time."

While there are always productions that volunteers wish were nominated, or that actors think were better than others, the Elden Street Players have nothing to quibble about, Huse said. Unable to predict which awards the group might actually receive, Boatright, Klare and Huse agreed 24 nominations are reward enough.

"There was a lot of good talent out there," Klare said. "We know that we're going to be up against good companies with good shows."