And the Winner is . . .

Two trophies were recently donated to the Kingsport Archives by the Kingsport Theatre Guild. These trophies, or “Cups” documented the names of the winner of the Best Performer award for each production from 1951-1989.

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The two cups were identical. The second was crafted in 1969 when the first was completely covered with names.

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Employees of Johnson Hilliard created the trophies from scrap copper due to the restricted use of new copper in the post-war era. Each employee, whatever their occupation, participated in some way, whether by re-rolling copper, burnishing the re-fashioned metal, or delivering the finished product.

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The winners were determined by audience vote and tallied at the end of each play’s run.

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The recipient got to take the Cup home with them until the winner of the next production in the season was announced. The cups are a wonderful, visual timeline of the Guild’s contribution to Kingsport’s cultural arts. We think the roster of names will prompt many memories for anyone who reads them.

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For this post, photographs and programs from the original Kingsport Theatre Guild Collection, KCMC 275, have been paired with images of the trophies to connect the reader with the performance featured.

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Performers from the 1966 production of “Bell, Book, and Candle.”
Margaret Murray was the audience favorite.
Margaret Murray was the audience favorite.
The 1953 cast of "One Foot in Heaven."
The 1953 cast of “One Foot in Heaven.”
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Jean Christman took home the trophy in October, 1953.

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Betty Anne Miller, Laura Jane Yantz, Patty Freehoff, Phyllis Greene, Betsy Brannock, and Carlin Abbott in “The Panda & the Spy.”
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Betsy Brannock received the trophy for 1962’s “The Panda & the Spy.”
Billy Jo Armstrong and Joe Caruthers in "Ten Little Indians."
Billy Jo Armstrong and Joe Caruthers in “Ten Little Indians.”
Rick Cobble took home the trophy for "Ten Little Indians" in 1979.
Rick Cobble took home the trophy for “Ten Little Indians” in 1979.

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Mary Cassell was the audience choice in October 1980.
Mary Cassell was the audience choice in October 1980.

In 1986, the second cup was lost until 1999, when it was returned after a 13-year absence. We are glad they are safe in the archives, together! Come visit the Johnson Hilliard Cups during Archives hours. W 2-5, W-Thu 9-12, 2-5. It will put a smile on your face.

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One thought on “And the Winner is . . .

  1. Reading the titles of all of the plays on the trophies brought back some great memories of shows I have seen. It also gave me names of some shows I need to look up. Thanks!

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