Thursday, June 4, 2009

the milwaukee theater community responds
updated 6/5/09 – 1:20 am

i've already thrown in my two cents. here are a few more brief, edited responses to milwaukee's proposed lunt-fontanne awards: a young performer, two artistic directors, and unquestionably the grand dame of milwaukee theater.

what's interesting is even though these awards appear to be moving forward, there doesn't seem to be much concensus for that movement.

(to read an entire response, click the name.)

rose pickering
– company member, milwaukee repertory theatre:
"I, too, object to the idea of theater awards and would not participate in same...

Whether you work Equity or non-Equity, at a large theater or a small, there is no way to compare any performances in any category: apples and oranges every time, and theater is not a competitive sport."
david cescarini – artistic director, next act theatre:
"An awards system would reinforce the worst type of theatre criticism: that which decides yea or nay, all or nothing, best ever, and the many other black-and-white judgments that obscure the complex and subjective nature of theatre. What a nightmare.

Next Act will take no part in whatever awards system that arises."
neil haven – milwaukee playwright, actor, musician:
"I also have misgivings about an awards ceremony in such a small theatre community, although I believe and hope that those promoting it are doing so with the best of intentions: encouraging quality theatre, and bringing annual attention in the community to the theatre scene.

It would be nice to have an annual event that was open to all so that no one would be questioning whether they deserved to be there, questioning whether they are part of the "old boys club" yet..."
jim fletcherartistic director, bunny gumbo:
"At the heart of it, I can see very little good coming from such awards, and the very real possibility of much damage. By its very nature, an awards ceremony will bring accolades to the very few and resentment from the great masses...

I’d much rather spend $20 for a bunch of booze and to hear my friends doing bad karaoke and silly skits than sit in a dark room watching a few people getting awards."
UPDATE 6:04 p.m. – more reax from mke. (this awards topic is nothing new, and has been "out there" for over a year now. but how much of a dialogue could it have been if a prominent actress in the community like mary macdonald kerr is just now getting to speak up?)

bo johnson, actor:
"The only real reason for industry awards is their use as a marketing tool. I believe the strongest means of marketing is done by empowering the general audience with the ability to decide who wins the awards.

The first reaction of any theatre artist, after reading the last paragraph, will be, "No way would I trust the general public to know the difference between shit and shinola."

As a community, we would have to just constantly remind ourselves...these awards are arbitrary, unfairly weighted, prejudiced, popularity contests, and are no way an indicator of the best work that happens in this community. The best that we can hope for is that it prompts a percentage of the general market to go see a few more shows every season because they want to be a part of the awards process."
mary macdonald kerr – actress:
"I had heard rumors about some sort of theatre awards being started in Milwaukee, but had never been officially asked my opinion. I'm taking this recent hubbub as an opportunity to voice my opposition to the idea.

In a nutshell, I think creating theatre is an art, not a sport. I think Milwaukee has an unusually family-like community, and that awards for Best Art would detract, not add to this feeling. I'd be very supportive of an "End of the Season" gathering honoring our collective blood sweat and tears for the year. Perhaps there are "awards" honoring long careers, long lived companies, unseen contributions etc.

It's just my two cents..."
UPDATE 6/5/09, 1:20 a.m. – and there's more reax in the comments section of this post.


  1. given how unlikely it is that i would ever win an award, i am very much against it.

    seriously, i believe most individuals would find the concept laughable but mostly harmless on a personal level. my guess is that the most damaging effect, especially long term, would be to somehow grant official status to the sense of "haves" and "have-nots" that already is felt. and if that kind of codification puts a damper on the next born-of-passion seedling theatre company (however large or small), then the future of milwaukee theatre suffers a tremendous blow. for skylight was once just clair richardson's half-baked idea to put on operettas in a rooftop garden, chamber theatre was a crazy notion monty & ruth cooked up to share their love of shaw, and next act's ancestry traces its roots to a dingy storefront in the 5th ward where clavis theatre performed even if props and costumes had to be taken home each nite so that rats would not get at them. what would have happened to in tandem or bunny gumbo or any number of other small theatres here or already gone if they had to fight an additional hurdle of not being "nominated".
    throw a party, celebrate milestones (skylight's or sunset's 50 years, somebody's Xth anniversary in the rep company, the first season for a new company, josh schmidt's off-broadway success), and maybe hand out some spoof awards to show we don't take ourselves too seriously. invite everyone from the rep to the small community theatres to the local college theatre departments (and maybe even cabaret singers) and really let everyone see what a theatre COMMUNITY looks like and feels like.

  2. Tamara MartinsekJune 4, 2009 at 3:56 PM

    The core of Milwaukee Theater community and the reason many of us have chosen to stay here has always been our mutual respect and mutual support of each other - who of us have not seen (or been in) our share of everything at every level simply because we want to support our "friends and colleagues" and keep our art thriving in our little burg! We often see brilliance – sometimes not quite so brilliant – but we always see good people putting the best of their talent out there on the stage. From auditions, to reviews to audience reaction we are continually allowing ourselves to be “judged” and that’s OK because it is essential to our lives on the theater, it is essential to our growth as an artist - –

    "Acting provides the fulfillment of never being fulfilled. You're never as good as you'd like to be. So there's always something to hope for." - Washington Irving

    How do you award that?

  3. as an actor/playwright (and long-time friend of tony's) who is a native Wisconsinite living in LA (soon to be living back in WI), i concur with what has been stated here, and i agree with tony's "two-cents worth" open letter to the milwaukee theater community.

    aren't people sick of the unGodly amount of awards and award ceremonies throughout the year? actors need encouragement. validation. fine. why can't the performance be enough? or a nice review? all too often, competent actors (even beyond competent actors) are not recognized because their performance didn't headline at the Milwaukee Rep or there wasn't any coverage in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel or it's not ON Broadway or it's in Cedar Rapids, IA. "theater" thrives in many forms and in many places. what will one more award help to accomplish???

    anyone one read the latest reviews from my short play in Miami? i'm kidding (no, really...i can email them to you). :)

  4. Hello All –

    I, too, have heard that these awards would help market shows and create “buzz” about the work. I’d like to weigh in and second what Fletch, Tony, David, so many others, have already said about the potential cost of having these awards and of the distraction they could pose to our working collectively to tell stories well.

    Let the audiences decide with their hearts – in response to what we create so whole-heartedly here in Milwaukee – in the moments that we create it – in real time. To me, that’s the essence of what we do.... Read More

    Jenny Wanasek


Inappropriate comments, including spam and advertising, will be removed.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.