by Byron Woods
But why, pray tell, should we have all the fun?
Below are the categories and guidelines our critics will follow in determining the award winners for 2010. If you were on our panel of critics, which show would you nominate for best production? Which individual performances would get the nod for best lead and supporting work? Did any production rise to the level of Achievement in Ensemble — with superior acting in all leading and supporting roles on stage? And what individuals, groups or organizations — again, if any — gave special assistance to the theater or made special theatrical achievements in the Humanities?
Go ahead. Tell us. Tell the world. The recognition that you give a deserving artist for their superior work — in our comments section below — will make your appreciation and support of them public. (Plus, it just might jog our critics' memories!)
1. There's no quota in any category — no “top five” or “top ten.” Our goal is to recognize the very best: whatever that number is, is the number.
2. These awards are our published, public standard of excellence in this art form. That’s the only criterion: clear excellence in the category. In that sense, we're actually not rewarding the "best of the year," but instead, simply, "the best." This is why some categories aren’t awarded on a yearly basis. If the year's best work in a category doesn’t meet that standard, the category goes unawarded.
3. Any theater critic at the Indy — and not just the one who reviewed the work — may nominate a show for an award. We ask critics to write one to two sentences (though sometimes they write more) that “make the case” for a nominee. Then we quote them in our published summary.
4. Our award categories are intentionally gender-neutral. Additionally, we reward the best lead performances, not the best leading actors; the best scenic designs, and not designers; and so on, for a specific reason: to keep our focus on the specific, present work itself, instead of personalities or legacies. The work is what counts.
5. We ask our critics to disclose any present or prior significant working or personal relationship with any nominee. It doesn’t necessarily disqualify the nomination, but it does provide us fair notice on potential conflict-of-interest situations.
If you choose to contribute candidates here, we’ll respectfully ask you to subscribe to the same standard. And actually, it’s not that hard: If you, your partner or your friend (or enemy) was in a show, and you ultimately thought that work was absolutely the best thing in that category on stage all year — say so! Own that show, own that personal contribution, own the relationship — in short, own your opinion! We’ll all be refreshed and empowered by your honesty and candor. If you’re proud of something, why not speak up?
And if you think something this year was the best work you’ve ever done — a real breakthrough for you, regardless of whether you think it was “the region’s best” — again, pipe up! Anytime an artist experiences significant growth is a moment for celebration — regardless of whether it makes the headlines. Own your triumph, no matter how great or modest. And anticipate triumphs to come.
Here are the categories:
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Special Assistance to the Theater: Usually not given to a production, but to a specific person, organization, group or event that significantly assisted theater as a whole (and not just one or two companies) in the region. Not awarded every year.
Previous recipients include:
NC Theater Conference (for Stoneleaf Festival, the first state-wide theater festival which included a number of regional companies)
Common Ground Theater (for establishing a place for independent companies to show work)
The Process Series, UNC-Chapel Hill (for its ongoing role in developing a number of promising new artists and works)
Special Achievement in the Humanities: Not our "Miss Congeniality" award. It rewards work whose theatrical achievement — and humanitarian impact — clearly extend well beyond the walls of the theater, and is given to recognize a production or theatrical effort which transcends the easy cliche of "community outreach." The work being rewarded should clearly aid — and probably challenge — the region as it grapples with the issues of our time. Not awarded every year.
Previous recipients include:
Walltown Children's Theater (first regional touring Spanish-language theatrical production, of Romeo & Juliet )
NC Women's Prison Writing and Performance Project (first production, Doing More than Time )
The Lysistrata Project (local hub of international anti-war theater project)
Hidden Voices (La Vida Local, documentary theater project about/with local children of undocumented aliens)
Community Inclusive Theatre Group (The Song that Greens the Earth, theater about/with differently-abled community members)
PlayMakers Rep, PRC2 (When the Bulbul Stopped Singing, solo performance on contemporary Palestinian life)
Burning Coal Theater (The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later — participation in international world premiere of Tectonic Theater Project new work, epilogue to the original)
Radicackalacky Puppetry Convergence (a major conference on puppetry and protest performance)
Special Achievement in Ensemble: Recognizes a production whose entire ensemble — without exception — demonstrated clear excellence in acting. Sorry, but one weak link on stage disqualifies. One of our most difficult awards to receive. Not awarded every year.
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Best Original Script/Adaptation: Should only recognize new work that clearly stands on its own as excellent writing for the stage. Not an award for "best local" or "nice try, but still needs work." Not awarded every year.
Best Original Music: Should only recognize new work composed for a production that clearly makes a significant contribution to the performance and stands on its own as excellent music. Again, not a "best local" or "nice try" award. Not awarded every year.
Best Musical Direction: For best direction of musicians in musical theater work, or a work in which live music makes a significant contribution.
Best Scenic Design: Depending on the nominees and the year, this award may be joined with the other design categories below to make the aggregate "Best Design."
Best Costume Design: Awards an outstanding achievement in this design element.
Best Lighting Design: Awards an outstanding achievement in this design element.
Best Makeup Design: Awards an outstanding achievement in this design element.
Best Sound Design: This is not an award for "best mix tape" — that is, a collection of unedited, commercially available songs selected to accompany a production. The award recognizes work where a professional-level montage of ambient live and/or pre-recorded audio and effects successfully forms a soundscape that substantively defines the world of a production.
Best Effects and Other Design: Awards an outstanding achievement in design not covered in the categories above.
Best Supporting Performance
Best Lead Performance
Best Production: A production that somehow helps define this region's work at its best — again, not just "the best this year."