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New England Public Radio announces 2019 Arts & Humanities Award winners

  • Pam Victor, founder of Happier Valley Comedy. Photo courtesy of NEPR

  • Composer Alice Parker of Hawley. Photo courtesy of NEPR



Staff Writer
Thursday, April 04, 2019

A cutting-edge theater program, an innovative improv comic and an acclaimed composer are among the winners of the 2019 Arts & Humanities Awards from New England Public Radio.

The annual award, introduced in 2008 by NEPR, recognizes leaders in the Valley’s arts scene and also celebrates that scene by, as NEPR puts it, bringing “public awareness to the critical role played by musicians, artists, dancers, actors, writers, storytellers and teachers in western New England.”

This year’s winners included Ashfield’s Double Edge Theatre; comedian Pam Victor, the founder of Happier Valley Comedy in Hadley; and Olivia Ilano Davis, founder and artistic director of Spectrum in Motion Dance Theater Ensemble of Hartford, Connecticut.

In addition, composer, conductor and longtime music teacher Alice Parker of Hawley, a 1947 graduate of Smith College, has received a Lifetime Achievement Award from NEPR.

In a statement, Cory Mescon, chair of the New England Public Radio Foundation, Inc., which established the Arts & Humanities Awards, said “This is really a community-wide effort in acknowledging the great talent that we are lucky to have here in the Valley.”

Double Edge Theatre, formed in Boston in 1982, is now celebrating 25 years on its Ashfield property, a 105-acre former dairy farm that serves as part of the “set” of the ensemble’s intensive outdoor productions, as well as a year-round training center for actors and performers.

Pam Victor, who began doing improv comedy professionally in 2003 with a group she founded, The Ha-Ha’s, started Happier Valley Comedy in 2015, offering a variety of shows as well as training for aspiring comics. The group opened a permanent home in Hadley last year.

Olivia Ilano Davis, born in the Philippines but raised primarily in Berkshire County, founded Spectrum in Motion Dance Theater Ensemble in Hartford, which for 37 years has trained dancers, staged productions and “developed a nationally recognized outreach educational dance program,” according to NEPR.

And Alice Parker has long been acclaimed for her varied compositions, which draw on American folksongs, hymns and spirituals. She has over 500 published compositions to her name, and her work has been commissioned by hundreds of community, school and church choruses.

This year’s Arts & Humanities Award winners will be recognized May 22 at the Log Cabin restaurant in Holyoke. Tickets are $75 and can be purchased at NEPR.net.

Steve Pfarrer can be reached at spfarrer@gazettenet.com.