Wednesday, October 19, 2011


Before I let the 2011 Artsies fade in the rear-view mirror, here’s one more award-centric post to tie up some loose ends. In case you didn’t see it, the T-D printed a correction to their initial story on the event. Also, here’s the link to a recap of the awards from someone not wrapped up in the theater scene like so many of us. It makes me feel good that we could entertain someone at least moderately even if they didn’t get all of the inside jokes and references. (UPDATE: Style's recap of the event is in this week's edition.)

Oh, also, before I move on: the T-D had a review of “Kimberly Akimbo” yesterday. Definitely worth checking out.

So as with every year’s awards, the final results did not always reflect my personal choices (e.g., I thought Nick Aliff should’ve received at least a nod for “Love Kills” but that’s just me). Still, I continue to have the utmost respect for the process we critics go through to arrive at a final recipient for each category. There is contention amongst us, of course, but I think it is always tempered by two important things: 1) respect for each other’s opinion, and 2) an understanding that when we get down to the end, all of the nominees did great work and any qualitative difference between many of our choices may be infinitesimal and highly subjective. The high caliber of the options we are choosing from can make for difficulties in reaching a final selection.

The clearest example of the difficulties involved in our process is the tie for Best Musical this year. As a group, we tried several different ways to come to a final choice. We looked at all of the nominees collectively. When voting resulted in a deadlock, we considered just the final two in a few different ways, trying to get past that deadlock. Ultimately, we had serious discussions about whether ending in a tie was OK, discussions that included researching the Tony Awards and finding out that their selections have sometimes ended in a tie.

My perspective on the eventual result was summarized very nicely both by Phil Crosby and Bruce Miller in different ways. There was a glitzy musical full of big moments and technical excellence. And there was a small, uniquely intimate musical full of self-referential wackiness. Both of them had exceptional performances. Phil called them the biggest and the smallest shows of the season; Bruce called them David and Goliath. Another way to look at it is that these shows were like apples and oranges and, among us 8 critics, 4 of us ended up enamored with the apple while the other 4 couldn’t be budged off the orange. After weeks of agonizing, a tie seemed like the only way to go. It’s not a situation I’d like to land in again but it seemed like the best solution.

As to other comments I’ve received: we members of the Circle are always open to constructive feedback and suggestions for improvement. Both the Best Ensemble award (now the Ernie McClintock Award) and The People’s Choice award arose out of suggestions we’ve received. So please feel free to send them on, either posted here or emailed to me personally.

To folks who won awards and may want them engraved: I'd recommend K2 Awards (2221 Dabney Road, 804.784.7298) where I think it's still just $8 to get your name inscribed.

To Mr. Deiss (whose contrariness I respect and appreciate): I definitely understand your frustration and disappointment at the Mill not receiving any awards. I also expect there was a similar frustration felt by supporters of Chamberlayne Actors Theatre, which did not receive any nominations this year. I don’t think anything I can say can really alleviate those feelings. However, by way of explanation, I can say that we evaluate every category individually and the results never reflect any bias toward or against one company or another, even if the final results seem to indicate one. I know several Mill nominations had strong advocates but in each case they were outvoted by other choices.

I would also reiterate what Heather said in her opening this year: “Any single one of the nominees could easily have gone home with this year’s awards and for every person nominated, there were several others could have been nominated just as easily.” Those aren’t just empty words; having trudged through the nomination and final selection process, I know it’s true.

Clearly, the People’s Choice award needs some fine-tuning. Tying it to an onsite raffle was done mostly to raise funds – and add fun! – but also to limit anyone from stuffing the ballot box. I’ve heard there was still confusion about how often you could vote and that shows not nominated for anything were probably not voted for because people associated with those shows weren’t in attendance. These are good points and ones that we’ll need to think about as we go forward. Still, I thought the award added a new and interesting twist to the night and resulted in perhaps two of the most persistent benefits of the evening: 1) the Roop-Lauterback video that loses little entertainment value upon repeated viewings and 2) the new necklace for Carol Piersol that I hope she will wear with pride!

While it’s true the event runs long – too long in some people’s perspective – the 3 ½ hours felt pretty svelte to me this year. We packed in 6 musical performances, 20 awards, a couple dozen silly jokes, several special recognitions, 2 intermissions and 1 angry bear into that time. I think 3 hours is probably a good target but, as big and fun as the night is, I wouldn’t want to cut it much shorter than that.

Finally, thanks again to everyone who came together to make the night a success. Bryan and the band were incredible; Chase, Wendy, Hans, Andrew, all of the bartenders and everyone working that night at the Empire did a great job; the crew of teen volunteers were crucially helpful; the singers were exceptional; the presenters seemed game for anything; the audience was boisterous but generally well-behaved; and my producer and partner-in-crime Amy was as calm and cool-headed as always. I’ve received a lot of very nice congratulations, which I very much appreciate, but it took quite a big team to make it all happen and the credit goes to all of them.

So I think I’m ready to call it a wrap (though recommendations and suggestions continue to be welcome). Time to focus on what’s next. I hear CAT’s opening their season with “Home Fires” this weekend…


Anonymous said...

Excellent review published on Monday:

Paul Deiss said...

Well said. Helped me to put everything into better perspective. Thanks.
And the Roop-Lauderback video is FABULOUS!