Place wins Wayside Leo Award

Posted: August 2, 2013

Star staff report

Cephe Place is presented the 2013 Leo Award by Warner Crocker, former artistic director of the Wayside Theatre.

Middletown — Cephe Place recently received the 2013 Leo M. Bernstein Award from Wayside Theatre.

The awards have been presented since 2001 to individuals who have performed outstanding service to the arts.

Former artistic director Warner Crocker presented the award at the opening night of the current production, “Boeing Boeing.”

“In my second year as artistic director, I coined the phrase, ‘the little theater with a big heart.’ I also hired Cephe Place that year. In the years that followed, no heart ever beat with more passion, more love, and more determination than that which belongs to this year’s recipient,” Crocker said.

For 13 years, she served as box office manager and sales and marketing coordinator.

Place was totally surprised when she was named the recipient. “I was humbled to receive it — theater is my life.”

Her retirement was hastened in December after she was involved in a car accident in November. “I miss the people. I was the first person the pubic saw or dealt with at the theater. Some were repeat customers each year,” she said.

She witnessed and participated in changes when the organization moved to full season operation in 2003, Crocker said.

For the thousands of audience members who have come to see a show at Wayside Theatre during her tenure, she was their first introduction to Wayside Theatre, according to Crocker.

She corralled the many volunteer ushers, kept the media informed, and was the touchstone for many visiting artists who knew nothing about the Northern Shenandoah Valley, he added.

Place also initiated many programs and events for Wayside Theatre, including coordinating traveling productions to schools and senior homes. She also created teaching guides and worked with teachers across the region.

One of the most significant programs she recreated was the Read a Book, See It Live program with local libraries, Crocker said.

She also has credits as a writer, director, producer and actor.

Cephe directed the 2002-2003 Wayside Theatre touring season productions of “Charing Cross Road” and performed in Wayside Reader Theatre’s production of “The Women.”

In previous years, she was producer and director of the Handley Library Children’s Theatre for 25 years, served as the resident director of Front Royal Little Theatre (seven years), and for four years was the director of Blue Ridge Players.

Some of her directing credits include “Blithe Spirit,” “A Thousand Clowns,” “Bell, Book and Candle,” and “Spoon River Anthology.” She has also authored many children’s plays including “Tom Sawyer” and “The Best Little Christmas Pageant Ever.”

Place received a bachelor’s in theater and education from James Madison University and a master’s from Shenandoah University. She is a Virginia licensed teacher in four subjects areas.

She plays the guitar and dulcimer with a group at Sunnyside Presbyterian, where she is a member and former elder. She is married to Roger Place, has two sons and three grandchildren.