Cricket's Notebook by Larry Stark - "Herding Bumblebees..."

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide


Tuesday, 21 March, 2000: "Herding Bumblebees..."

All right, everyone, this is your golden opportunity to critique the critics! So please, anyone who attended the I.R.N.E. AWARDS PRESENTATION PARTY last night (20 March) --- or anyone who happened NOT to have made it --- please, send us some notes, reactions, complaints, suggestions, quibbles, observations: in a word, CRITICIZE Us! We would like to know how you genuine, experienced theatrical professionals viewed our performance as producers/directors/actors on this one night a year when we reverse the tables and try to do what You do so well all the rest of the year. Maybe we can improve...

While you're thinking, let me take you backstage on what, for the last three years, has been an opening-night without a dress. We have already heard comments --- many from one another among the twenty critics participating (who have never all been in the same room at the same time!) --- and so perhaps some explanations are in order. I mean, some things just couldn't have been done differently.

The choice of date, for instance. It was a Jewish holy day, and one of our reviewers asked that we delay the presentations till nine because he dearly wanted to participate. Then we learned that StageSource had scheduled an important panel program on the very same night that would be attended by the producers and artistic directors of Boston's major companies, and They asked that we delay presentations till they could race cross-town. Several people asked us to change the date --- we couldn't. Once ballots were finally tabulated, we were told that was the ONLY date the space at The Massachusetts College of Art was available for rent, Period. We took it, and even though Adam Zahler generously offered to let us hold the ceremony on the New Rep stage, it would have meant RE-contacting whole hordes of nominees to tell them the place had changed. Once that juggernaught finally started rolling, it was impossible to re-route it.

Once the party had actually started, though, some of the award winners found out awards were to be presented After they had committed themselves to be elsewhere, and so in order to accommodate them, all awards for LORT theatres were presented at eight o'clock, while those for general Boston companies were held until nine. Then many of those who "couldn't stay that long" stayed anyway. Splitting the awards was not intentional and had no hidden criticisms whatever involved, and we are all resolved to Do Better Next Year.

Some of the nominees may still be unaware that they were so honored and never knew about the party. There are several reasons for that, none of them justifiable. In fact, last year Jacqui Parker bought a new dress in which to accept her Best Actress award but no one in her company bothered to tell her when and where it was to happen! She made up for it by winning again this year, along with her co-star and her director, for the Best Play of the year. In our defense, I must say that none of the twenty critics involved has a secretary or a rolladex of phone numbers, nor is awash in free time.

But this nominating is an odd process. Ask twenty critics to name "The Best" of anything and you will probably get twenty different answers --- yet our rules say Two nominations put a name on a final ballot. (That's why there was no award for choreography this year --- there were nominations, but no two coincided.) Then again, some critics don't save programs. Beverly Creasey the tally-czarina came home one day to find her answer-machine full of several rambling messages from a critic phoning in nominations that sounded something like "...the lighting guy that did that Beckett play at New Rep --- R & G Are Dead..." no, not that bad, but much like. One very late list did have "Whoever did [blank] for..." in several places. One critic, when told the New Play nominated was some years old naively responded "But it Was new to Me!" Some critics had to be chased down during act-breaks and forced to complete final ballots. Some critics didn't even attend the awards ceremony.

Since people last year complained after the ceremony that they were never notified, all the critics were told this year that They were responsible for informing everyone they nominated about the Bash. And I didn't. I have no excuse. I did attend 36 plays an one colonoscopy between 27 February and the Bash, and I featured the ceremony and the list of nominees as prominently as possible on The Mirror's first page, but I did fail to honor my promise. I apologise to everyone for the lapse.

Then again, I over-nominate. I had fifteen candidates for Best Production, about nine for Best Director, oodles for Best Ensemble. And I genuinely believed I could defend every one of them for a different reason. In a sense, that may have worked to our advantage, because with my scatter-gun inclusiveness it was more likely that something someone else had nominated would coincide with one of mine, and fatten that ballot further. It did, though, complicate things when one critic rashly promised her nominees that "everyone nominated will get a certificate". The certificates I prepared looked awful --- suitable not for framing but for lining parrot-cages. Again, I apologise.

And yet, in spite of it all, everything came together. The party happened, and I think everyone had a good time. I certainly did.

Despite the failings, I do think we're getting better at it --- and much of the credit for it happening at all must be paid to Beverly Creasey, a totally selfless powerhouse of energy and organization whose smooth functioning in the midst of chaos continually astonishes me. She is the one chasing down details and suggesting compromises when the chips are down. She sent, collected, tabulated, and organized all the ballots, dealt with wounded egos, fielded criticism and, I think, managed to enjoy herself in the bargain. She never does it alone --- no one is alone --- but she is always there, working with others. I don't know what a "kudo" is, but Beverly deserves a dozen.

Several recipients at the ceremony this year spoke of long years working here in Boston, and complimented us for caring. Diego Arciniegas mentioned his gratitude for an award for work he himself took personal pride in. Everyone seemed to agree that everything they did arose out of group effort, and that camaraderie and common purpose made their work worth it, win or lose.

I said this last year, and felt it sincerely again this: It is a pleasure to look out at such a crowd and realize that, with the probable exception of the critics in the room, everyone present did something Memorable last year. And we got to tell them so.

But we can still do a better job of it next year. Tell us how.


THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide