Best Actress - 2005
There's a (specious) rumor floating around town that Lavonne Byers actually had to audition for the role of the cunning villainess in the recent St. Louis Shakespeare production of Les Liaisons Dangereuses. Audition? The director and producer should have gotten down on their knees and begged her to take the role. No one can reveal the empty core in a rotten apple as effortlessly as Byers. She uses dry ice as her makeup foundation. But here's the real stunner: Byers was equally persuasive when she was stripped of all artifice. As a woman falsely imprisoned on Florida's death row for sixteen years in HotCity's production of The Exonerated, she simply sat on the stage and smiled -- and broke your heart. There was no pretense, no affectation, nothing to hide behind. Nor did she need anything. That's the bravest kind of acting, and the purest.