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Best Actress Houston 2009 - Luisa Amaral-Smith as Bessie Berger in Awake and Sing! at Main Street Theater

Readers' Choice: Tamarie Cooper

The kvetching character at the center of Clifford Odets's Awake and Sing! is no walk in the park for any actress — she's mean, destructive, even cruel. But Luisa Amaral-Smith managed to find the soul of Bessie Berger, the iron-fisted matriarch of the Jewish family Odets created. Bessie is the most terrible of mothers, crushing her family members even as she sets about trying to make them successful. She is, in short, the sort of mother who keeps therapists in business. But Amaral-Smith lifted Bessie out of the ick of caricature to create a fully realized woman — both deeply troubled and amazingly real, she was the embodiment of what acting is all about.

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Sean Patrick Judge
Sean Patrick Judge

Having had the chance to work with both the HP 2009 winner AND the Reader's Choice winner, I can attest that they both are fabulous women who deserve all the accolades they get!