Each year, the Carbonell Awards sponsors the George Abbott Award for Outstanding Achievement In The Arts, awarded to an individual (or team) who has contributed significantly to the artistic and cultural development of the region. The award may be given for accomplishments within the year, or for a lifetime. The Abbott Award is voted upon by former recipients, members of the Carbonell Awards program, plus a cross-section of media, arts, and cultural community members.
Since its beginnings, the list of Abbott Award honorees has become the chronicle of the artistic and cultural elite of South Florida’s modern history.
Mr. Abbott (1887-1995), long a resident of Miami Beach, made his debut as a professional actor in 1913, as a playwright in 1925, as a director in 1926, and as producer in 1934. A major influence on American theater, he is responsible in various and often multiple capacities, for Broadway and Three Men On A Horse (1925), On Your Toes (1936, 1983), Pal Joey (1940), On The Town (1944), Damn Yankees (1955, 1994), Fiorello (1959, Pulitzer Prize), A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum (1962) and many others. His wife, Joy Abbott, continues to participate in the awards program and presents the award to each year’s recipient.
*The year shown below is the theater season year. In some cases, the award was bestowed upon the individual at the awards ceremony in the following calendar year.
2023: Christine Dolen
The theatre critic for the Miami Herald from 1979 to 2015, Christine Dolen is a still a vibrant freelance reviewer and arts writer, primarily for ArtburstMiami.com. Her stories and reviews continue to appear in the Miami Herald, Sun-Sentinel, New Times, Inspicio, FloridaTheaterOnStage.com, and in other print and online publications, including American Theatre magazine. She was also an editorial board member of the Best Plays Theater Yearbook.
Dolen holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in journalism from Ohio State University, was a John S. Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford University in 1984-85, and a senior fellow at Columbia University’s National Arts Journalism program in 1999. Two years earlier, she was a member of the Pulitzer Prize drama jury.
Her previous honors include the Green Eyeshade in criticism from the Atlanta Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and first place in arts writing in the Missouri Lifestyle Journalism Awards. She has also received a Silver Palm Award, the South Florida Theatre League’s Remy Award, and the Carbonells’ George Abbott Award in 2001 and the Howard Kleinberg Award in 2015. In November 2011, American Theatre Magazine named her as one of a dozen of the country’s most influential theater critics.
2022: Michael Tilson Thomas
Cofounder and Artistic Director Laureate of the Miami Beach-based New World Symphony, as well as Music Director Laureate of the San Francisco Symphony and Conductor Laureate of the London Symphony Orchestra, Michael Tilson Thomas is a composer and pianist as well as one of the great figures in the world of classical music, Tilson Thomas comes from a family of artists: His grandparents, Boris and Bessie Thomashefsky, were Yiddish theater stars, and his parents Ted (who changed his surname) and Roberta Thomas worked in the movie industry. The winner of a dozen Grammy Awards, he appears on more than 120 recordings, and among his many honors are the National Medal of Arts and the 2019 Kennedy Center Honors. His dedication to music education and to expanding the ways people can experience concerts are exemplified by his work with the New World Symphony, which he cofounded in 1987. More than 1,200 young musicians have passed through “America’s Orchestral Academy,” with 90 percent maintaining careers in music, and a vast number of music lovers have connected with Tilson Thomas, other conductors and the orchestra via free WALLCAST concerts on the large projection wall at the state-of-the-art Frank Gehry-designed New World Center.
2022: Barbara & Lawrence E. Stein
Barbara & Lawrence E. Stein are the founders of Actors’ Playhouse, which celebrates its 35th season in 2022-23. Active in multiple community organizations and as founding members of Congregation Bet Breira, the Steins launched their theater company in 1988 with a production of “Man of La Mancha” at a former twin movie theater in Kendall. When Hurricane Andrew destroyed the facility, the couple entered into an agreement with the City of Coral Gables to renovate and restore the historic Miracle Theatre on Miracle Mile, opening their new home in 1995 with another “Man of La Mancha” and building a legacy as Miami-Dade County’s premiere producer of large-scale musicals. Since then, Founding Executive Producing Director Barbara Stein and Founding Board Chairman Lawrence Stein, along with Artistic Director David Arisco and Children’s Theatre and Education Director Earl Maulding, have continued to grow the two-stage company where thousands of theater professionals (including Tony Award winner Rachel Bay Jones) have appeared, while uncounted children have begun learning their craft or simply enjoyed experiencing the art of theater.
2020: Kelley Shanley
Each year, the Carbonell Awards sponsors The George Abbott Award for Outstanding Achievement In The Arts, which is awarded to an individual (or team) who has contributed significantly to the artistic and cultural development of the region. The award may be given for accomplishments within the year, or for a lifetime. Named after the legendary Broadway producer, The George Abbott Award is voted upon by former recipients, members of the Carbonell board of directors, and a cross-section of media, arts, and local cultural leaders.
This year’s winner is Kelley Shanley, President & CEO of the Broward Center for the Performing Arts. He has held this position since 2009, having served as the Center’s Executive VP/General Manager for the previous 10 years. During his tenure at the helm of this cultural anchor, Shanley led two successful capital campaigns to ensure a bright future for the performing arts in the region. A $60 million campaign completed in 2014 “transformed the Broward Center’s theaters and campus, solidifying its standing as one of the most-forward thinking performing arts entities in the nation—one that delivers some 700 performances a year and an economic South Florida impact estimated at $130 million,” according to LMG Publishing in a recent article. In addition, Shanley introduced a robust affiliated venue management program, bringing the infrastructure of the Center to support the cultural advancement of the region, and now is overseeing a $30 million renovation of the iconic Parker Playhouse. Shanley’s vision, to build community through the arts, led the dynamic growth of the Broward Center’s award-winning education programs, serving more than 3.2 million students to date. His collaborative style continues to build on successful arts partnerships with Broadway, opera, ballet, regional theater, and local performers, filling the stages with world-class programming and reflecting a commitment to the artistry of our local community.
2019: Michael McKeever
This year’s recipient of the George Abbott Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Arts is Michael McKeever, playwright, actor, scenic designer, and co-founder of Zoetic Stage in Miami. McKeever has written 30 full-length plays that have been produced at theaters around the world. His play Daniel’s Husband recently ran Off-Broadway at the Westside Theatre, and his play After is currently running Off-Broadway at 59E59.
McKeever has won numerous Carbonell Awards and Silver Palm Awards and has received three Florida Individual Artist Fellowships. His work has been nominated four times for the Steinberg/American Theatre Critics New Play Award. He is a three-time finalist for Humana Festival’s Heideman Award and an NEA Residency Grant recipient. In addition to writing, McKeever teaches seminars in playwriting at several Florida colleges and universities.
As an actor, McKeever has appeared on many South Florida stages and received the Carbonell Award for Best Actor in a Play for Dan Clancy’s The Timekeepers at Island City Stage in Wilton Manors. He is also an award-winning designer and illustrator.
McKeever and his husband, Stuart Meltzer, are co-founders of Zoetic Stage, a Miami-based theater company dedicated to developing new work and bringing different and exciting points of view to established plays. Since its inception, the company has won numerous honors and citations and has become a leading force in the region’s artistic landscape. Several plays developed at Zoetic Stage have gone on to receive celebrated productions around the world.
“I am thrilled and deeply honored to be receiving this incredible honor,” said McKeever. “I have always viewed the George Abbott Award as being the highest distinction in the South Florida theater community, and feel humbled that the Carbonell Board of Directors found my contributions worthy of such recognition.”
2018: Gail Garrisan
Gail Garrisan is the founding artistic director of City Theatre’s Summer Shorts Festival and a director and teacher whose work has impacted the lives of hundreds of thousands of theater professionals, students and audience members since she began her South Florida career in the early 1990s. Garrisan has taught future artists at Miami’s New World School of the Arts, the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, Blue Dog School for Acting, Florida Atlantic University, Broward College, the Coconut Grove Playhouse, the Burt Reynolds Institute for Theatre Training, the Caldwell Theatre Company and many other places. Her workshops on many facets of acting have been presented all over the region, and she has long worked as a private coach. For more than 20 years, Garrisan has directed productions at major theaters in the tri-county area. Though for many theater lovers Garrisan’s work has taken place behind the scenes, her impact on the art form here has been major.
“I was totally surprised when Christine Dolen called and told me. Quite frankly, I was overwhelmed by the news. I think I said, ‘What?!’ and then I had to sit down,” said Garrisan, describing her reaction to being informed of her George Abbott Award honor. “This is all very unexpected. I love this theater community and the artists in it. I’m always excited by the work I see on stage and the creativity of every person involved in the production, so this award is a tremendous honor and I am very grateful.”
2016: Judith Mitchell
As the CEO of the Raymond F. Kravis Center for the Performing Arts, Judith Mitchell supervises the overall operation of the $138 million performing arts facility in Palm Beach County. In addition to planning and implementing all corporate policies for the Kravis Center, Mitchell oversees 103 full-time and 97 part-time staff members, more than 700 volunteers and a $24 million annual operating budget and directs all functions related to programming, fundraising, and administration.
Between 1982 and 1989, Mitchell served first as director of development and later as vice president and general manager of Ruth Eckerd Hall at the Richard B. Baumgardner Center for the Performing Arts in Clearwater, Fla. Mitchell joined the Kravis Center staff in December 1989 as director of development. In that capacity, she was largely responsible for raising capital campaign contributions, enabling the Kravis Center to open its doors fully funded. In 1992, Mitchell became the CEO of the Kravis Center, and since that time has led the Center to its current 25th season. She is the first and only leader of Palm Beach County’s major performing arts center, and one of the few women in the United States to hold that position.
2015: Shirley Richardson & Patricia E. Williams
Shirley Richardson and Patricia E. Williams are the creative force leading The M Ensemble Company, Inc., Florida’s oldest established African-American theater company. The M Ensemble Company, Inc. was founded in 1971 on the campus of the University of Miami by the late T.G. Cooper, who later became the chairman of the Theatre Department at Howard University in Washington, D.C. The M Ensemble’s mission was to promote African-American culture and experiences throughout the performing arts. A year later, leadership was assumed by Richardson and Williams, taking the company to a new level. Under the leadership Richardson and Williams have provided over five decades, the company’s many accomplishments include implementing the first drama program in the United States for youth in detention; exposing Miami-Dade inner-city youth to the fundamentals of live stage performances, providing opportunities for them to learn about the business of arts and entertainment; and having produced the complete cycle of August Wilson plays.
Richardson, a native of Miami and alumnus of the University of Miami, is the co-founder and executive director of The M Ensemble. She has also directed and performed in many of the company’s productions. Additionally, she is a substance abuse prevention specialist with the Miami-Dade Office of Rehabilitative Services.
Patricia E. Williams, co-founder, associate producer, general manager, and occasional stage manager of The M Ensemble, is an active member of the Screen Actors Guild and Actor’s Equity. She is also the director of the afterschool program at The YWCA of Greater Miami, where she supervises 18 schools and more than 100 staff members. Williams has performed on stage, television and film. She studied theater in New York and New Jersey where she worked with off-Broadway and regional theaters.
2013: Scott Shiller
Scott Shiller, EVP of the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts 2009 – 2014 and President of the Board of Directors of the Carbonell Awards 2011 – 2015. In addition to implementing many arts and cultural programs designed to bring the arts to Miami-Dade residents, Shiller’s civic involvement also made a regional impact. In 2009, Shiller joined the board of the Carbonell Awards, the nationally-recognized awards for excellence in South Florida theater, after a period of near collapse. He became president two years later, led the organization through its first strategic plan, established new financial goals and instituted fresh governance procedures aimed at securing the organization’s future. Shiller recently announced he has accepted an offer to become president and CEO of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, the second-largest performing arts center in the U.S.
2013: Patrick Dupre Quigley
Patrick Dupre Quigley is the founder, conductor and producing artistic director of Seraphic Fire. Quigley founded choral group Seraphic Fire in 2002 and in the past dozen years the group has become an international sensation, performing around the world and receiving nominations for two Grammy awards. In addition to his work helming Seraphic Fire, Quigley has made guest conducting appearances with the New World Symphony, San Francisco Symphony’s Community of Music Makers series, four separate appearances with the San Antonio Symphony, Cincinnati’s professional Vocal Arts Ensemble, the Santa Fe Desert Chorale, Seattle’s Choral Arts, and numerous others.
2012: Mario Ernesto Sanchez
Mario Ernesto Sanchez is the founder and Producing Artistic Director of Teatro Avante and the International Hispanic Theatre Festival of Miami. An accomplished actor, director, producer, and playwright, Mario Ernesto Sanchez has worked in leading roles in several theatre productions and regularly works in film and television. He founded Teatro Avante, a non-profit, tax-exempt cultural organization, in 1979 with the goal to preserve Hispanic cultural heritage. The group has represented the United States at international theatre festivals in Mexico, Costa Rica, Spain, Japan, France, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Portugal, Venezuela, Argentina, Puerto Rico, Slovenia and Peru. In the U.S., Teatro Avante has performed in New York, Buffalo, Winston-Salem, El Paso, Albuquerque, Los Angeles and in several cities of South Florida. The company has staged works by Albee, Alomá, García Lorca, Manet, Piñera, Santana, Williams and Shakespeare, among others. Mario Ernesto and Teatro Avante have won numerous international awards and honors for its “enormous contribution to the development of Hispanic theatre in the Americas.”
2011: Jay H. Harris
Mr. Harris is a member of The League of American Theaters and Producers who served on the Board of Directors of the Carbonell Awards from 2001-2008, including two terms as president, during which time he was instrumental in raising the profile of the awards and designing its current voting structure. An avid supporter and underwriter of local regional productions, Harris provided assistance for the Miami world premiere of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Anna in the Tropics and later produced its commercial London premiere. He launched the world premiere of Tony Award-nominated Say Goodnight Gracie in South Florida which went on to successful Broadway and regional runs including a recent off-Broadway revival.
2010: Patrice Bailey
The Dean of Theater at New World School of the Arts, Ms. Bailey holds an MFA in Directing from Florida State University and an M.A. in Oral Interpretation of Literature and Speech Communication from Indiana State University. She has been with the Theater Division for the 17 years serving as Dean for 9 years and a faculty member for eight years, teaching Acting, Scene Study, Voice & Diction, and Directing. Ms. Bailey has directed over 50 productions including three seasons with City Theatre. Some of her directing credits include Sondheim’s A Little Night Music and Company; Rogers and Hammerstein’s Carousel, Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler and Sophie Treadwell’s Machinal with scenic design by Alexander Okun. Her direction of New World Rep’s production of Faith Healer won a Carbonell Award for Best Production of a Play. Ms. Bailey has conducted master classes in acting for The Music Hall Theater in St. Petersburg, Russia, Florida Theater conferences, the Florida Association for Theater Educators and lectured at the National Arts Learning Network conference in London. Previously Ms. Bailey taught at Florida International University for the Theater and Dance Department and she continues to work as a consulate to the Executive MBA, Evening MBA and International MBA programs in the College of Business. In addition to teaching, Ms. Bailey has also worked extensively in television production, specifically as a talent coordinator for the Tony Awards.
2009: Robert Heuer
Having celebrated thirty-eight years in opera, his opera career began as the founding Managing Director of Detroit’s Michigan Opera Theatre and has continued for the last twenty-eight years with Florida Grand Opera. He joined Florida Grand Opera as Director of Production in 1979, became Assistant General Director in 1983, and then became General Director in 1985. As General Director, Mr. Heuer led the effort resulting in the merger of the Greater Miami Opera and the Opera Guild of Ft. Lauderdale and the creation of Florida Grand Opera in June 1994.
During Mr. Heuer’s seasons as General Director, the FGO has mounted well-over 81main stage productions including 25 operas never seen in South Florida. Among these productions are Richard Strauss’ Salome; Ariadne auf Naxos; Britten’s The Turn of the Screw; Monteverdi’s L’Incoronazione di Poppea; Handel’s Giulio Cesare in Egitto; Janacek’s Katya Kabanova; Marc Blitzstein’s Regina; and the American premieres of Rossini’s Bianca e Falliero in 1987 and Ede Donath’s Szulamit in the current season.
Under Mr. Heuer’s leadership, the Company has developed one of the most important young artist programs in the country with the purpose of providing a bridge for singers from the educational to the professional arena. In the 2002-2003 season the Opera’s Young Artists Studio was expanded as the FGO Ensemble, to include Resident Artists.
Mr. Heuer has served as a board member of OPERA America, and as the organization’s Vice-Chairman. Mr. Heuer has also served both as Chairman and Panel Member on the Opera/Music Theatre Challenge Grant Program and Opera/Music Theatre Grants Panel of the National Endowment for the Arts, and as a member of the State of Florida Music Grants Review Panel. In 1988, the Florida Commissioner of Education appointed him to the Florida Alliance for Arts Education, which is an affiliate of the National Education Program at the Kennedy Center. The Republic of Austria awarded him the Grand Decoration of Honor in 1990 in recognition of his commitment to producing the operas of Mozart; and most recently, he was recognized in 2001 with the Narot Humanitarian Award, presented by Temple Israel of Greater Miami. Prior to his work in opera, Mr. Heuer worked for the Detroit Institute of Arts Youth Theatre, where he developed programs for students from kindergarten through high school. A native of Detroit, he received his BA in Speech/Theater from Wayne State University.
2008: David Arisco
The artistic director of the Actors’ Playhouse at the Miracle Theater, has been a part of that regional theater for 21 years, where he has directed more than 100 shows, including seven which received Carbonell Awards for both Best Musical and Best Direction of a Musical. His diverse career spans more than 30 years as director, actor, musical director, stage manager, symphonic conductor, and instrumentalist.
2007: Jack Zink
Carbonell Awards co-founder and South Florida Sun-Sentinel entertainment writer Jack Zink first won the award in 1989 and has been recognized again for his continuing role of encouraging growth and excellence in the South Florida arts industry.
2006: Michael Spring
Director of the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs, Spring has been responsible for establishing policies and programs that have helped build Miami-Dade County’s cultural community into a $538 million annual industry comprised of more than 1,000 non-profit cultural groups and thousands of individual artists.
2005: Not Awarded
At this point, the program migrated from an autumn ceremony to a spring ceremony, with the annual eligibility year moving from a Labor Day ending to a New Year’s Eve ending (calendar year). Awards moved from November 2005 to April 2006.
2004: Sherron Long
Executive Director of the Florida Professional Theatres Association (FPTA), CEO of the Florida Cultural Alliance, and manager of the Florida Association of Local Arts Agencies. Awarded for tireless and distinguished service to the arts community statewide. Ms. Long has worked to raise the profile of the arts in the community, brought arts organizations together to address common needs and goals, and been an effective catalyst between the arts and government.
2003: Alex W. Dreyfoos, Carl L. Mayhue, Robert B. Lochrie Jr.
Alex W. Dreyfoos spearheaded efforts to build The Raymond F. Kravis Center for the Performing Arts in Palm Beach and continues to serve as chairman of its board. Carl L. Mayhue was the visionary behind the effort to create the Broward Center for the Performing Arts and continues to serve on its governing board. He is honored with Robert B. Lochrie, Jr., who has led the Center’s fundraising arm, the Broward Performing Arts Foundation, since it’s in inception, providing leadership to generate support from the private sector. Both facilities have served as a catalyst for arts development and economic growth in the downtown areas of their respective communities.
2002: Mitchell Kaplan
Founder of the Miami Book Fair. Awarded for his role in South Florida’s literary development. Established in 1984 as “Books by the Bay,” the event has grown to become the largest book fair in America, drawing prize-winning writers to its Congress of Authors, and hundreds of thousands of patrons annually to the literary festival.
2001: Christine Dolen
Theater critic for The Miami Herald, charter member and current president of the South Florida Critics’ Circle & Carbonell Awards, former officer of the American Theatre Critics’ Association. Awarded for critiques and commentary in The Miami Herald, and her role in the Carbonell Awards program since its inception, collectively to raise the standards of both performance and public appreciation of the arts in South Florida.
2000: Joseph Adler
1999: Bill Hindman
1998: Barry Steinman
Theater director and manager, founding chairman, Theatre League of South Florida. Awarded for his roles in the establishment and development of the League, and the development of the regional arts community as director and manager.
1997: Edward Villella
1996: Bill Von Maurer
Arts columnist and critic. Awarded for his role in the foundation of the Carbonell Awards, and contributions to the development of regional artistic and journalistic standards as Entertainment Editor of The Miami News, and critic for The Sun-Sentinel.
1995: Louis Tyrrell
1994: Bill Cosford
Arts columnist and critic. Awarded posthumously for critiques and commentary in The Miami Herald to raise the standards of both performance and public appreciation of the arts in South Florida.
1993: James Judd
Maestro, Florida Philharmonic Orchestra and musical director, Greater Miami Opera. Awarded for his contributions to the development of performance and artistic goals and standards, and renown, of South Florida’s classical music community.
1992: Brian C. Smith
1991: Toby Ansin
1990: Bob Bogdanoff
Theater director. Awarded for his dedication to the development and unification of South Florida’s resident theater community at the Royal Palm Dinner Theatre and other regional theaters.
1989: Jack Zink
Columnist, critic & editor. Awarded for the foundation of the Carbonell Awards, and contributions to artistic and journalistic standards via a career spanning The Sun-Sentinel, Fort Lauderdale News, Palm Beach Post & Times, Miami Herald, Variety and Daily Variety.
1988: Ruth Foreman
1987: Michael Hall
1986: Nat Chediak
Miami Film Festival founder. Awarded for the development of the film festival as a showcase for national and international film as art.
1985: Clyde Fyfe
Impresario. Awarded for the foundation of Regional Arts Productions and the development of a cultural showcase for the world’s premier artists.
1984: Jan McArt
Actress/theater producer. Awarded for career performance and for nurturing the resident theater community’s development as the founder and operator of the Royal Palm Dinner Theatre and other theaters.
1983: Charles Cinnamon
1982: Burt Reynolds
1981: Ron Glaubman & Steve Parsons
Founders of Performing Arts For Community And Education (P.A.C.E.). Awarded for the development of musical and arts programs to support the livelihoods of performing artists throughout South Florida.