Nearly 40 years ago, this newspaper first began honoring two people each year for exemplary contributions to local theater. On rare occasions, the honorees were a married couple (David and Betsy Paul, Greg and Kysa Cohen), and even rarer were two practitioners from the same venue (Ryan Holihan and Laura Lindahl).
The latter instance holds true today as we focus the spotlight on a pair of directors who have elevated the quality of theatrical production at Golden West College, alternating as a tag team to bring consistently high-quality entertainment to their audiences.
They are the immensely talented creative artists who employ their skills — one in drama and comedy, the other in music and dance — to offer a complete theater package at the Huntington Beach college. They are Tom Amen and Martie Ramm, the Daily Pilot's man and woman of the year in theater for 2013.
Since the turn of the century, Amen has been a professor of theater at Golden West and director of at least two productions each year. He came up through UC Irvine (BA in acting) and the University of Utah (MFA in directing).
At Golden West, Amen has reintroduced playgoers to classic theater such as "Medea," "Oedipus Rex" and "The Hunchback of Notre Dame." He also has selected some wild and crazy comedies, several by Ken Ludwig — "Lend Me a Tenor," "Moon Over Buffalo," "Leading Ladies."
This year marked the culmination of Amen's artistic sabbatical — a sea voyage following the route of novelist Herman Melville in his quest for "Moby-Dick." Amen collected his experiences and combined them with Melville's prose to create a new version of the whale tale, which premiered to appreciative audiences several months ago.
The director's many past accomplishments include riveting productions of "Doubt," "Shadowlands" and "A Streetcar Named Desire." This season, Amen is tapping into the writings of George Orwell and F. Scott Fitzgerald. His production of Orwell's "1984" opened the season, and his staging of Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby" is due in March.
Currently, Amen is at work on a play about the life of legendary Western gunslinger Doc Holliday, famed for his role in the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. He's hoping to get this one on the GWC boards by 2015.
Martie Ramm Engle (her full name) also has many years of service at Golden West, specializing in musical theater as a director and choreographer. Recently, she scored a holiday hit with the stage version of the Bing Crosby movie "White Christmas."
Over the past few years, Ramm has delighted her audiences with knockout productions of "Cabaret," "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" and "Legally Blonde." Other memorable shows from Ramm at Golden West have included "The Importance of Being Earnest," "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" and "Nine."
Before her arrival at Golden West, Ramm was a professional performer, appearing on Broadway ("Evita"), in London ("A Chorus Line"), in several national tours ("A Chorus Line," "Annie," "Show Boat") and in many regional theater productions, including twice as Charity in "Sweet Charity."
She performed for Disneyland and Walt Disney Productions for many years, starting as a dancing Mary Poppins — while still in high school — and graduating to directing and choreography. She supervised Disney's Japanese and Australian productions and was production manager for the Los Angeles company of Disney's "Beauty and the Beast."
Ramm's future projects include directorial turns on "Love, Loss, and What I Wore" in February and the modern classic farce "Noises Off," scheduled for May.
Amen and Ramm represent a double-barreled shot of theatrical dynamite at Golden West College, and their selection as man and woman of the year in local theater is long overdue.
TOM TITUS reviews local theater for the Daily Pilot.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun