Best Actress (2011)

Shannon Emerick

Shannon Emerick recently played two iconic characters who bookend the 20th century, and she played both of them to perfection. This year, she played George Bernard Shaw's ideal woman, the eponymous heroine in Candida (1898). As Shaw's "new woman" — Candida is cool and regally elegant, always in control and much smarter than the two men who love her and make her choose between them — Emerick was the apex and driving force of Classical Theatre's definitive, humorous, visually stunning production. Last year, for Main Street Theater, Emerick hauntingly illuminated the cool, intellectual Hannah, the linchpin of the contemporary scenes in Tom Stoppard's time-tripping Arcadia (1993), perhaps the most satisfying — and romantic — play by English theater's resident genius. As both the ultimate Victorian wife and the smart but icy, mod English female, Emerick clarified the very essence of both plays and yet remained her own self. She has that rare gift of illumination, discovery and adventurous fun that some actors say they have but never quite manage. Emerick delivers gloriously.


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