NAU Lyric Theatre wins Viola Award for ‘The Magic Flute’

The Magic Flute

March 4, 2019

The NAU Lyric Theatre won its second award in six months for its performance of “The Magic Flute” at the Viola Awards on Saturday night.

The performance, directed by associate professor of practice Eric Gibson, won for excellence in performing arts at the Viola Awards, which are sponsored by the Flagstaff Arts Council and celebrate excellence in science and the arts in Flagstaff. The recognition comes just a few months after the troupe won a National Opera Association award for the performance.

“I think, as with most opera and musical theatre, the music is what is the driving force behind what speaks to people, what draws them in,” said Gibson, who’s been nominated for three Viola Awards for a variety of NAU productions. “And Flute’s music is so beautiful. The story can be a little disjointed, but the music is seamless.”

Other NAU alumni, students and employees were nominated or took home trophies Saturday night, including former employee Mac Groves, who died Jan. 9, 2018. He received the Viola Legacy Award, which recognizes lifetime achievement and impact. Kathleen McGeever, a professor of performance and chair of the Department of Theatre, worked with Groves for several years and said he had a significant impact on the community, directing both for NAU and for Theatrikos and mentoring budding directors. She remembered once asking for last-minute judges for a community theatre festival and he stepped up immediately.

Mac Groves
Mac Groves

In addition to directing—Groves staged more than 50 productions for NAU since joining the faculty in 1992—he was a playwright, authoring “On New Beginnings,” a comedy in two acts; Forgotten Places, Looking for a Lost America,” a multimedia story theatre with music; and “Route 66: A Celebration of America’s Main Street.” That play was an educational initiative of the Department of the Interior and toured the historic Route 66 Corridor three times.

“I sometimes expect him to waltz into his office and invite us or students to sit on his couch and chat a spell,” McGeever said. “I relish the funny stories we shared, the chats we had on his sofa, which inevitably ended with the reminder that his sofa represented the entire props budget for that year—an inside joke, told with a wink and a nod and just enough sass to make me smile when I wanted to explode.”

At a memorial to Groves in 2018, McGeever said past students shared their stories of Groves serving as a mentor for them. He did the same for his colleagues, she said.

“Mac was a mentor to this young professor, helping me to succeed in teaching a difficult course filled with as many liberal studies students as majors,” she said. “Mac never lost sight of the department’s mission and values and always fought for our students.”

Carli Giese, a ceramic artist working on a post-baccalaureate certificate, won in the emerging artist category. Julie Comnick, foundations coordinator and lecturer in the School of Art, and her “Arrangement for a Silent Orchestra” won in the excellence in the visual arts category. Alumnus Rich Krueger, science teacher at Flagstaff Arts and Leadership Academy, won for excellence in science education.

Creative writing professor Nicole Walker, whose book, “Sustainability: A Love Story,” was nominated in the excellence in storytelling category—former English professor and NAU alumnus Jesse Sensibar won the category for his book “Blood in the Asphalt: Prayers from the Highway.” The Flagstaff Festival of Science, in which NAU is involved and employee Alyssa Deaver is board president, was a finalist in the excellence in community impact organization.

Several NAU alumni also were nominated:

  • Kelley Smith, an AP science teacher at Coconino High School, for excellence in science education
  • Owen Davis, a composer and musician and the general music teacher at Sturgeon Cromer Elementary, for excellence in community impact
  • Kristin Haskins, who spearheaded the development of a mushroom garden at the Arboretum, for excellence in community impact

NAU logoHeidi Toth | NAU Communications
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NAU Communications