Thinking a bit about awards. We just finished one of the longest runs in history by our local hockey team, a team I’ve been a huge fan of, which ended – to put it mildly – very, very badly. I was happy for the ride, just not sure if the conclusion turned out to be worth it.
Meanwhile in Vancouver theatre, the Jessie Richardson Awards were handed out. At least in hockey it feels like pretty much the same sport is playing each other – how do you compare 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee with Death of a Salesman? Is it a little like a match of baseball vs. synchronized swimming? (I let you decide which is which.)
Peter Birnie posted an opinion piece at vancouversun.com about whether the awards are actually an accurate portrait of our past theatre season. But can they ever be? The problem with calling out who won and who should have won, is that it feels in poor taste to wonder if someone is deserving or not. So many people are deserving. I think recognition in general in the theatre community could be better.
Instead of criticizing the winners I think it would be better to look at the overall way the awards are facilitated. Take a look at who is on those juries. Take a look at how the numbers are voted and tallied. Does it make sense to have one trophy for each category each year? This isn’t sports, it’s not like we have the same numbers of teams competing for Outstanding Lead Actor. What if there are a large number of great actresses and female performances in a given year (say for example if your season featured August Osage County) What if one of our seasoned pros finally gives us his Willy Loman, at the appropriate time of his career, and delivers it with grace and artistry? Why isn’t there room to recognize all of that? Isn’t there a way that all of this could be celebrated and awarded? Isn’t that what we want the Jessies to be about?
And I hate that most of the nominees walk out of there feeling like they lost something. I wonder what would happen if the Jessies went the way of the Obie Awards model in New York City, where they just give out awards at a party ceremony. No one knows if they’re going to get an award who attends, and the jury hands out awards based on the season that happened, not trying to fit the season into pre-subscribed boxes, as if we were a sport with the same numbers of teams every year.