Oh what fun! Many things make the Jessie Awards a great evening - the glitz, the glam, the giggles, the dancing... But the best thing about the Jessie Awards is that it feels like theatre matters.
I went to the party with a friend who isn't "in the biz" and it was a delight to see the event through her eyes. She wasn't jaded about who didn't get nominated or annoyed by who won. In fact, she had seen few of the shows represented. But she could tell the room was full of intereting, passionate people. She could tell they had gathered to celebrate their great love for theatre. And she could tell there was a lot of great theatre to celebrate.
Frequently, she would ask me to guess the winner. I was successful a few times, but more often I would scan the nominees and be unable to select one artist's triumph over another's. It was clear that there was so much talent in that room and on those lists - it would have been very difficult to choose. I had sentimental favourites that I was rooting for because they are friends, or because the performance or production really touched me, or because it was "their turn". But when the winner was announced, I could not begrudge a single one. The accomplishments represented by each nomination were valid and significant.
In some cases, other favourites were not nominated at all. Rather than causing bitterness, this made me realize again the depth of talent in Vancouver, the breadth of the theatre scene here. Not every good show can be nominated. Not every good performer can win. The competition around here is really stiff. And that's a great thing for all of us.
I would have loved to see Lauchlin Johnson's genius recognized for his set design for Mourning Dove. I would have loved to see Lucia Frangione nominated for No Exit. I would have loved to see The Real Thing receive a nod for best production.
But then I look at some of the categories: how do you choose a "best" performance when the possibilities are Anthony F. Ingram, David Marr, Russell Roberts, Todd Thomson, and Simon Webb? How do you choose a "best" director from Kim Collier, Dean Paul Gibson, Morris Panych, Max Reimer, and Meg Roe? And then there's the "significant artistic achievement" category. Yikes! With nominations for everything from "video design & editing" (No Exit) to "ensemble performance" (The World Goes Round) to "origami artistry" (The Life of Paper), it's hard to even determine the criteria for judgement. And when the Progress Lab wins for "innovative contribution to the artistic community" for Hive 2, how can anyone who experienced the magical madness of Hive have any complaint?
Theatre artists have a love/hate relationship with awards. No one wants to take them too seriously but everyone wants to win. It's popular to say the nomination is what really matters but that position is hard to maintain if you're Sheila White, who finally won last night with her 13th nomination for costume design, or Jennifer Lines who won her first Jessie (for her performance as Ariel in The Tempest ) despite being one of those actors whose consistent excellence is widely acknowledged.
But I defend awards shows like the Jessies because, as I said in my last post, any time achievement in the arts is recognized and celebrated everyone wins. And that's the most fun of all.