Friday, October 23, 2009


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.


eraserhead said...

Thanks for recognizing Terry Gau's terrific performance in Henley Street's “Rosencrantz and Gildenstern Are Dead." There were several other noteworthy performances by this all-female cast. too.

I'd like to think that the RTCC had this show and some of its cast in its sights during deliberations. At the end, it was one of those tough cuts that had to be made.

I hereby award R & G an "Erasie."

Anonymous said...

I sincerely hope you'll consider adding some kind of award or honorable mention for community theater next year. It is very unfortunate and sad so many great works are completely overlooked simply because the actors don't get a paycheck. Getting a paycheck does not equal "professionalism", and many Artsies nominees and winners have worked/are working at/will work for free before, now, and in the future. Henrico Theatre Company, Jewish Family Theatre at the JCC, HATT Theatre, and Dogwood Dell all did some fantastic work this year and didn't get so much as a "boo."

Also, think about adding a Youth Actor award. There's lots of great being done by young and up and coming actors in Richmond. With "Sound of Music" and its children's roles, as well as all the terrific youth shows that SPARC puts on, it's time to recognize the future generation of actors here in Richmond, don'tcha' think? Your own Mr. Cooper is certainly amongst those elite few of very talented kids in Richmond.

Just a few thoughts for what they are worth.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Cooper has done a few professional shows, to start with the first contention I have with this post.

HATTheatre pays their actors in full productions and is a member of RAPT.

And community theatre is just that. Let them have their own awards.

These guys have enough of a time keeping up with the "professional" shows in town.

They're just silly awards. Let them just be what they are.

joepabst said...

Regarding the statement: “exceptional work in support of a not-quite-exceptional show can be problematic and tends to lose out in the final tally.”

Is this not the reason that there are so many separate categories? So that an Individual’s superb artistic achievement can be recognized, even if the sum of the parts did not equal perfection? I think we’ve all seen and/or been involved with shows that had outstanding parts, though the production as a whole may have lacked the “wow” factor.

Perhaps all these categories are not necessary. It would be easier just to recognize the Best Play and Best Musical, and list the contributing factors – standout performances, technical achievements, direction, etc. You could also list the factors for each nominee as well. (One would then assume that the winners’ lists would be longer than those for the other nominees.)

Don’t get me wrong – I’m certainly not advocating this kind of change. This year’s winners clearly would have been “Eurydice” and “Thoroughly Modern Millie”, since each garnered almost every trophy for which it was nominated. But presenting one award for each show would have made for an infinitely less thrilling evening.

I just hate to think that the best work of one’s career can be overlooked for reasons that are completely outside of his/her control.

Anonymous said...

I still miss the ART (Appreciating Richmond Theatre) Awards, voted on by Richmond theatre artists and audiences. You have to give kudos to anyone who has the gumption to put out any type of awards - which I do to you all, so please know I'm thankful you've done these awards. Whoever "Art" was, he had the courage to do something not done before in Richmond and a system that seemed as fair as it could possibly be, and he did it for ten years. I'm glad you guys are doing something to honor the great theatre in Richmond, but I do miss having a larger consensus among the theatre community. I have a suspicion that a larger committee would change a lot of the game for your awards. It seems the few critics participating either need more support from your editors/papers, etc. in order to see everything or you need a larger committee to have a better researched consensus. Thanks, and I look forward to next year!