Wednesday, April 25, 2012

IRNE post-game analysis

As most of you know, this year marked my return to the IRNE Awards, which, as I like to say, are like sex; you never know what you're going to get, or how long it's going to take.  Usually (unlike sex) it takes longer than you'd like - although Monday night's awards were the shortest yet, believe it or not.  We're well aware, of course, that size matters at the IRNEs, but I think we feel a bit like Odysseus on this particular question - stuck between the Scylla of not recognizing everyone's achievement, and the Charybdis of boring everyone to tears. (You can read a full accounting of nominees and winners at Larry Stark's Theater Mirror, btw.)

Some of us also sense the rising importance of the occasion as a party for the community - particularly now that the annual Stage Source party seems to be on hiatus.  There's been some discussion of reducing the number of awards actually announced during the ceremony (but still awarding them, and handing them out beforehand, of course). This would deprive some folks of their "I'd like to thank the Academy" moment, I know, which is too bad - but maybe it compensates them with more time to be congratulated, network, and have an extra drink?  It's worth debating, I think.

I personally lean more toward the par-tay side of this argument; I'd like to see the ceremony reduced to an hour and a half, tops - that's about as long as I think you can ask people to keep quiet - and then maybe have a DJ take over!  I'd also argue that with a more festive atmosphere, we might attract even more out-of-town names than we managed to nab this year (playwright Stephen Karam and director Mary Zimmerman, along with members of the Candide cast and other luminaries, were on hand to pick up their awards personally, and they're very nice people to meet).

As for the awards themselves - as often happens, a few shows won big, and some worthy theatre companies were shut out, and I didn't agree with all those decisions.  We're always struggling with this issue, frankly; the rising number of nominees - which I support in principle, but feel has perhaps gone past a natural limit - has led to a situation where decisions are sometimes determined by a single vote.  But on the other hand - some shows should win big, I think, and why not by a single vote?  Another perennial question - how to best categorize the theatrical landscape?  Have some mid-size companies become so successful that they should be bumped up into the "large company" category?  Should we have more separate categories for fringe efforts (making the evening even longer)?  Rest assured, these are questions we constantly discuss.

A few more words about the new addition to the ceremony, the Hubbie Award - a cash sponsorship which I presented to actor Danny Bryck to develop his solo show on Occupy Boston, No Room for Wishing (which you should eventually be able to read more about, and even contribute to, on his website,  As I said, I hope to make this award a regular event, and incorporate direct artist sponsorship into the official IRNE culture eventually.  As of now, the sponsorship is still small ($1000), and it is basically coming from funds I've raised.  We'll continue to work on that as the year progresses; I hope to make at least one more cash Hubbie Award in 2011, and will probably begin incorporating advertising in the Hub Review, with revenues going toward this sponsorship (so if you see an ad here, click on it!).

My criteria for this award - in case you couldn't understand me in the crystal-clear acoustic of the Cyclorama on Monday! - are roughly the following: the money should go to artists, not institutions or programs; it should be awarded to help make possible the creation of a specific work of art - it shouldn't go to education, outreach, or any of the other worthy rubrics favored by other grants; and there should be no formal application process; like the MacArthur awards, the Hubbie should simply be an unexpected gift.

If you're worried, by the way, about this award compromising my, or other, votes on the IRNEs, rest assured that my fellow critics are aware that a Hubbie sponsorship means I am precluded from nominating, voting, or lobbying for the production in question come IRNE time.  That goes without saying; we can't have a revolving door of sponsorship and awards. When and if financial sponsorship becomes an official function of the general voting body, that will likewise mean that sponsored shows are ineligible for any votes.  (Somehow I think folks will take the cash anyway.)

Well, I think that's about it - aside from a quick thank you to everyone in the IRNE community (but especially to critic Beverly Creasey, who bears the brunt of the logistical work) for making the awards happen once again. And so - congratulations to all winners and nominees - and see you next year!

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