Kevin Kline Awards | 03.26.07

While I agree it would have been encouraging to see some of the smaller theater companies (i.e., Upstream Theater, Muddy Waters Theater) walk away with some hardware, one has to take a moment and realize how wonderful it is just to be nominated and recognized for their efforts.

 

The Roberts Orpheum Theatre, St. Louis

The St. Louis theater community gathered under the roof of the Roberts Orpheum Theatre to celebrate the second annual Kevin Kline Awards. The awards ceremony was created to recognize the outstanding achievements of the thriving St. Louis theater scene. Having attended the ceremony last year, I wondered if the ceremony would have as much excitement and energy as the 2006 ceremony. The short answer to that question is yes and no. The long answer to that question depends all on how you look at the event.

Ken Page served as host of the evening and did a terrific job in filling the vacant shoes of Mr. Kline. Page's warm personality and charming stage presence gave the production a lighthearted tone. Page's delivery reminded me of Ellen DeGeneres' demeanor at the 2007 Oscars — it was evident that he really wanted to be there, and his enthusiasm was infectious. The program was stuffed to the gills with local theater legends making their way to the stage, offering fond memories and entertaining stories of their illustrious theater careers. Their stories of St. Louis' theatrical history served as a fantastic abstract as the awards portion highlighted St. Louis' bright theatrical future.

The big winner of the night was The Repertory Theater of St. Louis. And when I say big, I mean BIG. The theater company didn't just walk away with one or two awards, it garnered 18 Kevin Kline Awards. Out of 22 categories, The Rep was nominated in 20, losing only three to other theaters. It really wasn't a surprise to see The Rep walk away with so many awards, seeing how their 2006-2007 season as a whole was particularly outstanding. What impressed even me—the jaded critic that I am—was how The Rep managed to win two awards in the category of Outstanding Costume Design, with Marie Anne Chiment winning for Ace and Anne Kenney winning for Urinetown, The Musical. As I overheard people whine and moan about The Rep winning awards, I began to fear that there was going to be a backlash toward the theatrical powerhouse. While I agree it would have been encouraging to see some of the smaller theater companies (i.e., Upstream Theater, Muddy Waters Theater) walk away with some hardware, one has to take a moment and realize how wonderful it is just to be nominated and recognized for their efforts. All the companies who received nominations should pat themselves on the back for a job well done. I know it is a bitter pill to swallow, but the cold hard truth is that The Rep had a stellar season that sat well with the Kevin Kline judges.

The awards ceremony made for a nice evening, but the after party is where the fun factor significantly increased. It was sensational to be able to see all of my favorite theater folk under one roof. While the ceremony may have brought out the hyper-competitive side of several theater groups, it was nice to see winners and non-winners congratulate each other for their outstanding efforts. Champagne flowed, hugs were exchanged, and St. Louis' mutual admiration society was in full effect. That is, until I circled the room and overheard several frustrating comments that seemed to stem from The Rep's domination of the nights events. The most interesting conversation revolved around how people can judge other people's art for award contention. I found it interesting on how people focused on how much The Rep won rather than on the other theater companies that also received the judges' nod. HotCity Theater won two awards—one for Lavonne Byers' brilliant comedic performance in Polish Joke and one for The Probe: An Inquiry Into the Meteoric Rise and Spectacular Fall of Orson Welles in Hollywood. The Shakespeare Festival of St. Louis won one award for Jim Butz' performance in Julius Caesar, and The New Jewish Theater won one for Donna Weinsting's performance in From Door to Door. A special mention goes to Weinsting, who gave the most heartfelt acceptance speech the entire evening. The talented actress looked more shocked than anything as she accepted her award; it was a very genuine moment that made the evening special.

Even though Mr. Kline was not in attendance, this year's ceremony was as just as exciting as last year's and proved that St. Louis has what it takes to make a name for itself in the theatrical world. My only criticism of the event is that I wish it had been broadcast on local television; the pricey tickets may be too much for the average theatergoer to fork over. As I surveyed the crowd, I noticed the majority of the attendees were people who acted in a show, produced a show, or served as crew for a nominated show. St. Louis has a very loyal—and large—theater fan base. Perhaps the board is worried about selling tickets if it is made available on local television. The way I look at it is if the show were to be televised locally, it would raise awareness and inevitably sell more tickets in the future. I mean, if I have to watch one more person make a fool out of themselves on Harrah's Lucky Break or people trying to convince me that line dancing is not ridiculous, then I think that St. Louis could handle a dignified evening of theatrical awards. | Jim Campbell

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