Best Emerging Actor
It's not that Namir Smallwood hasn't been a presence locally before — he starred in one of 2010's best shows, Life's a Dream — but his two leading roles in the past year announced him as a definite talent in the already crowded local acting pool. The two characters — lawyer Jackson in Buzzer and young ex-con Oshoosi in The Brothers Size — were miles apart in social status and personal expectations, but the energy and drive that fueled them was clear, and all came from Smallwood's performances. In both cases, we have characters torn by relationships and expectations. In Buzzer, the tension is between Jackson's girlfriend and best friend; in Brothers Size, it is between his brother and a mysterious friend. Smallwood let these conflicts play out through all facets of his performances: a sudden torrent of rage, a small glance, or just the way he held his body while sitting down, checking his email, or appearing bone-tired after a day of work. He is also a giving actor, a vital skill in shows with such small casts. Both productions were buoyed by the strength of the ensembles, and Smallwood served as an essential part of each play's tremendous artistic success.