Thursday, October 21, 2010

Onward and upward

What a night, huh? As I write this, it’s less than 96 hours since the 2010 RTCC awards wrapped up. The excitement and energy of the night was so penetrating that, in some ways, it feels like it just happened last night. But so much has been said and done since that night, in other ways it seems like it could have happened 96 days ago. If I had to sum it up in a sentence, for me nothing matches seeing so many people I love, like and admire all dressed up and celebrating together. These award nights are becoming among my favorite nights of the whole year.

I feel compelled to deal with some latent negativity so I can then move on to more positive stuff. I understand many people were upset and/or disappointed about some of the award selections this year. This has been the case every year but the difference this year was the ubiquity of social media allowed vociferous reactions to circulate almost immediately. I can only repeat what I’ve said every year: the process we critics go through to select nominees and final choices is not a perfect process. We take it seriously and we do the best that a group of considerate professionals can do but some of our choices surprised and frustrated some of you. Personally, I don’t think one person taking home the little hockey puck diminishes the achievement of anyone else. I can’t remember if I’ve used this analogy before but “Avenue Q” winning the Tony over “Wicked” did not make “Wicked” any less awesome.

One more thing I will say about the negative comments: I find some dark irony in them. Critics are often derided by theater professionals because of their perceived insensitivity. I have personally been lambasted by actors because of my lack of understanding of what goes into a production or what it takes to create a role on stage. But if I ever wrote something in a review that included the kind of non-specific criticism and name-calling directed at inappropriate targets that I read online or heard repeated secondhand in the wake of the awards Sunday night, I would lose my job. Period, end of statement. Journalists live and die by certain standards – as one of the presenters Sunday night, Chris Dovi, found out only too bitterly. The fact that some theater professionals feel free to wield criticism without any regard to the propriety of their comments demeans them personally and professionally. We are very lucky to live in a free country and to be free to say/write what we want. But as I have found during my many years writing professional criticism, words have power and careless statements have repercussions.

Moving on, I also received numerous positive comments about the evening, people who felt it was a continuation in the ongoing improvement in the awards presentation. The projections used during the evening were a fantastic addition – thank you Chase Kniffen for your hard work in putting them together. All of the performances were astounding, if you ask me, from Lauren’s curmudgeonly “Bah! Humbug” to the stage-filling cheerfulness of the Von Trapp children. I could hear Joy Newsome and Jaci Camden sing their duet from “Rent” over and over on repeat on my iPod and never get tired of it. Debra was a hoot and it was so much fun to watch her work the crowd. And what a testament to her versatility that she could then help deliver the wonderfully affecting “I Love You Song” from Putnam, featuring last-minute stand-in Matt Shofner and the always-amazing Aly Wepplo. All of the performances made me want to see the entire productions again. Big thanks to Brian Harris and his fantastic band for filling the night with beautiful music.

The increased accessibility of the bars seemed to be appreciated and in some ways helped the flow of the evening as people weren’t stuck in lines for so long. I think many people enjoyed the “green room” innovation, spearheaded by Event Chair Mary Burruss, where winners and performers were photographed before and after their appearances on stage. The result is a more complete photographic record of the evening than we’ve ever had before. Big thanks to Thomas Nowlin for manning the camera – he did a spectacular job.

On that note, people may be pleased to know that photographer extraordinaire Jay Paul documented the evening and his work is available online in a pair of photo albums (I'm a little confused by Snapfish, but I think you can get to them but clicking here). Check them out and enjoy looking at all of the beautiful people!

As in the past, most every presenter gamely played along with the shenanigans of the evening. Ms. Carreras and Madame were particularly impressive. Oh, if only you could read some of the jokes John Porter had originally scripted for Madame – some truly golden stuff!

Every person who came up to accept an award was entertaining or heart-warming in their own way. But perhaps my favorite was Willie Hinton who, besides looking particularly dapper, was so excited and thankful and gracious. And if you didn’t see “Black Nativity” you missed some truly incredible work from him.

All in all, there was much to be excited about and celebrate. Perhaps most important of all, once again all of you helped raised several thousand dollars for the Theatre Artists Fund, a truly worthy cause. That everyone had such a good time as part of supporting something so worthwhile is a true win-win situation.

Big plans are already percolating for next year so stay tuned. With your help and understanding and support, things can only get better. If you came to the awards, thanks a bunch and I hope you had fun. If you didn’t, believe me, you won’t want to miss it next year.

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