The theater can be one of the most supportive, cathartic, safe and miraculous spaces. It can also be a pit of never-ending, narcissistic, eye-rolling bullshit. But mostly, it’s a sanctuary of the most wonderful kind. The process of mounting a show, no matter what your role or position, bonds on a cellular level and maybe even a cosmic one. Good and less-good together, we are in essence, a very special family. We may even be morphed into a single body – all parts of an intricate, ever sensitive system of nerves – viscerally connected.
For every emotion felt by a single member of our local theater community, there’s a ripple felt across the sea of its entirety. Be it the jitters of opening night, the joy of a sold out run, the surprise at an August performance rain out, or outrage at the rudeness of audiences who still somehow insist on carrying on as if live theater were their own freaking living rooms, we feel it all. We share all these experiences personally whether we were there or not, because someone in our family felt it. We are emotionally invested in each other.
Perhaps nowhere is this demonstrated more than when a member of our tribe is lost. I think the ripple of loss is the feeling felt deepest among us. The initial waves of shock and grief are quick to surface and spread. And, equally quick is the flood of memories, poignantly and prolifically shared in an attempt to pay homage and fill the painful void. We are there for each other when tragedy strikes. This is the magic of theater.
This seemed a particularly painful year of loss for our community. Scot Stanley, Caren McCreight, Sally Howe, Lupe Diaz, Rande Harris, and just this past week Jimmy Gunn – just to name a few. We miss every one of our theater kin for certain but, while we and our audiences feel their absence, artists can never completely be separated. Perhaps the reason we feel their loss so profoundly is because we are constantly reminded of them. They leave an indelible mark on our souls and our stages. A set piece painted by a departed designer, a patch on a gypsy robe from a late actor, a line that still makes us laugh when we recall how she delivered it when she was so very much alive – our art lingers long after our bodies take their final corporal bow. This art is their lasting legacy and their ghosts (literally in some cases!) haunt our performance spaces.
In addition to physical loss and transition, this year we saw performance spaces close, resurrect, and transform. We saw theater groups step up their game, regroup, split apart, relocate and pause. We saw long time artistic contributors announce their departure from companies, from California and even from the US. This movement we feel too as a whole.
Since they first started assembling ten years ago, the panel has seen great strides in the number of small theater companies who now have regular critical review, media partnerships, are being nominated by other awards programs and operate in the black year after year. You have found what works, tapped in to new audiences, committed further to finding your true selves/voice, and become more comfortable with taking calculated risks which in many cases, have paid off. The panel has seen waves of positive change (in some pretty financially bleak and scary times) and has enjoyed a decade of highlighting some of the organizations, productions and people involved in this artistic, dramatic evolution.
With all the improvements, growth and transitions of this last year in particular, the panel feels this would be a good time to transition ourselves. We’ve looked at why we started and looked at resources and concluded that the perceived benefits of this program are no longer fully relevant or proportional to the demands on the panel. It has been decided, this will be the final year the panel meets to select honorees. Simply put, it is just time. Thank you for giving the panel such a hard task each year and keeping them so entertained.
Represented below are the 15 theater companies and 13 actors/artists the panel felt stood out amongst a vibrant sea of art in the last 12 months…
The 2014-2015 HONOREES ARE …(in no particular order):
Standout Musical Production
Violet – The Tabard Theatre Company
Hank Williams: Lost Highway – Douglas Morrisson Theatre
West Side Story – City Lights Theatre Company
Standout Classical Production
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? – Los Altos Stage Company
Death of a Salesman – San Jose Stage Company
Macbeth – ShakesBeerience (at Café Stritch) – Buck Hill Productions
Standout Dramatic Production
First Person Shooter – Foothill College Theatre Arts Department
The Immigrant – The Tabard Theatre Production
Proof – Hillbarn Theatre
Standout Comedy Production
Super Villain – The Pear Avenue Theatre
Curtains – South Bay Musical Theatre
You Can’t Get There from Here – Santa Clara Players
Standout Adult Contemporary Productions
Art – City Lights Theatre Production
Venus in Fur – San Jose Stage Company
The Mystery of Edwin Drood – Sunnyvale Community Players
Standout New Works
Arc:hive Presents A Moment (Un)Bound: Or, The Unreal Past – Dragon Productions Theatre Company (2nd Stage)
Build (Northern California Premiere)– City Lights Theater Company
Standout Kids and/or Family-Friendly Production
Just So Stories – California Theatre Center
A Christmas Carol – Northside Theatre Company
Technical Standout Production
House and Garden – The Pear Avenue Theatre– Stage Management (Kelly Weber/James Kopp)
Build – City Lights Theater Company– Video & Lighting and Set Design (Nick Kumamoto, Ron Gasparinetti
West Side Story – City Lights Theater Company– Choreography (Jennifer Gorgulho) Wonder of the World – Douglas Morrisson Theatre – Sound Design (Donald Tieck)
The Mystery of Edwin Drood – Sunnyvale Community Players – Costumes (Jen Maggio)
Actors/Artists to Watch for Next Season: Vanessa Alvarez, Anaseini Pulu-Katoa, Sean Okuniewicz, Betsy Kruse Craig, Roneet Rahamim, David Leon, Akemi Okamura, Nikita Burshteyn, James Lucas, Drew Reitz, Kurt Gravenhorst, Barbara Heninger, Jessica Golden.
Guidelines for the selection process for the Silicon Valley Small Venue Theatre Awards can be found HERE. As this was our final year, some additional consideration was given to the guidelines and in some cases minor exceptions were made to accommodate the panels decisions. You may notice a slight bending of the lines in a few places. 😉