Pursuit of competence

Well, it’s been a year since we ran our now infamous column on the Alamo Theater Arts Council’s Globe Awards for Theater Excellence, a piece that criticized the Globes (and their judges) for rewarding excellence at best sporadically and at worst not at all. In particular, we singled out the AtticRep’s The Goat and the Playhouse’s Altar Boyz as unjustly neglected productions, even as Globes fell on such baffling choices as the Cellar’s El Grande de Coca Cola. We also questioned ATAC’s claim that excellence was best recognized by using a rating system modeled on the Village Voice’s Obie Awards. It turns out that last year the Obies dispensed eight acting awards for all of Manhattan. The Globes? Twenty-seven. Clearly, the Globes aren’t as Obie-esque as they assert.

But the big surprise of last fall? It turns out the most involving drama in San Antonio was behind the scenes, as outraged theater folk responded on the Current’s website with a startlingly full range of dramatic action, including tongue-lashing, back-stabbing, and character assassination. Some good, however, did emerge from the hullaballoo; even as the AtticRep withdrew future productions from consideration, a newly energized ATAC Board responded with promises of reform.

As revealed on a newly revised website, ATAC’s reforms are a step in the right direction, though we at the Current are adopting a wait-and-see approach to the success of the implementation. At least a revised code of ethics will reduce some of the more flagrant conflicts-of-interest, and a stern warning to judges to ignore the content of a play might save the more edgy work from a Globe Awards snub. There’s still, however, one rule for Globe eligibility that sticks in our collective craw: “Actors, designers and directors must be residents of San Antonio Metro area to be considered.”

Obviously, this rule does not go far enough in preserving the purity of San Antonio’s theatrical vision; certainly, the ban should require even more stringent politico-genetic affiliation, including Bexar County citizenship on both sides of the family tree through three generations. (That is to say, a potential nominee for excellence should be no more than 1/16th non-Bexar citizen by DNA. In fact, some at the Current argue for disqualification based on a single drop of non-Bexar blood. Let us, however, be reasonable.) It goes without saying that we need to discourage all non-Bexar actors, designers, and directors from ever setting foot in San Antonio, and disqualifying them for non-artistic considerations seems as good a way as any. Austin’s B. Iden Payne awards are open to anybody involved in a local Austin production regardless of citizenship — but that just proves that Austinites are egalitarian commies open to new visions and interpretations. Fuck that. This year, the rule not only boots Eric Mota from A Chorus Line — he’s a (gasp!) New Yorker — but has the added bonus of disqualifying Trinity’s Guest Director, Carl Weber; Professor Weber was a pupil and colleague of Bertolt Brecht, as well as a widely regarded translator and director in his own right. But, honestly, what good ever came out of the Berliner Ensemble? Best to keep that kind of stagecraft out of the Alamo City!

OK, end of irony. In terms of mechanics, we continue to maintain that a ranked nomination-and-winner system would better serve the breadth of ATAC’s stated goals; excellence, by definition, is an elite quality, and ATAC’s insistence that “numerous” productions can be showered with Globes seems calculated to reduce controversy rather than actually reward excellence. (Speaking of which, ATAC has branched into new and dangerous territory by not only covering “excellence” but also inaugurating … a popularity contest. This year’s “People’s Choice Award” — to be voted on by gala attendees this Sunday — is so disheartening I can’t even make a joke about it.)

Last year, out of pique if nothing else, the Current inaugurated its Dodecahedron Awards, our own spiky and potentially lethal emblems of theatrical recognition. And under pressure from our publisher and interested advertisers, we do so again. A disclaimer: These Dodecahedron Awards make no claim to fairness, objectivity, or molecular stability, and are mostly dictated by extra-theatrical concerns. In fact, they were generally composed while the staff was both on deadline and crystal meth. We didn’t see every production in San Antonio (though we do see more than we formally review), and there’s no pretense of comprehensiveness. That said, and without further ado, the Dodecahedra for 2010:

Best actor

Michael Burger and Brandon Sasnett, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, San Antonio Shakespeare Company. (To be frank, we could never figure out which was Rosencrantz and which was Guildenstern, so a Dodecahedron to them both!)

Best supporting actress in a musical

Ashley Mitchell, Rent, Vexler Theater

Best supporting actress (by social construction of gender) in a play

Greg Hinojosa, Psycho Beach Party, Cameo Theater

Best supporting actor in a play

Jimmy Moore, Waiting for Godot, Classic Theatre San Antonio

Best director, lighting, and production

Matthew Cassi, director; Steve Bailey, designer; and the whole cast and crew, R&G Are Dead

Best Globe Awards snub

Vernon Push’s lovely scenic design for Almost, Maine, Cellar Theater. (Honorable mention: Trinity’s Urinetown didn’t get any Globes this year; but the Vexler’s production from 2008 got three. Tough break, Trinity!)

Best comedy and drama

The brouhaha over the ATAC Globe Awards.

Lastly, some parting thoughts. We’ve nothing against the idea of the Globes in general, but we do have reservations about how the Globes purport to recognize theatrical excellence. At the very least, San Antonio should recognize excellent actors, designers, and directors willing to travel from other theatrical communities: theater is a uniquely collaborative art, yet SA seems hell-bent on burning its bridges to the rest of the artistic world. As for the Globes’ actual award process, other cities — Austin and Washington among them — have innovated superior systems that strengthen, rather than divide or disillusion, the theatrical community. Let’s swallow our pride (if not our Dodecahedra) and overhaul the Globes for good — and excellence. •

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