Beckwith Theatre Company named “Best Performing Arts Theatre” in Best of The Best Reader’s Choice Awards

DOWAGIAC — The COVID-19 pandemic may have canceled the Beckwith Theatre Company’s 2020 season, but that didn’t stop the community from acknowledging the company’s success.

A prominent establishment in the community for more than 100 years, the theater won the “Best Theater” category in this year’s Best of The Best Reader’s Choice Awards.

The annual competition allows readers to vote for the Michiana businesses that go above and beyond in more than 100 categories.

“We love theater on all levels and we have a great deal of respect for other companies,” said Jack Gannon, president of the Beckwith Theatre Company Board of Directors. “For us to be singled out is exciting.”

For Gannon, the award would not have been possible without the theater’s cast and staff.

“It’s the people that we have,” Gannon said. “They are very, very talented. We have very great depth, younger and older actors. They are great people and very caring. We have great camaraderie and love among the group. There are no divas here, and everyone strives to be better.”

The company aired six productions in 2019, including “Proof” by David Auburn and “The Revenants” by Scott T. Barsotti. Its desire to take on diverse, challenging works is something that Gannon attributes to the theater’s success.

“A willingness to take risks,” Gannon said. “We want to stretch ourselves and the audience beyond their comfort zones. That’s how we choose the plays.”

“A Christmas Carol” by Lynn Stevens and “Heroes” by Tom Stoppard adapted from Gerald Sibleyras were among the company’s most popular shows from 2019.

“[‘A Christmas Caro’l] was a wonderful production,” Gannon said. “We nearly sold out for every show. It was excellent for everyone involved. [‘Heroes’] was so touching and well-done. The response to those shows was special.”

Gannon highlighted the company’s Youth Theatre Program as one of its most important. The initiative was launched in 2016 by Gannon, his wife, Peggy, and Ryan Murray, three veteran actors with Beckwith and members of the theater’s board of directors. The trio created the program to give kids an outlet for fine arts experience.

While this summer’s program was canceled due to the pandemic, Gannon hopes to bring it back in 2021.

“We’ll get kids from South Bend, Kalamazoo, Niles, and more,” Gannon said. “It was something we looked at as a way we can give back to the community. Dowagiac doesn’t have much theater in the schools. There aren’t a lot of opportunities for local kids to learn, so this program is important.”

The company’s 2020 slate of productions, which includes, “Arsenic and Old Lace,” “Lady Windermere’s Fan,”“Outgoing Tide,” “Deathtrap,” “Make it Home,” and “Jeeves at Sea,” has been postponed to 2021. Gannon appreciates the audience and community support over the years.

“Their loyalty and appreciation, and support make everything we do possible,” Gannon said. “Our audience is part of who we are and who we want to be. The community has been great to us.”

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