The ‘Stella’ Awards
The ‘Stellas’ were the brain-child, in 1981, of the Palace Theatre Club’s late chairman and long-serving committee member Jack Clouting. They were voted for by Club members and awarded annually to an actor and actress from the Palace’s own productions (at that time there were few touring productions available and the Palace largely produced its own shows).
Jack suggested that the awards be named after Stella Saunders MBE, a founder member of the Club, former President and a strong supporter of the Palace who attended most productions. She was a retired civil servant and had been actively involved in writing and presenting plays about the town, and also writing poetry. She unwaveringly maintained her active support until her death, in 1994, at 100 years old.
The awards were inscribed Caithness glass bowls with a star motif celebrating a ‘star’ performance. They were presented at a special ceremony, usually during the Spring Lunch. The first award was presented in 1982 and they continued until 2002, when in-house productions ceased.
Stella Award winners
1982 Christopher Dunham (Cabaret) and Caroline Harris (Duet for One)
1983 Jim Hooper (Hello and Goodbye) and Michele Wade (The Glass Menagerie)
1984 Peter Doran (Another Country [left]) and Liz Bagley (Trafford Tanzi)
1985 Gilbert Wynne and Ann Curthoys (Pack of Lies)
1986 Christine Absalom (Skirmishes [left]) and Lennox Greaves (Intimate Exchanges)
1987 Colette Kelly (A Chorus of Disapproval [centre])
1987 Dennis Spencer (A Month of Sundays [left])
1988 Peter Laird (Amadeus) and Monette Lee (Happy Jack)
1989 Gary Whitaker (Brighton Beach Memoirs) and Helen Fraser (Stepping Out)
1990 Kenneth Oxtoby (The Business of Murder [left]) and Anne Pearson (Beyond Reasonable Doubt)
1991 Michael Keating (A View from the Bridge [left]) and Joan Blackham (Lettice and Lovage)
1992 Philip Anthony and Ursula Mohan (Shadowlands)
1993 Peter Laird (Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me [right]) and Lisa Turner (Jordan)
1994 Keith Drinkel [left]) and Julie Teal (Death and the Maiden)
1995 Frank Barrie (Jeffrey Barnard is Unwell) and Sarah Legg (Abigail’s Party)
1996 Jon Emmanuel (Me and My Girl) and Joyce Blane (Me and My Girl)
1997 Keith Drinkel (The Creeper) and Helen Fraser (A Passionate Woman)
1998 John Pythian (12 Angry Men) and Christine Absalom (Just Between Ourselves)
1999 Theatre closed
2000 Robert Demeger (The Merchant of Venice) and Faith Flint (Perfect Wedding)
2001 Terrence Hardiman (Twelfth Night) and Helen Hobson (Educating Rita).
2001 Special Awards for the Agatha Christie Festival: Antony Edridge and Elizabeth Elvin
2002 Martin Carroll (Severance) and Elizabeth Elvin (Shirley Valentine)
The Amateur Awards
Palace Theatre Club Awards were reinstated from 2004, to honour the best amateur production each year. The award is a blue commemorative plaque.
Amateur Award winners
Presentations by Peter Warden, Palace Theatre Club Chairman.
2004 Leigh Operatic & Dramatic Society: Half a Sixpence
2005 Morgan King: The King & I
2006 Theatre closed
2007 Southend Shakespeare Company: LeTartuffe
2008 Rug Opera: Die Fledermaus
2009 Leigh Operatic & Dramatic Society: The Likes of Us
2010 Rug Opera: Lacrymosa
2011 Leigh Operatic & Dramatic Society: The Secret Garden
2012 Little Theatre Company: Dracula
2013: Leigh Operatic & Dramatic Society: A Christmas Carol
2014: Southend Shakespeare Company: Hay Fever
2015: Little Theatre Company: Sunset Boulevard
2016: Leigh Operatic & Dramatic Society: Spamalot
2017: Leigh Operatic & Dramatic Society: Whistle Down the Wind