Vonnies aims to celebrate all members of APO and theatre department

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 Alpha Psi Omega President Madison Paulus, right, shocked the Vonnies audience when she refused to accept the award for Theatre Titan. She gave the award to APO alumni Tara Bennett, left, because she felt that she was more deserving of the award. 
Larshell Green/The Lion's Roar



The fourth annual Vonnies kicked off with an expansion of award categories and more entertainment for audience members. However, one of the biggest surprises of the show occurred when the Alpha Psi Omega President Madison Paulus refused to accept the award for Theatre Titan.

Paulus felt that her fellow nominee, alumni member of APO Tara Bennett was snubbed in the category and called her onstage to accept the award. She explains why this was also her favorite moment of the Vonnies.

“My favorite moment was when I gave Tara Bennett the Theatre Titan award,” said Paulus. “I kind of told myself like, ‘Ok, you were nominated.’ In my heart, I was like, ‘That’s not me. I knew that wasn’t for me at all.’ I was like, ‘If you get it, you’re just going to hand it to Tara.’ I had prepared nothing other than ‘You’re going to give it to Tara,’ but I definitely meant everything I said. The look on her face was so heartwarming.”

Following the show, Bennett admitted how she really felt about being given the award by describing its significance.

“I’m astounded,” said Bennett. “Madison bequeathing the award means so much to me because all the things that she said about me, I feel the exact same way about her. So, I feel like she and I have grown a little closer and I share this award with her. Theatre has always been everything to me ever since I was a little girl and my grandparents always said, ‘Find something that you want to do that won’t feel like work.’”

During her acceptance speech, Bennett explained why she was so appreciative of the award.

“Theatre’s not work to me,” said Bennett. “I love doing it.”

The Vonnies took place on Friday, May 12 and recognized “Distracted,” “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot,” “Why Are You Nowhere” and “The Dispute.”

The awards ceremony presented APO awards then presented theatre department awards after a farewell video that included testimonies of seniors.

During the presentation of APO’s awards, winners included Taylor Meng for Most Active New Member, Paulus for Most Active Veteran Member and Angela Griffitt for Most Likely to Win An Oscar.

The theatre department awards named “Distracted” as the Best Crew and Best Show. James “Jim” Winter was named Best Director for the show.

“The Dispute” won Best Ensemble, Colin Ross won Best Supporting Actor in “Distracted” and Judah Fabre won Best Male Actor for his role in “Distracted.”

Other winners of the night included senior English major Alexis Durante, who won Best Actress for her role in “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot” during the presentation of theatre department awards.  Durante became a part of APO in her freshman year and accredits her success to the organization.

“Every single person here has made me who I am now by making me come out of my shell,” said Durante. “The first show that I was in, I had four lines and now I’m monologuing for two straight hours. This organization is everything.”

Durante was appreciative of her fellow cast members in “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot,” especially Taylor Bennett, who played Yusef El-Fayoumy, the prosecutor in the case against Judas Iscariot.

“He was incredible to work with,” said Durante. “It’s not easy to have a really emotional scene. You have to trust your partner, and he was really wonderful, start to finish. This was a very line heavy role. It was the most lines I have ever had. I had to snap in and out from being very straightforward and then just bursting into tears. You have to really hone in on your emotions. We got there, but I had a lot of help.”

Shelly Sneed was named Best Supporting Actress for her role in “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot.” She joined APO as a freshman about three years ago and remains appreciative of the new bonds that she shares with her fellow members. Sneed and Neal Eli accepted the award for Best Big/Little.

“We’re a family here and you can really tell why we’re here,” said Sneed. “We all just love each other and support each other in everything that we do. When you join APO, you kind of meet a group of people who are just like you. We all are different, but we’re all the same. Neal was my little from day one and is the person that I am closest to here. I’m glad that people can see that.”

Paulus admits that categories were expanded for certain awards after researching and noticing the need for more nominations.

“Best Supporting Male and Best Supporting Female have never been that big,” said Paulus. “Usually a lot of those ‘smaller roles’ are added to the ensemble. This semester we did a little more research and the actual definition of the ensemble. Like they said, it’s a whole group that acts as one.”

Other moments of the show included depictions of the actors’ popular characters from plays that were performed over the last two semesters and vocal performances by APO members. Paulus and her cohost Erin Reid introduced a lip sync competition to the awards show.

Paulus is proud of the unity that she regards as the reason for the Vonnies’ success.

 “I am most proud of everybody actually working together,” said Paulus. “Everything went really smoothly.”

Satisfied with the outcome of the Vonnies, Paulus plans to continue the awards show because of its importance to APO and the theatre department.

“I really appreciate everyone who makes this event happen each year,” said Paulus. “I wasn’t around when they started it, but it’s definitely my goal to continue it. I know it was important to them and I think it’s important to the department. The tech people, the crew, we don’t get to bow at the end of the night. This is it for us and I think it’s important.”