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Why We Need Award Shows Like the Jessies

06.22.10 | Comment?


CATEGORIES awards, major regional theatre, non-profit theatre, storefront theatre, theatrical ecosystem

Monday night, here in Vancouver, we celebrated The 28th Annual Jessie Richardson Theatre Awards.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Vancouver cultural landscape, The Jessies are our answer to Toronto’s Doras or Broadway’s Tony Awards. They honour theatre excellence over the past year.

You can say what you like about awards shows: that they don’t really mean anything, that they are shallow, that the same people are nominated and win every year.

But what I witnessed Monday night was none of those things.

What I witnessed was unbelievable support for each other, and rallying in the face of some really, really dark and difficult times. I saw a lot of love. I saw a note of glamor in our otherwise “I wear Stage Manager’s blacks” lives. I saw us not take ourselves too seriously.

@SMLois and I clean up pretty good!

Let’s face it, since the first round of arts cuts in August last year, our community has been reeling. A conversation I had with Bill Millerd, Artistic Managing Director of The Arts Club, indicated that they may need to turn to programming smaller shows: 2-3 handers, instead of the bigger-cast, bigger-budget stuff they have been doing. Deb Pickman of the Shameless Hussies joked (seriously) that they can only afford to do one-woman shows from here in, and Ruby Slippers Theatre has put a list of shows that have been canceled on their blog.

But if there’s one thing I’ve learned this year from these arts cuts, it’s that we have the ability to come together and make a lot of noise as a community. Our whole is indeed greater than the sum of our parts. And part of what the Jessies are about are celebrating that community and the strength we have when we get together.

We only really get to do this once a year. All the other times, we see each other in our shows, on stage, or at openings or workshops. But this one night of the year, we get to come together and not work and hang out and laugh and celebrate.

For me, the acceptance speech of the night belonged to Anthony F. Ingram, for Shameless Hussy’s Frozen. “I’d like to dedicate this to my dad Gary who fought so hard for me not to do this, and over the last few years has become one of my biggest supporters. He thanked me for showing him that theatre can open your eyes to the world.” He added, “This is not a community–it’s an industry. Maybe if we start calling it an industry, the government will listen to us.”

The full list of the nights winners can be found on the Jessie Awards website.

I’d like to especially congratulate the producers of the shows I got to work on: Touchstone Theatre, Presentation House, and Leaky Heaven Circus.

You can read a Miss604’s LiveBlog of the event here.

Rebecca Coleman is a Vancouver, BC-based theatre publicist, social media marketer, and blogger.

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