Circle announced the nominees for its upcoming 29th annual awards ceremony, to be held Monday March 9, at the Victoria Theater in San Francisco. After decades of neglect from the Circle, which simply has had a majority of writers working and watching shows in the City, the East Bay and South Bay, the poor North Bay, and especially Sonoma County, has recently been enjoying a gradual shift in attention from the Circle, of which I am a member. Last year, there were actually a fair number of wins for a few surprised actors, directors and stage artists from North of the Golden Gate.

With this year’s announcements though, it’s as if some sort of theatrical earthquake has hit the area, changing the geography so much that even Main Stage West, in far-from-the-Bridge Sebastopol got a number of well-deserved nominations.

The reason for the change?

It’s a mix of factors, one being simply that more North Bay theater critics have joined the circle of late, at the same time that the ranks of the circle have been declining due to attrition and other factors. So the odds once stacked impenetrably against Sonoma County theater artists are, for the time being, somewhat in our favor. There are, in fact, too many local names to mention all of them here, though I will point out a few highlights, and let you look for yourselves, if you find yourself curious. I’ll give the link to the Critics Circle web site in just a minute.

Focusing primarily on Sonoma County, congratulations are due to Petaluma’s Cinnabar Theater, snapping up 22 nominations, including a Best Director nod for Sheri Lee Miller, for last year’s spectacular “Of Mice and Men,” which also got nominations for Samson Hood for best Principle actor in a play, who played Lennie in the production also nominated for best show and best ensemble. Cinnabar was also awarded several nominations for its production of “The Marriage of Figaro,” and for “Fiddler on the Roof,” the latter snapping up a nomination for best principle actress for Elly Lichenstein and Best principle actor for Stephen Walsh.

Nineteen nominations were awarded to Santa Rosa’s 6th Street Playhouse including several for choreography in a musical – congrats to Stacie Ariaga and Joseph Favalora for their work on “Grease” and “Victor/Victoria,” both for Stacie, and “Thoroughly Modern Milly,” that one for Joe.

6th Street also several got nominations for acting, including a much-deserved nomination for Abbey Lee, stealing every scene and dazzling audience with her hilarious strip-tease seduction in “Victor Victoria,” and Larry Williams, doing the same thing, sort of, with exhausting-to-watch energy in the comedy “Boing Boing.” Other acting nominations include one for Trevor Hoffman who played Kinicki in 6th Street’s production of “Grease.”

Other companies honored are Spreckels Performing Arts Center, with a whopping 25 nominations, including acting nods for members of “The Book Of Matthew Liebowits,” “Annie Get Your Gun,” “Oliver!,” and “Bell, Book and Candle,” and “Scrooge the Musical”. Then there’s Main Stage West, with fourteen nominations, including one for Mary Gannon Graham for her work in “Mother Jones in Heaven,” directing nods for Sheri Lee Miller for “T.I.C. Trenchcoat in Common” and Beth Craven for “Yankee Tavern,” and acting nominations for Sheri Lee Miller (a good year for her) for her work in “Other Desert Cities,” which also got nominations for Sharia Pierce.

Whew! These names are just the tip of the iceberg.

To read them for yourself, and get info on how you can attend and cheer on our local heroes, go to the website at SFBATCC.ORG, those being, of course, the initials of the San Francisco Bay Area Theater Critics Circle. Check it out.

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