SL918’s suggestions for fixing the TATE’s, straight, no chaser.
First, the Distinguished Artist award: This needs to go away, at least for awhile. Way too much money and attention is being paid to the celebrity, and it makes honoring and/or rewarding the local theatre community an afterthought, a PostScript. It's disrespectful in the extreme to the very people the event is supposed to be celebrating. If we have to have a celebrity--and we don't, but I'm not paying for the event—let them host and give out the awards. Gary Busey handing an award to, oh, let's say Whit Hanna, would at least have the advantage of putting the focus where it belonged, on the Tulsa guy rather than the Hollywood guy. Though Barry Friedman is funnier than anybody they would bring in.
The awards structure: I’m not sure if the current structure shouldn’t be scrapped entirely, but I’m going with suggestions that make the least changes to what currently exists, i.e. all the money is tied to awards for the best shows. If that’s the case then: 1) The cash needs to be spread more evenly across the awards. The difference between 3rd and 1st is $7500. That may be chump change to the ballet, but it's huge for a community theatre, and that difference can come down to a coin flip as one judge decides, ‘yeah, I liked that one a little more.’ 2) More awards. The difference between 4th and 1st is 10K. Same argument. The easiest way to fix this is that the top five shows each receive the same amount. That would be better than what we have now. Best Comedy, Best Drama, and 2 runner ups in each category, would be even better. Runner ups are both ranked the same and receive the same cash, e.g. 6K for winner and 4K for each runner up.
Even if that’s how the money is given out, there should be more categories, maybe with no money involved but still giving away the funny little statuettes. Categories would at least include:
Judging: First of all, the criteria need an overhaul. Each of the above categories needs to be on there so those particular awards can be given out. After that, it depends, but if the award is going to be called Outstanding Production then it should be based on how outstanding the production is. It shouldn’t be complicated. In fact, just the opposite. Something like this. (I stole it off the internet).
PRODUCTION: Set design, costume design, 15
lighting design, make-up and overall stage management
DIRECTION: Interpretation of script, blocking 30
(i.e. the movement of characters on stage), tempo,
quality of ensemble playing ( i.e. how characters
interact with each other in pursuance of overall interpretation)
ACTING: Quality of characterization, 45
vocal skills, movement etc., ensemble playing.
INNOVATION: Effective, attentive and 10
new approach to drama
Totals up to 100. Acting is worth almost half, directing almost a third, technical elements 15%, and Innovation (which can also be called creativity) 10%. Because that’s roughly how the art of theatre breaks down. Those are the things that make a show entertaining, or powerful, or meaningful. I’d add a few details under Acting and Directing, because this doesn’t really get to the meat of what makes for great acting/directing, but an experienced judge probably knows those things already. I’d also add an additional category worth 5-10% for courage and creativity in picking the particular play.
Judges: If it’s true that all judges were white, male, and over 55, then there’s got to be some diversity added to the judging panel. That should be obvious.
If the issue is there aren’t enough qualified judges who aren’t already working in theatre in town, and so there aren’t enough impartial, qualified judges, then there’s an alternate way of doing this. Appoint 50 to 100 judges. Everybody who’s been active in community theatre for at least 5 years (some criteria could easily be devised). If you’ve worked for a local theatre in the last year, you can’t vote for any of the plays that theatre produces this year. You also can’t vote for any plays you personally work on this year. You have to see a certain number of nominated shows, though not necessarily all. Or alternately, there are no nominations, and you just have to see 12 or 15 shows. Basically, the community votes on itself. Similar to the Academy Awards and others. Doesn’t that make sense?
Michael Wright has mentioned Austin's B. Iden Paine Awards as a model that's possibly being looked at. I don't know much about them, except there's tons more awards than what I've proposed here, and those include music, youth, and more. Sounds great. I'm not familiar with who and how the judges work, but the more awards the better. And the money . . . well, that's a whole 'noher topic, isn't it.
Just giving money to a a very view groups based on their work on a single show doesn't really sound like the best way to achieve what I take to be the goals of the TATE's. But that's a topic for another post. Maybe more to come on that next time.
Arts Alliance Tulsa
Green Room OK
Tulsa Little Theatre
Tulsa Weekly Roundup
Am. Theatre Co.
BA Community Playhouse
Clark Youth Theatre
G Rated Theatre
Midwestern Theater Co.
Muskogee Little Theatre
Owasso Comm. Theatre
Sand Springs Comm. Th.
Sapulpa Comm. Theatre
Tulsa Latino Theatre
Tulsa Project Theatre
Tulsa Rep. Musicals
Tulsa Spotlight Theatre