ATAC Globes vs SA Current vs the Fabulous Actors Guild and Supporters (aka the FAGS)

Please take my humor in stride and disregard anything that might seem offensive. I promise the title will be my only attempt at contempt. ;-)

Finding motivation to write has always been a bit of struggle for me, particularly when it comes to this blog. If you peruse my past entries, you'll find major gaps in time between posts. This has less to do with laziness than with motivation.

After not visiting New York for more than a year, I found my entries to be devoid of any actual content that I thought wasn't already being said out in the blogosphere by more adept bloggers. So then I started posting more entries about the local theater scene here in South-Central Texas. When worked kicked in, it single-handedly affected not only my participation in productions, but my attendance as an audience member for dozens of shows. As a result, my blogging took a side step to work and sleep.

But nothing like an awards show and a newspaper article to bring blogging blood back into the gestating veins of an anxious theater queen...

My first exposure to the Alamo Theatre Arts Council's Globe Awards was in the Fall of 2007. Urinetown the Musical was the first show I was cast in in San Antonio (is that proper grammar?). The production was in May/June of 2007 at the bar-excellence Sheldon Vexler Theater directed by the phenomenal Ken Frazier (I'll see you at his and Tammy's Halloween party!). Globe award 'nominations' <---*note the air quotes* were announced in the Summer and Urinetown was among the honorees. I was ecstatic! Up to this point in my acting 'career,' (note the air quotes again) Urinetown was the best production I had ever had the privilege to be a part of (I still feel this way today) and for it to be recognized by the elusive Globe Awards was reason enough for me to go batty with glee. We were then asked to perform at the ceremony and my elation went through the roof! The Globe Awards must know what they're talking about - Urinetown was a kick ass show. Of course I was a bit biased, but clearly if it was nominated by the ATAC Globe Awards, I wasn't the only person who thought so. Right?

The competitive spirit within me ignited. "So, we were nominated for Best Musical? How about acting noms? I'm sure Ken got a nom for directing, right?" My questions were met with uneasy complacency. To my perplexed revelation, our show wasn't nominated for anything. As a matter of fact, no shows were nominated per se for any awards. The Globes had a different way of recognizing excellence in the local theater scene. Awards are based off of a point system that ATAC judges use to rate different categories for each production. An average score of 8 (out of 10) constitutes a Globe honor. There are no limits on the number of possible honorees. And the shows I thought to be nominated were in fact shows that are already winners. For what categories? Category winners are announced at the ceremony.

"Huh?"

An usual setup to say the least. But it's a system. The Obies do it. So be it.

And then the problems start. If you've ever been involved in the San Antonio theater community, you've heard the complaints. You've seen the snubbed shows. You're aware of the flaws. It doesn't take a Pulitzer-winning journalist to discover the cloud of animosity and irreverence that such large numbers in the community adhere to the aura of the Globes.

Thomas Jenkins of the San Antonio Current recently brought up those boiling issues in an article dated this past Wednesday, October 14. Jenkins' writing is pulsating with a tone of passion; he is clearly a lover of theater and of the city of San Antonio. He writes with confidence and backs his opinions on shows with well thought out and intelligent reviews. Whether or not you agree with his taste is irrelevant (as is the case with any good critic). His article, titled "Another gold star! How to make the Globes more like the Tonys, less like school attendance awards" is a piece that is getting all sorts of theater queens (this is a term of endearment) hot. Just read the comments section.

Among the comments you'll find personal attacks, a call to arms, demands for reform, supporters of change, defenders of the process, and satirists/wannabe-comedians supplying ongoing commentary... it's like the 2008 Presidential debate on health care and their associated political campaigns filtered through an episode of Fox's Glee, or at least through the hearts of a bunch of Sondheim-ites. I have to admit the humor I find in it, but I can't deny the overwhelming response it is receiving from the community. Every comment seems to be coming from a place of passion (no matter how ill-advised some of them are), which is more than can be said for any actual Globe award ceremony in the past decade.

What's my opinion? It's less a matter of opinion and more one of taste. I prefer award shows that offer a single winner among a small group of nominees that were voted on by peers or critics or press or fans or those few bloggers out there. The ATAC Globes are what they are and have been for years. Their website clearly states their guidelines, rules, eligibility requirements... heck, it even gives the names of the ever changing roster of judges who vote. I don't know when it was decided that the Globes were gonna be San Antonio's answer to Austin's B. Iden Payne awards or New York's Tonys, but who ever said that this was the case in the first place? We have to realize that it's the community itself that put the awards in such high regard in the first place. Now that a significant portion of the community feels disenchanted with the Globes, it's a matter of focusing energies on a second awards show that meets the demands of those detractors (if a 'better' awards show is indeed what the community wants).

Is a second awards show the answer to the Globes? Maybe. Maybe not. But I do love what Stephanie Elbel (multiple ATAC Globe winner and B. Iden Payne award recipient and friend) has to say in the comments about perhaps focusing on other issues that affect the San Antonio theater community (getting people to actually attend live theatre, making San Antonio an equity theatre community, paying [contributing] artists [...] more than a mere stipend...).

Now that's not an answer to the issue of the Globes as a barometer of excellence for San Antonio theater, but I don't think that's an issue that's on the forefront of Stephanie's mind.

Is it on yours? And if so, what do you think?

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

After reading the articles in the Current and reading the comments, I have to say there is a darker scenario playing out that perhaps most clearly reveals Emperor ATAC's new clothes.

It was pointed out that Latino actors like Gloria Sanchez was denied a nomination for her work in The Goat. Then a lot of white folks begin to put down Rick Sanchez (another latino and not related to Gloria) and then Jenkins mentions that the production of Nilo Cruz's Pulitizer Prize-winning play Anna in the Tropics directed by Marisela Barrera wasn't nominated last year. Barrera a latina comments that she was never invited back to the ATAC.

That Mexican American actors are shut out of these awards is not only a slap to our entire arts community but exposes an organization will stop at nothing to preserve their lily-white private club. All this in a city that has a Latino mayor and the majority of the population is Mexican American. This organization is a non-profit and authorities need to be informed that they are using that status to discriminate against actors and directors of color.

And when you see that all the edgy, experimental theater in San Antonio like the Jump Start, Overtime, Guadalupe, Esperanza Peace and Justice Center, Renaissance Guild do work that should have been nominated but get nothing but the elitist almost all white Trinity University gets FOUR Globes, you wonder WTF is going on.

I guess they'll never let us forget that we were here first and beat them at the Alamo.

And don't for a minute think because they are "artists" that they are any more tolerant of US winning prizes. But they'll do their darndest to
keep us off the premises. And it won't ever change.

The Blue-haired matrons of San Antonio theater who having been gasping for breath when the Current dares insinuates they are unfair, need not worry. San Antonio is so conservative they'll just put a few more token minorities on the board or get them to serve as judges and the entire thing will blow over - until the next time.

This is a sad and true story of how discrimination is still alive and well in the heart of the theater art community.

We get what we deserve. Pendejos!

Laura said...

to the previous commentor: I have NO knowledge of SA theatre, but could all this somehow be tied to funds?

other than that, I have to say I'm sorry I missed a play with the title Urinetown

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