Grand Valley students, staff member win Grand Awards for roles in local theater productions

(From left to right) Grand Valley students Ariana Martineau, Jaelyn Raiford, Seth Burton, Jacob Miller, Alyssa Veldman and Emma Taranko pictured at the 2018 Grand Awards.
(From left to right) Grand Valley students Ariana Martineau, Jaelyn Raiford, Seth Burton, Jacob Miller, Alyssa Veldman and Emma Taranko pictured at the 2018 Grand Awards.
Image Credit: Samantha Brigham

The annual Grand Awards celebrates Grand Rapids area college and community theater performers and productions, and multiple members of the Grand Valley community won awards during this year’s ceremony.

Christine Sankey, a senior majoring in vocal performance, won her first Grand Award for Outstanding Actress in a College Production for her role as Aunt Eller in Grand Valley Opera Theatre’s 2017 production of “Oklahoma!”

“I was overwhelmed in the best ways,” said Sankey. “It was as if every experience from the show flashed before me in a brief moment, and I felt all the love I had for the show and all the love I had for my cast mates. This award means that my work is seen, heard and appreciated, and as an artist, there is no greater privilege and gift.”

Sankey said her favorite part about playing Aunt Eller was being able to tap into the nurturing side of the character.

“Aunt Eller, in the words of my director Chris Carter, was ‘everybody’s auntie,’” said Sankey. “Aunt Eller is very dear to my heart because she is so much like me, and genuinely loves every person in her corner of Oklahoma.”

Additionally, Maxwell Elkiss, ’17, won Outstanding Supporting Actor in a College Production for his role as Jud Fry in “Oklahoma!”

Overall, Grand Valley students, alumni and productions were nominated in 10 categories, including:

  • Outstanding Direction of a College Production, “Oklahoma!” – Christopher Carter, ’09
  • Outstanding College Production – “Oklahoma!”
  • Outstanding Lead Actor in a College Production – Casey Huls for Curly in “Oklahoma!”
  • Two nominations for Outstanding Lead Actress in a College Production – Lindsey Normington, ’17, as Sally Bowles in “Cabaret”, Alyssa Veldman, a sophomore majoring in vocal performance, for Ado Annie in “Oklahoma!”
  • Three nominations for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a College Production – Elkiss as Jud Fry in “Oklahoma!”, Jacob Miller, a senior majoring in history and theater, as Schulz in “Cabaret,” and Seth Burton, ’18, as Caliban in “The Tempest”
  • Two nominations for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a College Production – Sankey as Aunt Eller in “Oklahoma!”, and Kenya Shakir, ’18, as Fräulein Schneider in “Cabaret”

Additionally, Torrey Thomas, talent acquisition support in Grand Valley’s Human Resources Department, won a Grand Award for Outstanding Choreography for the Grand Rapids Civic Theatre’s 2017 production of “Shrek The Musical.”

Torrey, who has been a professional choreographer for more than 20 years, has been choreographing for the Grand Rapids Civic Theatre for the past five years, with “Shrek” as his sixth production.

“The choreography process for this production was to think outside the box, challenge myself to create unique, fun and entertaining ‘Torreography,’ which is my version of choreography,” said Torrey. “I wanted the choreography to connect with our younger audience members, but also have a seasoned and mature stylized look and feel. ‘Shrek’ was a real treat because of the many different fairy tale characters.”

In addition to working at Grand Valley, Torrey is the owner and director of T-3’s Dance Elite, through which he has taught thousands of students in West Michigan how to dance. He is also the director of “T-3” Dance Productions, which provides choreography, instruction, coaching and consultation for dance studios and cheerleading teams.

Torrey has also been a professional dancer for as long as he had been a choreographer, even having danced alongside the late “Queen of Soul” Aretha Franklin as her principal dancer.

After 22 years of honoring local theater students and professionals, this year's ceremony on October 21 at Fountain Street Church in Grand Rapids marked the final year of the Grand Awards.