Theater folk from the Phoenix metropolitan area gathered at Phoenix Theatre Monday night for a formal reading of the Arizoni Awards nominees for 2011-12 season productions. Forty-two out of 47 participating theaters were nominated for awards recognizing cast, creative team and technical accomplishments.
All seven contracted theaters (operating under agreements with Actors’ Equity Association) were nominated, as were 23 of 27 non-contracted theaters. A dozen of the 13 participating youth theaters also received nominations. I’m told there were 553 separate nominations — 145 in the contracted category, 185 in the non-contracted category and 223 in the youth category.
Hearing hundreds of names read aloud might not sound all that exciting — but it was, thanks to rambunctous readings by two of three Valley actors slotted to emcee the September awards ceremony. All hail Joseph Kramer and Yolanda London for bringing such gregarious gravitas to the gig. I’m told Toby Yatso will round out the trio come TCA time, assuming there’s a pause in his shutterbug frenzy.
This year’s Arizoni Awards ceremony takes place Mon, Sept. 17 at Tempe Center for the Arts. It’s done in two segments — a 5:30pm youth ceremony followed by an 8pm adult ceremony. That way young actors can wrap up celebrations in time for homework and decent bedtimes. A stage mother can dream.
Anyone can buy tickets to one or both ceremonies, and they’ll be on sale come Aug. 13. I’m told you’ll need to call the TCA box office to buy tickets, since no online options are available. So step away from the computer and make friends with your phone again.
The reading of the nominations is always a rather intriguing affair. I’ve learned through the years to sit near the back of the house so I can observe the full measure of folks’ reactions to both the nominees and each others’ little idiosyncrasies. Also to avoid the need for earplugs.
Certain youth theater companies do more yelping than most, and while the maybe-too-mature among us try not to dampen their darling enthusiam, it’s clear that not everyone finds such whooping and hollering all that appealing. But coping mechanisms, like trips to the bar, exist — so most folks leave in perfectly good spirits.
Playing with the numbers in terms of theater companies most nominated gets a little tricky thanks to co-productions and theaters that have both adult and youth companies. When combining such things, Theater Works in Peoria has nearly 60 nominations and Phoenix Theatre more than 40.
Childsplay in Tempe, whose “Rock the Presidents” will soon launch a tour of 35 U.S. cities, earned 45 nominations, and Creative Stages Youth Theatre earned 40. Theaters with 30 + nominations include Fountain Hills Theater, Greasepaint Youtheatre, Musical Theatre of Anthem and Spotlight Youth Theatre.
Yet number of nominations isn’t a solid indicator of any given theater’s quality, since mounting more shows per season sometimes means more nods come nomination time and not all theaters participate in the Arizoni Awards. I’m more interested in the diversity of shows and theater groups that get recognized.
While classic plays like “To Kill a Mockingbird” (Hale Centre Theatre in Gilbert) and grand musicals like “Les Miserables” (Greasepaint Youtheatre) got plenty of nominations, so too did several new works and lesser known shows. I counted more than 70 nominations for college and performing arts academy productions.
Contenders for “Overall Production – Contracted Play” include “Dead Man’s Cell Phone” (Actors Theatre), “Much Ado About Nothing” (Southwest Shakespeare Company), “Next Fall” (Actors Theatre), “The Color of Stars” (Childsplay) and “The Sun Serpent” (Childsplay).
Candidates for “Overall Production – Contracted Musicals” include “Gypsy” (Phoenix Theatre), “Rock the Presidents” (Childsplay), “Singin’ in the Rain” (Arizona Broadway Theatre), “Spring Awakening” (Phoenix Theatre/Nearly Naked Theatre) and “Spitfire Grill” (Phoenix Theatre).
Best overall production awards are presented in a total of six categories, and you can hit the Arizoni Awards website for find additional “overall production” nominees — plus a list featuring every single nomination. Feel free to yelp while you review it.
Note: The Arizoni Awards is accepting nominations for its outstanding contributions and distinguished service awards, plus college scholarships, through August 15. Details at www.arizoniawards.org.
Coming up: Art meets medicine, A water bottle tale