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And The Winner Is…

In a random photo taken of Jeb Bigelow, chances are good he’s giving someone a hug. For nine years the pharmacist and performer has given back to the Columbus theater community by creating and hosting its only citywide local awards show. Once regarded as the eccentric opinion of a one-person committee, the “Jebby Award” is [...]
Laura Dachenbach

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In a random photo taken of Jeb Bigelow, chances are good he’s giving someone a hug.

For nine years the pharmacist and performer has given back to the Columbus theater community by creating and hosting its only citywide local awards show. Once regarded as the eccentric opinion of a one-person committee, the “Jebby Award” is now a mark of distinction among Columbus stage performers, mentioned in program bios and on résumés. To select the nominees and winners of each category, Bigelow typically attends over sixty local shows, from Available Light Theater to Weathervane Players to Little Theater Off Broadway. After weeks of video editing, script writing, and choreography rehearsals, the Jebbys are ready to go live for the theater community. This year the red carpet will be rolled out on March 22 at a new location, the Bluestone on East Broad.

Performing began for Bigelow as a senior in high school when he was cast in Ten Little Indians. When he started school at Ohio Northern University to major in pharmacy, Bigelow also decided to minor in theater, a creative outlet that found him a new circle of friends when he relocated to Columbus. His interests in trivia and pop culture and his passion for award shows led to an unusual hobby of meticulously tracking the winners. Disappointed that “a lot of things I liked didn’t win,” Bigelow began to award the “Jebby” to celebrity performers he admired in the lists he kept.

When he confessed the quirky pastime to his friends, the response was, “You have to have a party!”

A small group of Bigelow’s friends gathered at his home to celebrate the first live presentation of the Jebby Awards. Patrick Walters, who became Bigelow’s close friend after performing with him in Gallery Players production of Bye Bye Birdie, soon became its “official” host.

“It was really just a few people having a party, laughing at this funny, nerdy thing our friend did,” said Walters, but, as often happens at parties, “Things snowballed – in a good way.”

As the popularity of the event grew, Bigelow added local performer categories. He began scripting banter, using presenters for each category, adding video, and finally moving to an outside venue to accommodate what soon became the largest, most glamorous party night in Columbus theater.

In a field where everyone can be a critic, Bigelow strives to “celebrate the positive” and focuses the night on what he believes are performers’ innate desires to support each other. “That’s a great thing,” he said.

Now that the Jebbys have gained the backing of the theater community, a Jebby nomination is an honor.

“It’s always nice to be recognized for your time and effort, “ said Amanda Cawthorne, local performer and Bigelow’s roommate, who has been involved in every live presentation. “When you’re nominated for a Jebby, everyone else will recognize you for it too. You’re put in the spotlight.”

On the evening of the Jebbys, guests are greeted on the red carpet, where they can pose for photos, have a drink, and wait for an evening of live singing and dancing interspersed among the awards themselves. Because of hosting nearly 200 people at last year’s Jebbys, Bigelow decided to move the event to the Bluestone, which will also be open for an afterparty. Local awards will be given to lead male and female performers in a play, lead male and female performers in a musical, supporting male and female performers in a play, supporting male and female performers in a musical, best technical achievement, best local show, and local entertainer of the year.

To nominate the performers in each category, Bigelow attends as many local shows as he can fit in his schedule and carefully saves his programs. In 2013, that number was 82, his personal record. Bigelow enjoys the diverse options that Columbus theater provides. “For every Annie that’s out there, there’s also something offbeat or classic.”

Bigelow stresses he recognizes performances, not actors.

“You can tell when someone’s invested in a character.” Bigelow says physicality, great comic timing, stage presence, and voice all become parts of “moments that impress me,” and ultimately inspire a nomination.

Why should people support local live theater in Columbus? “Well,” Bigelow said, “because it is live. It’s different every time. It’s watching people give of themselves. They make themselves pretty vulnerable.”

Despite its enthusiastic expansion, for those who were there in the beginning, The Jebbys are still about the modest guy with the fondness for awards trivia. “I really do have to laugh,” said Walters. “Look what it’s become. It’s great.”

“I’m surprised so many people gravitate towards it,” Bigelow smiled. “But I’m glad they do.”

The 23rd annual Jebby Awards will be held March 22 at The Bluestone, 583 E Broad St. For more, visit www.facebook.com/thejebbyawards.

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Toledo officer killed; Statehouse flags to fly half staff

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Photo courtesy Fox 8 Cleveland provided to them by Ohio Going Blue

Governor Mike DeWine issued a statement this morning after Toledo police officer Anthony Dia was killed in the line of duty this morning around 12:30 a.m.

DeWine has ordered Statehouse and Lucas County flags at half staff through his funeral service, expected next week.

"Fran and I were deeply saddened to learn of the death last night of Toledo Police Officer Anthony Dia in the line of duty," DeWine stated. "We extend our sympathy to his wife and 2-year-old child, his other family members, and his colleagues in the Toledo Police Department.  To honor the life and service of Officer Dia, I have ordered that the flags in Lucas County and at the Statehouse be lowered to half staff beginning tomorrow and through his funeral service."

You can read the in-depth account, including witness statements and video of the event on the Toldeo Blade website here.

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CAPA cancels Cinema Columbus film festival

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COVID continues to wreck havoc on anything remotely resembling a gathering as CAPA and its event partners today announced the cancelation of Cinema Columbus 2020, a new Columbus film festival celebrating new and diverse cinematic works from around the world.

While new dates have not yet been determined, the first annual Cinema Columbus will be rescheduled for 2021.

“This was to be the inaugural year for Cinema Columbus, but with all the challenges of 2020, we felt that a fledgling festival would not be best positioned for success,” stated CAPA President and CEO Chad Whittington. “We thank the Drexel TheatreGateway Film CenterWexner Center for the Arts, and community partner Film Columbus for their commitment to this event and look forward to launching this important cinematic celebration in 2021.”

Learn more here.

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Columbus lights City Hall tonight for Pride Week

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Columbus will light city hall tonight in honor of Pride Week this week, according to a press release sent by the city Monday.

You can watch the 8:30 p.m. event on Facebook here.

The City also announced the recipient of its Illuminator Award, an annual recognition presented to individuals for outstanding initiatives promoting LGBTQ rights in the City. This year’s recipient is Letha Pugh, the co-founder of the "Black, Out and Proud" (BOP) Collective that promotes pride among the black LGBTQ community. Pugh is also the owner of Bake Me Happy with her wife. The Merion Village gluten-free bakery is focused on bringing awareness to food allergens and its impact on overall health, one cookie, scone, or snack cake at a time.

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