Canberra Area Theatre Awards Judging Panel

Judges are selected on the basis of their availability, expertise, knowledge and commitment to the CAT Awards policy and philosophy, and must:

  • possess relevant experience or relevant knowledge in the performing arts
  • be committed to and be able to demonstrate that they adhere to the CAT Judges code of ethics
  • be available to attend performances in the ACT and region as required
  • attend monthly judges meetings
  • participate in CAT Awards official events as required
  • act as an individual, not as a representative of any company that the judge is associated with.

Note: Judges are selected in line with the above criteria and not on the basis of any company association.

Judges demonstrate their enthusiasm and support for the theatre by donating their time and skills. Accommodation for regional visits is paid by the CAT Awards, but judges pay all other travel costs and meals.

We periodically seek expressions of interest for new judges, via the website, letters to member companies and social media.

Thanks to the many previous judges who have given generously of their time and effort since the inception of the CAT Awards.

Andy Bell

Photo to be supplied

After making his stage debut in a Sunday school nativity play aged 5, UK born Andy appeared in various school productions including being a very young model of a modern Major-General in Pirates of Penzance.

During his time at University College Swansea, he appeared in musical productions, concerts and eisteddfodau performing in Welsh as well as in English. The 1980s saw him in more dramatic mode with lead roles in productions of Happy Birthday Wanda June and Cloud Nine and trying his hand as a director in works by Alan Bennett & Chekov.

After coming to Australia in 1988 Andy became involved in amateur theatre in Wollongong, taking part in two productions and four seasons of Les Miserables as well as runs of Carousel and A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum.

Since arriving in Canberra in 2015 he has sung with the Canberra Choral Society and Qwire.

In a four-decade broadcast journalism career Andy has covered arts and theatre stories great and small for the BBC, ABC, Network Ten and WIN, including interviews with the likes of Brittney Spears & Eartha Kitt.

Photo of David Bennett
David Bennett

David was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

He acted in his first play, A Perfect Idiot,when he was 13 years old.  Bitten by the acting bug, he went on to study theatre and acting in secondary school and at the University of Oklahoma. During his military service, he was for a time the commanding officer of the Ft Bragg Theatre Company, where he performed in a number of plays.

In addition to acting, he was the stage manager for the Tulsa Children’s Theatre and for the Canberra Children’s Theatre.  As well, he has designed sets for secondary school productions.

He has performed professionally on stage, TV, radio, and in film.  He appeared in My Brilliant Career, Phar Lap, The Challenge, The Last Bastion, and Willing and Ableamong other productions.

He is a long-standing member of Canberra REP, where he has performed as well as served as a Council Member, Vice-President, and President.  Among other plays with REP, he has been Mitch in A Streetcar Named Desire, Nugget in Equus, Hap Loman in Death of A Salesman, HarryBrock in BornYesterday, Sheriff Will Masters in Bus Stop, Chief Bromden in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Robert in Proof, Alfieri in A View From The Bridge, and Colonel Looseleaf Harper in Happy Birthday, Wanda June.

With other companies, he has played Apein An Ape Addresses The Academy, Pigin Strategy for Two Hams, andwith Free Rain, he wasBeverly Westonin August: Osage County.

Edwin Briggs

Edwin’s theatrical experience encompasses dance, drama and musical theatre.

He studied jazz and tap dancing with the Braemar School, modern dance with the Human Veins Dance Theatre and classical ballet with the Bryan Lawrence School of Ballet (and its later incarnation the National Capital Ballet School). For the National Capital Dancers he performed the roles of Drosselmeyer in The Nutcracker, Dr Coppelius in Coppelia, both Jasper and the Captain in Pineapple Poll, Theseus in The Dream, and various roles in Façade and Midstream.

Choreographic credits include Showboat and The Sentimental Bloke for Canberra Philharmonic, Lola Montez for Canberra Rep, La Belle Helene for Canberra Opera and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and The King and I for Tempo.

Roles include Frank Schulz in Showboat; Mordred in Camelot; the Jester in Once Upon a Mattress; The Stror ‘At Coot in The Sentimental Bloke; Mr Wickham in Pride and Prejudice; Spintho in Androcles and the Lion; Gerry Mander in The Pied Piper; the Fireman in The Bald Prima Donna; and various roles in Oh! What A Lovely War.

Edwin’s experience also includes TV commercials and corporate videos, and in his younger days he choreographed and appeared in numerous fashion parades.

Paul Dion

Paul Dion brings to the CAT team 40 years of wide-ranging experience as a professional musician, arranger/composer, and cabaret artist. He’s backed many visiting overseas artists including Shirley Bassey, the Bee Gees, Judith Durham, Lovelace Watkins, Dickie Valentine, Bruce Forsythe and Frank Ifield among others and has performed as a soloist entertainer in his own right both in Australia and overseas. He is equally at home on clarinet, flute, saxophone and piano.

He sang as an operatic tenor with the Australian Opera Chorus between 1990 and 1995 in operas including Turandot, The Pearl Fishers, Madam Butterfly, The Mastersingers of Nuremburg and others.  This is where he developed a taste for theatre and has since penned several musicals. His first, Prix D’Amour (The Price of Love – the story of Rose and Lang Hancock) was awarded Best Original Work in the 2010 Canberra Area Theatre Awards. Always keen to encourage others in the pursuit of excellence (especially the young), Paul believes the Canberra Area Theatre Awards play a vital part in raising the Australian theatrical bar.

Janice Harris

Janice has been involved in dance, drama and musical theatre since taking her first dance class at the age of five.

She has trained in tap, jazz, modern, classical, Irish, Scottish and ballroom dance.

She was principal of her own dance school for many years and has directed and choreographed more than 50 productions for Orange Theatre Company including Chicago, Jesus Christ Superstar, 42nd Street Street, Les Miserables, The Boy from Oz, The Wizard of Oz, The Merry Widow, The Wedding Singer, Pirates of Penzance, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and Phantom of the Opera, to name just a few.

Janice has had a long association with the awards after being involved as a category winner on two occasions in the past.

She is a life member of Orange Theatre Company and was inducted into the Community Theatre Hall of Fame in 2010 and her love of theatre has run parallel to a career as a journalist.

“I am honoured to have been invited to join the judging panel and look forward enthusiastically to my involvement,” she said.

Leisa Keen

Bio and photo to be supplied.

Ian McLean
Ian McLean AM CSC

Ian McLean served as a professional musician with the Australian Army for almost 35 years. His career included postings throughout Australia and the UK and was highlighted by his 8 years as Officer Commanding/Music Director of the Royal Military College Band. During his time at Duntroon he initiated the still popular Music at Midday concert series, undertook three operational tours to Bougainville, performed ceremonial duties at Buckingham Palace for a month and was musical advisor/producer for the Tour of Duty concert in East Timor in December 1999.
He resigned in 2001 to accept an appointment as CEO, Canberra Symphony Orchestra.

During his 20 years in Canberra he has been active in all facets of music making. He has conducted 20 productions for the Canberra Philharmonic Society including all four seasons of Les Miserables. He directs the Blamey Street Big Band, plays drums with the Leisa Keen jazz trio and is a judge for the Canberra Area Theatre (CAT) Awards.

For ‘outstanding service to the Band of the Royal Military College’ Ian was awarded a Conspicuous Service Cross (CSC) in the 1996 Australia Day Honours List. In 2003 he received the Centenary of Federation medal for his ‘outstanding contribution to musical life in Canberra’ and in 2004, 2006 and 2007 won Canberra Critics Circle Awards for Music.

He is the founder and conductor of the Canberra Pops Orchestra which premiered in 2005, sits on the Board of Directors of numerous arts organizations, is a music/theatre reviewer with City News, presents the Thursday morning ‘Sounds Early’ radio program on Artsound FM and runs his own music/entertainment agency.

In January 2009 he returned to the Australian Army accepting a three year appointment as Director of Music—Army. In the 2009 Australia Day Honours List he was awarded an AM in the General Division for his services to music and the community.

Charles Oliver

Charles has appeared in many musicals, both amateur and professional. Notable roles include Fagin in Oliver!, Hysterium in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Pellinore in Camelot, John Styx in Orpheus in the Underworld and the King in Supa’s production of Big River. He has made numerous appearances in Canberra Rep’s Old Time Music Hall.

Charles has done cabaret work and appeared at Tarzan’s Theatre Restaurant, Southern Cross Club and Ainslie Football Club. He has appeared with the the Band of the Royal Military College, Duntroon and toured with the Tasmanian Army Band in 1986.

Recently he has become one of Canberra’s leading pantomime dames appearing in Cinderella, Puss in Boots and Little Red Riding Hood.

Oliver Raymond OAM

Oliver has been a CAT judge since 1995.

President of Canberra Repertory for three years (1990-93) after four as Vice-President, Oliver appeared in five seasons of Repertory’s Old Time Music Hall both as soloist and in barbershop quartets. He was Musical Director, co-Director and performer in a Music Hall presented by St Paul’s Church, Manuka. He was involved in the Canberra Scout Gang Show for seven years (1978-84), variously as performer, writer, composer, assistant director, musical director and executive chairman.

Oliver’s solo vocal performances have included some for Art Song Canberra, Opera ACT and the ACT Singers. Over 15 years from 1996 he and his pianist friend the late Neville Chynoweth gave many concerts, always including some songs by Noel Coward and Flanders & Swann. He is President and a Life Member of Art Song Canberra.

Having sung in many chamber and other choirs throughout his life, Oliver is a long-standing member and former President of the Oriana Chorale (a leading Canberra chamber choir). He was Choirmaster at St Paul’s Anglican Church, Manuka, for twelve years and Director of Music for five (after all, liturgy is just another form of theatre!). Oliver conducts Harmonia Monday, mixed choir of U3A, Canberra.

Oliver was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for his services to the community through music, theatre and Scouting.

Lawrence Ryan

Lawrance first appeared on stage in 1970 in the role of the Ogre in a Cowra Primary School pantomime version of Puss in Boots. As an adult, he joined the Cowra Musical and Dramatic Society (M&D) in 1986 playing Will Parker in Oklahoma.

Since then he has taken an active role in most of the society’s musicals, plays, concerts, dinner theatre productions and radio plays. Notable roles have included Dave in On Our Selection, Earnest in The Importance of Being Earnest, Reverend Parris in The Crucible, Basil Fawlty in dinner theatre productions based on double Fawlty Towers episodes in 2007 and 2009, and the Tin Man in three productions of The Wizard of Oz (Grenfell M&D 1992, and Cowra M&D 1993 and 2015).

In partnership with his wife Robyn, who he married on stage three years before they married in real life, he has produced a wide range of plays and musicals including Calamity Jane(1999), The Importance of Being Earnest (2004), The Wizard of Oz (2015) and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (2018). He has also been part of the society’s management committee continuously since 1989. Lawrance is a founding member of the Cowra Vocal Ensemble and still sings regularly with the choir.

Lawrance was made a life member of the Cowra M&D in 2002. He is a former Cowra Citizen of the Year (2004) and has received awards from both Rotary (2008) and Lions (2014/15) for his on-going contributions to the Cowra community.

He has been nominated for four CAT Awards for roles in both plays and musicals. In 2015 Lawrance and Robyn were the inaugural recipients of the Silver CAT Award – for significant contribution to theatre over many years.

Lawrance is the Grants and Executive Projects Officer for Cowra Shire Council. Outside amateur theatre his main interest is local history. He is the author of several books and regularly writes for the nationally distributed Railway Digest magazine.

Peter Twiss

Bio and photo to be supplied.

Brenton Warren

Brenton has been involved in theatre for more years than he cares to remember.  He worked at the Sydney Opera House for many years and was also a committee member of The Bennelong Club – The Friends of the Sydney Opera House – for 15 years, in various capacities including president, treasurer, secretary and committee member.

In 1998 he moved to Canberra and has been involved in the Canberra theatre scene since then.  He has worked with many Canberra-based theatre companies including Canberra Philharmonic Society, Canberra Repertory, Supa Productions, Pheonix Players, GString productions, Queanbeyan Players, Papermoon Productions, Free-Rain Theatre Company, Canberra Opera and Everyman Theatre Company.

Brenton has worked in various capacities, both in front of the footlights and behind the scenes. He  has appeared in Canberra Repertory’s School for Scandaland An Ideal Husband, Queanbeyan Players’ Brigadoon (2012), and Kismet (2014), The Mikado for Canberra Philharmonic Society, and for Canberra Opera The Magic Flute (2012), La Boheme (2015), Sour Angelica (2016) and Die Fledermaus (2017).

Brenton has tended to confine himself to properties management in more recent years. Productions he has provided properties for include, for Canberra Repertory, Fox on the Fairway (2013), Steel Magnolias (2014), Don’t Dress for Dinner (2015), Uncle Vanya (2016), She Stoops to Conquer (2016),Noises Off (2016) and To Kill a Mockingbird (2019). For Free-Rain Theatre Company, Phantom of the Opera (2013), Mary Poppins (2015) and The Little Mermaid (2016). For Canberra Philharmonic Society, Little Shop of Horrors (2013), Anything Goes (2016), Barnum (2018) and Beauty and the Beast (2019).

Brenton continues to attend theatrical productions in Canberra, Sydney, and other regional locations and is honoured to be a CAT Award judge.

Coralie Wood OAM

Coralie has been in the theatrical limelight both on and off the stage for many years, but is known firstly as a publicist, secondly as one of the founders of the CAT Awards, thirdly as a sometime actress and one woman performer and lastly as a normal housewife from Curtin ACT!

Born in Melbourne, commencing her career as one of those dreadful little girls with curls in pantomimes, she acted her way through life on the stage, ending her acting career by marrying and settling in Canberra. Life as an Air Force wife became a little tedious, so Coralie branched out into her first love of acting in a 4 year season of the wedding smash hit Dimboola, which led onto her becoming the publicist for the Canberra Theatre Centre.

After learning the ropes she was introduced to entrepreneurs such as Michael Edgley, Kevin Jacobsen, Garry Van Egmond and Adrian Bohm, just to mention a few and branched out on her own as Coralie Wood Publicity. Many years later, she and Kate Peters decided that not enough was being done for the wonderful amateur communities and thus the Canberra Area Theatre Awards were born.

Coralie now drives the CAT Awards together with her judges and now so many years on a dream has become a reality. The publicity company is still in existence, publicising such shows as Fame, St Petersburg Ballet, Peter Ustinov, Barry Humphries, the Moscow Circus, Cirque du Soleil and many more but the CAT Awards will always be her favourite venture.

Peter Young

Peter is no stranger to the stage and small screen, starting his singing and acting training at the age of 5 at the now defunct NSW branch of the Johnny Young Talent School. A child actor, he spent his young years appearing in TV campaigns for McDonalds, DuPont Stainmaster Carpet, Reese’s Pieces, Ghostbusters toys and Watties Stir Fry, as well as spending a great deal of his high school years camped out in the bowels of the ABC studios at Gore Hill starring in the TV series Australia Place and Swap Shop. He made his professional theatre debut at the Belvoir Street Theatre in Defecating Jesus.

Heeding his parents’ advice to get a fallback occupation, Peter graduated as a physiotherapist in 1998 and soon found himself strutting the stages of Bathurst’s Carillon Theatrical Society in 42nd St, Oliver! and Little Shop of Horrors, receiving CAT Award nominations for the latter two.

Decamping to London and Wales for five years, Peter joined the Colstars of Aberdare and had a ball appearing in My Fair Lady and the pantomime Robin Hood and the Babes in the Wood.

Returning to Australia in 2008, Peter moved to Orange where he appeared onstage in Rock on Broadway, The King and I (as Lun Tha), Jekyll and Hyde (as General Glossop), The Boy From Oz and Cats (as Munkustrap) for Orange Theatre Company.

Graduating to the Director’s chair, Peter won his first CAT Award for Best Director for his debut with You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown in 2009. He then helmed successful productions of The Wedding Singer, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (appearing in the cast as Chip Tolentino as well) and Avenue Q (also performing onstage as Princeton).

Peter won his second CAT Award for Best Director (with Scott Halls) for The Witches of Eastwick. His tenure with Orange Theatre Company as a Director, Treasurer and President concluded with The Phantom of the Opera in 2013, which also saw a sold out tour of Dubbo.

Peter completed the Director course at NIDA in 2011 and is now a freelance screenwriter following his graduation with an Advanced Diploma in Screenwriting (Series Television) from AFTRS in 2015.

Peter was the resident film critic and pop culture writer for the Central Western Daily, a Fairfax newspaper, and is now a regular guest on ABC Central West radio to talk all things cinema.

Previous CAT Award Judges

Sophie Benassi 2014–2015
Naida Blackley OAM 2017–2020
Sarah Byrne 2018
Jan Carey 1998–2008
Barry Casey 2012–2013
Peter Cox 2015–2016
Peter Dark 2013–2019
Ruth Edwards 1998–2000
Dave Evans 2012–2014
David Gilkes 2002–2007
Bill Jayett 2011–2016
Andrew Kay 1996–2007
Jordan Kelly 1996–2021
Cris Kennedy 2016–2018
Malcolm Leech 1995
Tony Magee 2016–2018
Terry O’Connor 2011–2016
Chris Neal 2005–2016
Kate Peters 1995–1996
Stephen Pike 1997–2015
Jacqui Richards 2008–2012
Norma Robertson 1996–2016
Graham Robertson 2016–2017
Andrew Snell 2009–2022
Rose Shorney 2008–2013
Garrick Smith 2009–2011
Anne Somes 2010–2016
Michael Sparks 2016
Liz St Clair Long 2015–2017
Bronwyn Sullivan 2009–2011
John Thomson 1995–2007
Peter Twiss 2017–2018
Mary Vincent 1995–1997, 1999
Derek Walker 2011
David Whitbread 1995–2014
Don Whitbread 2009–2019
Michael White 2001–2002
Jenny Wookey 2019–2020
Stuart Young 1996–2000