The Big Show
Listen, I could beat around the bush and try to find some clever way to lead into this week's column, but I spent most of the previous night standing on a rooftop after drinking a copious amount of alcohol, trying to make sense of the spectacle I had just witnessed. Now, with just a few scant hours of fitful sleep between me and the afterparty, I am tired and spent, so let's dispense with the formalities and get right down to it:
If you're in the theater community in the Twin Cities, you are well acquainted with this institution, this night when "the theater community applauds itself". If you were there, you already know who got what award; if you were not there, you probably have some stance against the whole thing; and either way you've already had your time to be elated and/or bitter about those choices. Given that the Iveys adamantly refuse to declare any categories (or even make sure that award recipients will actually be at the award ceremony), the awards given and the stated reasons for the awards can be a surreal trip of words dancing a circuitous route around the simple statement of "We Like This Show". I still get crap from people about being in a play that won an award for "Emotional Impact"; if you ask me what "Emotional Impact" means in this circumstance, allow me to explain it by punching you in the face. If you cry, then consider yourself emotionally impacted.
This year the made-up categories were more tame (though there was an award for "Intellect and Emotional Intensity"), and the ceremony dispensed with the obligatory overblown/under-rehearsed opening number specifically written for the occasion and instead gave the people what they wanted: Tyler Michaels as the Emcee in Cabaret. Theatre Latte Da's production of that show won for "Overall Excellence" and Michaels won the coveted "Emerging Artist" award. I would love to say that I called both of those awards, but I'm pretty sure there are dogs in Siberia that could have called those.
Then you have to deal with the fact that the man who runs the Iveys was himself awarded an Ivey. So there's that.
As for the rest, I have to admit that it was another year where I saw absolutely none of the productions that received awards, as demonstrated with this helpful pie chart:
After seeing awards go out the door for a 50-year-old musical and a stage adaptation of a 75-year-old movie, I was set to pen a seething screed against the incredible conservatism of the theater world and its insistence on looking back to its irrelevant past. At one point, shortly after finishing my flask (er, I mean, "delicious and not-overpriced drink I purchased at the lobby bar"), I think I declared that I could make a pie chart of the Ivey winners this year that distinguished between "Plays written before I was born", "Plays written after I was born" and it would look like Pac Man.
When I sobered up and actually made the pie chart, I was right: it does look like Pac Man; just not in the way that I thought:
Granted, this is counting The 39 Steps as a newer play (though it is based on a 1935 film, the play adaptation started life in 1995). As it turns out, the Ivey Awards were actually pretty well weighted toward newer and more contemporary work this year. Here's the same pie chart without my original smug simplification:
Now that the angry demon of bourbon is no longing traipsing through my bloodstream, I actually see that the Iveys have crept tantalizingly close to acknowledging that new work may have merit. 2/3 of the shows recognized were created in our current century. They even gave an award to a playwright for new work without first having to declare that this was going to be "The Year of the Playwright".
And to top it off, the Lifetime Achievement award went to Bonnie Morris and Michael Robins, who, in their 40 years of running Illusion Theater have been consistently helping to foster the creation of new work. (Actually, more than 350 new shows)
So, for a guy like me, who wants to see new work and wants to see new work recognized, but faces an industry that's still futzing around with 60-year-old musicals as if they are still fresh and relevant, I view this as a decent compromise. While there are plenty of things I could complain about (Seriously, Iveys, have you not actually listened to the lyrics to "Hallelujah"? It is not an appropriate song to play during the In Memorium segment.) there wasn't much that actively bothered me, so I guess we'll call it a draw this year, Iveys.
Oh Yeah, There Was Other Stuff
Some other things happened in the past week, but I really need to get my post-Iveys hangover breakfast underway; so, in no particular order, here are those things:
(1) The The Lion King on Broadway officially passed the $1 billion mark, and the Lion King franchise is now the single most profitable piece of media ever produced by humanity.
(2) The MacArthur Foundation gave out the 2014 MacArthur Fellowships, which are not actually named "the genius grants", but are totally called "the genius grants" by everyone except for the MacArthur Foundation. Playwright Samuel D. Hunter was among the recipients, and Charles McNulty at the LA Times thinks it's a sign that good playwright are on the rise again.
(3) A British stage actor who you probably only know as playing a one-eyed psychopath in an American TV show about zombies touched off a round of controversy in the UK by saying that the theater system there is "pricing out working class actors." Britain obsesses over class issues the way that Americans obsess over race, so the conversation is expanding to include the question of whether or not theaters make shows for working class audiences anymore.
(4) Remember when I told you about that high school production of Spamalot that was canceled because of its "homosexual content"? The director at the school who tried to keep the show goinghas been fired by the superintendent who had problems with the "homosexual content".
So, I'm sure that the problem will just go away now, and no one will possibly question this decision at all.