What a great night for the New Orleans theatre community! Last night was the 20th annual Big Easy Awards for Theatre, the second time in as many years the event has dealt strictly with theatre. The music awards will follow next month in a separate gala affair. The picture above was taken at last night's gala that drew several hundred devotees of local theatre. I serve on the Big Easy Theatre Committee and helped to nominate the actors, actresses, producers, directors, music directors, choreographers, set designers, lighting designers, and productions that were presented last year for Big Easy Entertainment Awards. The Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Becky Allen, the local star of stage and screen who is almost a caricature of herself (seen with yours truly). She is such a joy to behold and yet as unique a character as one can imagine. Becky has been on stage since a very young lady and was featured at the ceremonies in a montage of photos and videos that captured her very impressive career for the last four-plus decades. Sean Patterson and Ricky Graham, Becky's partner in crime for many years, made the presentation. Congratulations should be extended to All Kinds of Theatre and Southern Repertory Theatre for the run of awards they garnered for "Doubt" including Best Supporting Actress (Andrea Frankle), Best Actress (Claire Moncrief), Best Actor (Jamie Wax) and Best Drama for 2007. Another set of impressive wins was achieved by the NOLA Project and Southern Repertory Theatre for "The Lieutenant of Inishmore," a very dark comedy complete with body parts and blood. John Biguenet's "Rising Water" won Best Original Play and he was selected as Theatre Person of the Year based on that play's nationwide success and Pulitzer nomination. Le Petit Theatre's Sonny Borey and Derek Franklin picked up the Best Musical for "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas," while Gary Rucker got the nod for Best Director with Rivertown Repertory's "Thoroughly Modern Millie." Best Musical Director went to Jonne Dendinger for Le Petit's restaging of "Tunes," first mounted by Ricky Graham and the late Freddie Palmisano. With performances peppered between presentations, the night was a splendid tribute to the entire New Orleans theatre community, which has rebounded nicely since Hurricane Katrina, but still has some big challenges ahead.