Three Newman individuals recently won Mary Jane Teall Awards: Christy Cunningham Railsback, Deanne Zogleman and Lyle Valentine.
2021 marks 26 years of Mary Jane Teall Awards, an annual awards ceremony that honors outstanding individuals in the Wichita area theater community and is named for Mary Jane Teall, who founded the Wichita Community Theatre.
A committee of actors, technical staff and community members nominate actors for the Mary Jane Teall Awards, and winners are chosen by votes from peers.
And the winners are …
Christy Cunningham Railsback
Christy Cunningham Railsback, who has costumed countless shows for the Newman Theatre Department over the years, won an award for her costuming in the show “The Importance of Being Earnest.” This is her 10th Mary Jane Teall Award in 20 years.
“This award assures me that the work I have poured my heart and soul into truly is good,” Railsback said.
Railsback said she has always enjoyed designing and creating clothes and costumes, and has been involved with live theater for almost 25 years.
“Costumes help an actor to become the character that they are playing, and contribute to the story of the play,” she said. “My greatest reward is when an actor smiles and says they like their costume, then to see the hard work of the team come together to perform an entertaining show for an audience.”
Railsback has served as the resident costume designer at Newman since 2004 and is in her seventh year of teaching Costume Design for the Stage and Makeup Design for the Stage.
Instructor and Director of Music Department Deanne Zogleman earned two Mary Jane Teall Awards this year. She won an award for her supporting female drama role as Edith Frank in “Diary of Anne Frank.” Zogleman also won the Mary Jane Teall Award for Outstanding Theatre Educator.
“I am very honored to be chosen as this year’s Mary Jane Teall Theatre Educator of the Year,” Zogleman said. “It’s lovely to be recognized for the theater aspect of my 33 years of educating students. I am a blessed instructor to be able to practice my craft, which is my passion, as well as instruct students and watch them grow as performers.”
Zogleman’s path to becoming a music instructor unknowingly started when she was just 7 years old.
“I started performing in shows and musicals in high school and have never really stopped,” she said.
With a musical theater degree under her wing, Zogleman started directing music, theater and choreography during her first year teaching “way back when” and again, hasn’t stopped.
“I have especially loved taking the helm of director for the past three highly successful years of our musicals here at Newman, as well as directing the jukebox musical that the Music Department does,” she added.
Beyond her role at Newman and local theater, Zogleman also directs the Heart of America Men’s Chorus.
2012 Newman alumnus Lyle Valentine picked up his first-ever Mary Jane Teall Award for his lead male comedy portrayal of Egbert in “Office Party.”
To be honored was both “deeply moving and motivational,” Valentine said.
“We have such a vibrant and active theater community with like eight theaters that participate in the Mary Jane Teall Awards,” he explained. “Just to get nominated and to make it to the final six or seven nominees is a huge deal.”
As a Newman student, Valentine founded the Newman Sloppy Joe Improv Troupe and ran it all four years during his undergraduate days. He is also one of Zogleman’s former chorale students and sings for the Heart of America Men’s Chorus.
“To be honored on the same night as Deanne was amazing,” he said. “In 2008, when I came to the college, she was very inspiring to work with then and throughout the four years I was a student. Still to this day we have a wonderful relationship.”
He added, “And Christy Railsback … you just can’t say anything bad about her. Everything she does is amazing and wonderful.”
A theatrical revival
Valentine took a break from theater for several years, but says his recent role and upcoming theater shows are easing him back into the theater groove. His next show, “Tuna Christmas,” involves playing the parts of nine different characters.
“It has a crazy amount of costume changes, and Christy Railsback is actually costuming it for us,” he said.
For those who want to start — or jump back into — the theater community, Valentine said to “just audition.”
“Every single person that helps with the production is important — whether you audition and you want to be on stage, you want to run the box office or the snack bar or help build a set. Every person in a theater matters and what they do matters, and it makes the theater that much better.”
He added, “We are always looking for new people in every theater in town to help make us successfully support live theater. I think it’s more crucial now than at any time.”
Guests can watch Valentine perform in the holiday comedy “Tuna Christmas” Dec. 1-19, every Wednesday through Sunday at the Kechi Playhouse. Tickets are $22 and include a holiday treat. Groups of 10 or more can receive a discount. Seating is limited; to make reservations please call 316-744-2152.