Artie Awards 2011
by Anthony Chase
With record-breaking attendance, the 21st annual Artie Awards ceremonies at the Town Ballroom on Monday night, June 6, were a resounding success. Funds raised for Benedict House are still being counted, but seem likely to have topped $10,000.
It was a joyful, yet sentimental night.
I recall at the very first Artie Awards, 21 years ago at Garvey’s Restaurant on Pearl, when Betty Lutes DeMunn, one of the great grand dames of Buffalo theater, a mainstay of the old Studio Theatre and the early Studio Arena Theatre, was a presenter. She looked out over the crowded gathering and declared, “We’re looking at Buffalo theater: past, present, and future.”
I understood what she meant, but could not really appreciate it at that time. Now I can.
For the first time, we presented the Manny Fried Award for new play without Manny, who died this year at the age of 97. (His protégée, Rebecca Ritchie, had preceded him.)
We named the Debut Awards, in which we welcome newbies to our theater community, after the late Studio Arena publicist Blossom Cohan, and the certificates were handed out by her dapper and articulate son, Dean, who spoke about how theater communities evolve and stay healthy. Some of the recipients weren’t even born when we started the Arties.
Awards were presented by the children of familiar Buffalo theater personalities including Zoe Scruggs, daughter of Ujima’s Lorna C. Hill. Laura O’Neill presented with her dad, Irish Classical’s Vincent O’Neill. Emily Elkin presented with her father, Saul Elkin, founder of both Shakespeare in Delaware Park and Jewish Repertory Theatre.
And the beat goes on.
The Arties are undeniably a beloved Buffalo theater tradition. While the event raises funds for Benedict House, which supports individuals and families dealing with HIV/AIDS, the event serves to celebrate and strengthen our community. Every award was heralded with unbridled enthusiasm and cheers.
Career Achievement Award winner Meg Quinn, artistic director of Theatre of Youth, spoke eloquently about the impact of theater on the lives of children and in all our lives—effectively evoking tears from the crowd with the story of little boy who was lured from summer-long silence by a children’s theater performance.
Many thanks to Deb Ellis of Artvoice for arranging the logistics, and to photographer Rose Mattrey. Thanks to hosts Lisa Ludwig, Norm Sham, and Doug Weyand (who also rounded up headshots of the nominees); to musical director Michael Hake; and to Peggy Farrell (who performed for the 20th time) and Bobby Jones. Thanks to Tom Dooney for the complex, meticulous, and utterly thankless task of documenting every performance in every category and assembling a ballot that runs into many, many pages—and for keeping me sane and collected as we collect the results and prepare for Artie night. Thanks to Jimmy Janowski for handling the red carpet—his picks for Best Dressed will be in the next issue of Artvoice. (Wow the women were gorgeous! The men, let’s be frank, are a hit-or-miss proposition). Thanks to the wonderfully friendly, patient, and professional staff at the Town Ballroom—especially to Tony, who maintained order backstage, and to Greg, who provided tech support. Thanks to Ujima Theater lighting designer Jamar Singleterry; Danny Beason, president of Casting Hall at Buffalo State; and Ginny Scahill, for making sure we had light. Thanks to all the presenters and to the actors and musicians from nominated shows who performed. Thanks to our annual stage managers Bernadette O’Donahue and Karen Nemeth. Thanks to Todd Benzin, who crafted the opening number, which was, as always, a smash.
Thanks to the Artie Committee for dedicating themselves to nearly 100 nights of theater-going each. Membership on the Artie Committee is a daunting and exhausting task. Each member is responsible to sacrifice numerous nights to the effort, to keep track of what they see, and then to choose their top three choices in each of the 19 Artie categories from a roster of almost 1,000 on-stage performances and behind-the-scenes efforts. With many companies entering musical territory this year, about 20 percent of this year’s shows were musicals. Thirty-eight different shows received nominations. Seventy-two individual artists were nominated for designing, staging, scripting, and acting in this season’s shows. Nominees included newcomers, as well as a recognition for Barbara Link LaRou, who won the very first Artie for Outstanding Actress. The most nominated musical was MusicalFare’s 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, which ultimately won as Outstanding Musical. The most nominated play was Road Less Traveled’s The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, which picked up the Artie for David Butler’s set. Work by 17 different theater companies was nominated—running the gamut from large established theaters to small new arrivals.
Thanks to the participating theaters that sold red ribbons—when the totals are in, we’ll give a tally, but MusicalFare seems to have brought in over $5,000 alone! Thanks to Tim Newell for the single most energetic ribbon pitch—and to anyone else whose terrific pitch I did not hear! (A hint to the other theaters—when the actors themselves sell the red ribbons, everybody is glad to give a buck!)
In addition to the awardees mentioned below, Katharine Cornell awards were given to Sally Struthers, who appeared in All Shook Up at Artpark, and who sent a thank you note, courtesy of actor Kevin Kennedy; to Brian Milbrand for his contributions in videography; and to Kate Konigisor, who played the title role in the award-winning Shakespeare in Delaware Park production of the Scottish play.
Congratulations to the nominees, to the winners, and to every theater practitioner in Buffalo for another year of excellence! It as a sensational evening, and we are already getting ready for next year. It’s one of those occasions when it authentically seems as if Buffalo is the best city in the world!
Artie Awards 2011 Photo Gallery Photos by Rose Mattrey
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