Arts & Entertainment
Nominations announced: 2007 Wilde Awards
By BTL Staff
Originally printed 5/31/06 (Issue 1522 - Between The Lines News)
When times get tough, Michigan's professional theater community gets tougher.
That's the only conclusion one can draw from the results of the now-completed 2006/07 theater season. For despite the second worst economy in the nation that seemingly kept a noticeable number of paying customers out of the seats and a governor who reneged on several million dollars of previously promised grant money, not one theater that Curtain Calls reviewed over the past few seasons shut its doors for financial reasons - despite numerous rumors to the contrary.
Instead, the Williamston Theatre set up shop in a sleepy little town near Lansing, and Who Wants Cake? snuck into Fabulous Ferndale with The Ringwald, a renovated home all its own. And StarBright Presents Dinner Theatre doubled its venues, one in southern Oakland County and another in northern Macomb County.
Call them crazy - and you wouldn't be the first - but these brave souls reflect the attitude of ALL Michigan thespians who believe the mitten state is a great place to live, work and raise a family - despite some major obstacles. So they stay and struggle - oftentimes for little money and even less recognition.
It hasn't been easy, of course. To stay afloat, some theater executives reduced the number of shows they produced during the past year or swapped larger-cast shows for smaller ones. Others moved to more budget-friendly venues. And - according to the grapevine - paychecks at a few theaters were somewhat smaller than what they were in the past.
But one thing never wavered - and that was the commitment to produce only theater of the highest quality. So while budgets got slashed, production values remained high - or, in some cases, got even higher.
And that's what we're honoring today with nominations for the sixth annual Wilde Awards: The best productions and performances of the 2006/07 professional theater season.
Four - count 'em, four - theater critics visited 31 theaters and reviewed 96 professional productions during the recently completed 2006/07 season - which, despite a tough financial year, represents a slight increase over the previous year (26 and 94, respectively). Aiding and abetting BTL's Theater and Arts Editor Donald V. Calamia were Guest Critics Robert W. Bethune, D. A. Blackburn and Shannon Thomas Kennedy, all of whom drove from Lansing to downtown Detroit and many places in-between to give readers some of the most comprehensive theater coverage in the state.
And what a season it was!
Once again, quality was found in pretty much every theater reviewed. So much so that slightly more than half of the shows reviewed (51) received at least one Wilde Award nomination - as did nearly all of the theater companies reviewed (26).
Surprisingly, no single show dominates the nominations. Only one production - "A Midsummer Night's Dream" staged last summer by the Michigan Shakespeare Festival - received four nominations, while 10 were honored with three. And proving that excellence can be found in any production, an astounding 22 shows received one nomination.
Among the honorees are theater companies large and small. With the most shows reviewed (11), Hamtramck's Planet Ant Theatre received the most nominations (14), with Ann Arbor's Performance Network Theatre close behind (12). Another top nominee, the Purple Rose Theatre Company, has nine, while the The Abreact, the BoarsHead Theatre and Meadow Brook Theatre all have six. Even newcomers Who Wants Cake? and the Williamston Theatre were honored with a single nomination.
More varied, however, are this year's acting nominations. Sixty-six performers are nominated in 12 acting categories - but only one, Mike McGettigan, is nominated twice.
And continuing to make Wilde Award history is Lansing-based Carmen Decker, who is the only performer to be nominated in all six years of the Wilde Awards!
"This was a very difficult year to select the best shows and performances to honor," admitted Calamia, "since theaters of all sizes and budgets seemed to double their efforts to do the best work possible with far less cash to work with. There was a hard-to-describe vibe permeating throughout the theater community this past season, and it showed in their work - and in these nominations."
Calamia was especially surprised by the significant jump in the number of dramas produced this past year - and their quality. "This was by far the toughest category to choose which shows to honor. Of the eight finalists in the Best Drama category, several were only one-tenth of a point apart from one another, based on how we rate the shows we review. So that's when 'the little things' in a show became important. Would we have loved to nominate 'Side Show' and 'Amadeus' at the Hilberry and 'Julius X' at Plowshares in this category? Sure, but the other five had that 'something extra' that gave them the nod instead."
Astute followers of The Wilde Awards will notice that this year's categories have changed somewhat. But that's not all.
"This is a transition year for The Wilde Awards," said Calamia. "For starters, we've listened to the theater community and created a new category to honor the work of our dedicated set designers. And next year we'll expand it to include costume and lighting designers, as well."
Another change, Calamia noted, is with the acting categories. "We've collapsed the four supporting actor/actress categories into just two, and we'll eliminate them entirely next year. Instead, we plan to honor the best performances period - without distinguishing between lead and supporting roles."
Most noticeable, however, is a major change in how this year's winners will be determined.
"This is the first year since The Wilde Awards were established that we won't have our readers and the theater community help decide some of the winners," Calamia explained. "There have always been problems with having the public vote for their favorites - and no one was entirely happy with the results. So this year, BTL's critics will determine the winners, and I can't wait to see how popular THAT will be!"
These changes are making way for a second set of awards that will begin next year, Calamia teased. "And not only will the public be able to vote for the winners of these awards, the theater community will also have input on selecting the nominees."
Details are being kept secret for now, Calamia said, but a vague hint can be found in the following quote from Oscar Wilde: "We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars."Winners of the 2007 Wilde Awards will be announced Wednesday, Aug. 29 at a delightfully prestigious ceremony at Detroit's Gem Theatre. Watch this space for complete details.