Award season is upon us and with it the often-heard complaints: awards are silly or they don't mean anything.
Those declarations are a tad presumptuous, aren't they?
After all, what is an award? A prize or other mark of recognition given in honor of an achievement. Who doesn't either give them out or receive them? From the youngest children in kindergarten who receive a star for work well done to the achievement certificates to staff posted on McDonald's restaurant walls; from auditioning actors who compete at a callback (only one winner can be awarded the role) to Nobel Prize winners -- recognition is a fact of life.
Would people strive to do their best without rewards? Of course some always will but why criticize those who want their little moment in the sun? Is it wrong that that effort is rewarded with certificates or some form of recognition?
Whatever the reward form, recognition often affords an opportunity to celebrate incredible talent within a community (whether local or global), to recognize superior experiences or outstanding achievements, and perhaps what I appreciate the most: an opportunity for celebration in an (one hopes anyway) entertaining atmosphere.
Hence my declaration that I, for one, do not want a world without Oscars, The Tonys, Grammys or Golden Globes.
I have only missed one Oscar telecast since the late 60s. The memories are frozen in my mind -- from the funniest: 1974's streaker and David Niven's quick-witted response to the saddest: 1995's Holocaust Survivour Gerda Weissmann Klein.
Of course, I don't watch award shows just for fun; I want to see who wins as much as the next person. And as I am a reviewer myself, seeing between 60 and 80 theatrical productions per year, I actually started my own award show four years ago -- The Beat DISH Awards -- so that I get to hand out dishes to the winners with an attractive individualized imprint on each plate.
From the little show that could, my event has grown to the point that it now takes place in a Hilton Ballroom and is taped and televised by Rogers TV London.
As such, people ask me all the time, how do you know what is "best"?
It's really NOT that difficult -- the cream of the crop rises to the top. Let's take drama for example. I look for true moments. Do I leave myself? Am I able to turn off my non-stop analytical mind and join them in the moment? I'm present; are they? And I am not one that believes five actors have to play the same role in Hamlet to decide which performance is "best." There are many rungs on the calibre ladder.
Look at how reviewers critique the same movie or play. You'll never see two reviewers write word for word the same review. Same holds true for audience members. Judges are no different. We want to be swept away by good stories and true moments.
Walking into each theatre I am always hopeful.
I don't love comparing but I must to some extent. Like the time I saw three productions of Romeo and Juliet in five days!
Recently I heard an actor say he doesn't like being judged. If you are in the theatre business, isn't it just a fact of life? Of course, who wants to be judged? I think it takes a lot of guts to be an actor. I also think it takes an equal amount to write publicly what you think with your real name.
After one of my reviews, a producer wrote their entire company that I was working for the devil and warned them to stay away from me. I had a big laugh about that one. Too bad their show wasn't that funny.
I don't look for perfection. I look for truth.
As I said at the outset, some people discount awards but sometimes an award can mean a great deal.
Take for instance an award and bursary that two parents have created in honour of their 19-year-old daughter Taylor Nesseth who passed away in Toronto at the Vans Warped Tour last July.
The idea for an award came about as the parents tried to set up a scholarship award in their daughter's name through her school. Unfortunately, the scholarship would have to be grade-based with the person with the highest grade average winning the award.
Tim and Jane decided not to abide by those rules. Jane explains: "Taylor was not the most earnest student. She was a wonderful, fun-loving and ever-helpful student to anyone who sought her assistance. Taylor was, at times, very passionate about her role with others and yes, like any other teenager, could provide a good "drama queen" routine when promoting her "rights."
When Jane and Tim learned of my fun theatre DISH Awards they approached me with the thought of creating an award that would honour Taylor's passion for drama by honouring those who "play" all the time. They wanted to name it The Drama Queen Award.
I thought this was the perfect tribute and award title and so two awards will be given out each year with a $150 bursary attached to each.
Jane adds, "We were allowed to have the honour of an award more befitting of the way in which we wanted it to be earned -- the character more than the academic."
Her parents have shown amazing strength during the most difficult year of their lives. What an example they are setting -- two generous souls who are turning unbelievable heartbreak into a positive for others. I also think their choice to create an award that truthfully represents their daughter is a teaching moment about the short-sightedness of bureaucracy.
So naysayers take note: here is one award that stands as an appropriate tribute while assisting others to achieve their goals. Sure the award Best Drama Queen might at first glance appear silly. But trust me, it means a great deal to two special people.