That prolific blogger, Mr. Miller, posted his Fartsies – further action required etc. etc. – list the day after the RTCC awards on Sunday. I expect that post was brewing for quite a long time, maybe since the nominees were first announced. I understand the frustration that I think underlies his post – with so many great efforts in local theater, for an awards show to apparently overlook some of your favorites seems unfortunate at best, a crime at worst. There was a fair amount of that kind of grumbling when the nominee list first came out and my only surprise is that there isn’t more of this kind of “we was robbed” kind of reaction now.
I will state unequivocally that I am very proud of the list of nominees that the RTCC put together and even prouder of the ultimate choices made to receive the illustrious (?) engraved hockey puck. In the two years we’ve gone through this process, the strange alchemy that results in consensus has produced honorees that I think are thoroughly deserving of special recognition. There are inherent problems with anything labeled “Best” and with these kinds of award shows in general. I expect I’ll blog about that at a later date. Whether the people and productions that were given Artsies on Sunday were truly “the Best” of last season – there’s simply no objective way to determine that. Still, each of the Artsie winners so impressed the collective RTCC panel that he/she/it was put at the top of a very competitive list. That’s something they should all be proud of, I think.
However, that still doesn’t alleviate the impulse that Bruce exercised on Monday. And even as involved as I was in the RTCC selections, I feel that impulse, too. So you can consider the following the Dartsies, perhaps? Dave’s Alternate Richmond Theatre Spectacular Individual Efforts? Hmmm… Not as compelling as the Fartsies; I may have to work on it…
Bruce started his post talking about Lighting Designer Lynne Hartman, whose work I adore. In my opinion, some of the best stuff she did last season was for “Endless Forms Most Wonderful” at the Science Museum. For this small-scale show tucked into the other – and much more limited -- Carpenter Theater, her lighting design often did double-duty as pseudo-set design, establishing locations like a church or the forests that Charles Darwin wandered through. It was incredible and unfortunately largely unseen by even the most attentive theater lover.
And while we’re talking tech, I thought Theatre IV’s “Sideways Stories” might have been the most dazzling show of the season on a purely technical basis. But herein lies one of those problems: exceptional work in support of a not-quite-exceptional show can be problematic and tends to lose out in the final tally. Bruce mentioned Ford Flannagan’s work in “Normal.” I think Ford did fine work but personally I thought his character was an ineffectual dud and the show ultimately a bit muddled. I advocated for Dave Amadee whose portrayal I enjoyed a great deal but again, in that particular show, it was unfortunately a little easier for people to overlook him.
Other performances I think lost out simply because of the sheer numbers of worthy choices. I thought Rochelle Turnage in AART’s “From the Mississippi Delta” was exceptional but there were so many incredible leading actresses in a play last season, she also ended up off the final list. And of the women who were nominated, any of them could have received the award, maybe in an alternate universe, should have received the award. In this category, in particular, I think the way it worked out was that Robin Arthur was phenomenal, impressive, surprising and delightful while everyone else was simply phenomenal and delightful.
But where things really get crowded is when you start taking in the supporting performances. One of the things that was so great about “Thoroughly Modern Millie” is that the excellent supporting cast was so deep. Three of its supporting actors received nominations but Carolyn Meade easily could have snagged one as well. And as far as plays go, Terry Gau was wonderful in Henley Street’s “Rosencrantz and Gildenstern Are Dead,” Matt Hackman did great work in “All My Sons,” and any number of folks in “Hamlet” or “Henry V” could have received nods (my personal favorites being Timothy Saukiavicus in “Hamlet” and Sarah Johnson Cole in “Henry V.”)
There also were situations that almost deserved their own categories. What do you call the musical embellishment Andrew Hamm gave Richmond Shakespeare shows like “A Midsummer’s Night Dream?” Can you even nominate someone for Musical Director of a Shakespeare production? Then there was Philip Brown creating the character of Henry over several different Richmond Shakespeare productions, an amazing feat of depth, consistency, daring, and of course, hunkiness. Between “This Wonderful Life” and “Fully Committed,” Scott Wichmann deserved some kind of recognition for just the sheer number of characters he played last season, not to mention the nimble and fully-realized portrayals he delivered (though perhaps my favorite Scott moment was a crossover – his George Bailey from “TWL” showing up in the staged reading of “Mrs. Bob Cratchit’s Wild Christmas Binge”).
As for the shows at Hanover Tavern, what can I say? I expected there would be advocates for “A Sanders Family Christmas” (a production I didn’t see) among the critic’s circle; and surely “Mona’s Arrangements” was a significant and noteworthy event in the season. Maybe among this particular circle, people were more tickled by the antic silliness of Firehouse’s “Trailer Park” than they were moved by heartfelt Americana of “Sanders?” You won’t ever hear me proclaim that the way we go about this is perfect; I do apologize though for the perceived injustice that results from it.
And already, just a couple of months into this season, I’ve started my own speculation about next year’s awards, a speculation that points to the positive aspect of the awards, in my mind. Because, while right now I’d be happy to give an award of some kind to Maggie Marlin (for instance) for her stunning turn in “Boy’s Life,” I’m also waiting in anticipation for the next great performance that will supplant hers on the top of my personal nominee list.