Sean Cawelti makes winning the 2015 Sherwood Award sound glamorous: After getting onstage and giving a thank you speech at LA Stage Alliance’s Ovation Awards, he got press coverage, recognition from his peers, and new professional connections. But a more interior transformation has come alongside the pomp and circumstance. Winning the Sherwood, said Cawelti, was one of those moments “when—as an artist—you have a feeling of arrival. It’s a confidence boost and a door opener when an amazing organization like Center Theatre Group recognizes you; there’s a guarantee of a certain level of artistic acumen.”
The Sherwood Award was created in 2006 to cultivate innovative Los Angeles theatre artists of promise. It was established in memory of Richard E. Sherwood, former president of the CTG Board of Directors, who held a special appreciation for the energy and talent of emerging artists.
Receiving the Sherwood has opened many different professional doors for Cawelti, an art director, designer, and theatre director who is also the founding artistic director of Rogue Artists Ensemble. The $10,000 award has made it possible for him to take two months off from project-based work to focus on a production he and Rogue Artists Ensemble have been developing for over 10 years.
Many of us know the story of the puppet Pinocchio from the 1940 Disney film by the same name. But Cawelti and Rogue Artists Ensemble are going deeper into the tale of a toy who wants to be a real boy to find a story that feels authentic to them and to today’s audiences. They’ve mined the 1883 Italian source text, The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi, to find themes of transformation, death, and redemption. Wood Boy Dog Fish opens on November 13 at the Bootleg Theater. Sherwood Award funds have also allowed Cawelti to purchase tools that will enhance his design work on this production and future endeavors. In the spirit of the late Richard E. Sherwood, the award has allowed Cawelti to channel his time and energy into a work that embodies his passion and dedication as an artist.
Cawelti doesn’t plan to sit on his laurels for long, however. “Being an emerging artist is about having a hunger for discovering what your next challenge will be,” he said. “So, in a way, I will always want to be emerging. I will always want to stay hungry.”