Theatre Students Presented Awards

Published June 8, 2016 at 01:14 pm Spelvin Awards 2016

Scott McPhail returns to Butler to host the Theatre Department's 31st Annual Spelvin Awards.

There was a time  Scott McPhail seemed an unlikely choice to speak at Butler Community College. He once flunked out of Butler with no direction and no idea what to do next.  

Once a Butler Headliner, McPhail had lost his music scholarship and was working at a large department store. He begged the administrators to allow him to return. They agreed, on the condition that he wouldn’t be involved with music theatre or anything else until his grades improved.  

His first semester back, McPhail took a whopping 23 hours and made straight As. He went on to graduate from Butler and the University of Kansas before moving to Los Angeles, where he has been a success in the movie business ever since. 

So what changed? McPhail found something he was passionate about.  

McPhail returned to Butler to co-host the Theatre Department’s 31st Annual Spelvin Awards ceremony on May 12. Nearly 100 people attended the event designed to recognize Butler’s top theatrical student talent. 

“Life is not a dress rehearsal,” said McPhail, Executive Director of International Creative Services for Paramount Pictures. “You get one time around and that’s it. It’s OK to fall on your face. But you’d better pick yourself up and keep going.”  

It was McPhail’s experience on the Kansas movie “The Crude Oasis” that sparked his interest in filmmaking. El Dorado’s Alex Graves was directing a movie for the first time, and gave McPhail more and more responsibilities as the project went on.   

Five years later, McPhail was directing his own movie. He’s been involved in the production of numerous hits in Hollywood, including Shark Tale, Madagascar, Kung Fu Panda and the Shrek series.  

McPhail is a six-time Spelvin  winner  himself, including Best Actor of 1992 for his performance in “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.” He was the Butler Distinguished Alumni recipient in 2000 and gave the Commencement Address that year.  He returned to give the Commencement Address again in 2013.   

He remains close with Lead Theater Instructor Bob Peterson, who has been at Butler for more than 30 years.  

“Bob plays the Spelvin Awards up as if they were the Oscars,” McPhail said. “The thing about Bob is, he introduced me to the idea that people can celebrate you for doing what you love. And that’s a special thing.”  

Michele Banks as well as Katie Banks-Todd and Isabel Todd, all of El Dorado, also assisted with the awards presentations. 

Below are this year’s Spelvin Award recipients, listed by hometown. 


Samantha Schneider: Best Female Newcomer Technical; member of Best Running Crew for “Tom Jones” 

El Dorado: 

Chelsey Harber: member of Best Running Crew for “Tom Jones” 


Maddie Cannon: member of Best Running Crew for “Tom Jones” 


Madisyn Coats: Best Actress for role in “Tom Jones” 


Braden Fahey, Best Male Newcomer Technical (tie with Devin Duerksen of Valley Center) 


Miranda Kimble: Best Female Newcomer Performance 

Rose Hill: 

Jordan Debbrecht: Best Supporting Actress for role in “Tom Jones” 


Josei Cruz: Best Male Newcomer Performance 


Andrew Bohlender: Best Cameo Actor for role in “The Last Lifeboat” 

Kendall Cerney: Greg Bales Award recipient; Best Male Technician; Best Stage Manager for performance of “Spaced Out” 

Nick Luebbert: Best Supporting Actor for performance in “Tom Jones” 

Valley Center: 

Devin Duerksen: Best Male Newcomer Technical (tie with Braden Fahey of Marion) 

Emily Tracy: Best Female Technician; member of Best Running Crew for “Tom Jones” 


Tristan Carlson: member of Best Running Crew for “Tom Jones 

Josh Harris, member of Best Running Crew for “Tom Jones” 

Brandon McKinney: Best Actor for role in “Spaced Out” 

Nicole Walker: Best Cameo Actress for role in “The Last Lifeboat” 

Additionally, retiring Spanish professor Marsha Mawhirter received the L.W. Nixon Award. The recognition honors several years of outstanding service to the Butler Theatre Department.  

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