The Centerstage Theatre Co. honored two members last Saturday with an award named for a former member who died three years ago shortly after the start of his theatrical career.
The Thomas E. Tapley Spotlight Awards for outstanding involvement at Centerstage were given to Paxton Harris (youth award) and Kay Thompson (adult award). It is the third year the awards have been given by the theatre company which formed in 2016.
“Paxton is one of the hardest-working young people at Centerstage,” Centerstage Theatre Co. founder Mitchell Vantrease said.
Harris has been a part of several Centerstage productions, including “A Christmas Story”, “A Charlie Brown Christmas”, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and “A Christmas Story Musical”.
“I am very honored,” said Harris, who has been acting for 12 years. “I want to thank Mitchell for all he’s done. Seeing diversity in theatre with this group is something that I’ve not seen in other groups.”
Vantrease said Thompson was a driving force in the creation of Centerstage. He recalled standing outside of a theatre in Arizona in 2015 contemplating his dramatic future.
“She said, ‘You should start doing your plays in Lebanon.’ From her mouth to God’s ear, things just started working out,” Vantrease said. “Aunt Kay has been a big part of this theatre. Everyone calls her Aunt Kay now. She’s not just my Aunt Kay anymore. She’s everybody’s Aunt Kay.”
Thompson was a part of Vantrease’s first production “A Raisin in the Sun” and has been involved in several other Centerstage productions, including “Steel Magnolias” “A Broken Pond” “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “A Christmas Story Musical”.
Thompson said she was a fan of Vantrease’s work before he moved back to Lebanon six years ago, noting he would send her videos of his plays in Arizona.
“I would watch them over and over, and I thought, ‘I would like to do that,’ ” she said. “I never thought in a million years that he would move home and open his own Centerstage. I just thank him for making me a part of it.”
Centerstage Theatre Co. founder Mitchell Vantrease said despite the pandemic, he did not want to miss honoring Tapley.
“This is an award I did not want us to forget about,” he said. “This award is always presented in the month of February because that’s when Tap passed away.”
Tapley, whose drug overdose death in 2018 helped launch DrugFree WilCo, joined Centerstage in 2016 when he was looking for an outlet, according to Vantrease.
“He fell in love with it. He auditioned for ‘Fences’ in 2016, and from there, he took off. He has such a big, big enthusiasm for theatre,” he said.