Arts & Entertainment
Wilde Awards night filled with 'Doubt'
by Jessica Carreras
Originally printed 8/28/08 (Issue 1635 - Between The Lines News)
The Between The Lines seventh annual Wilde Awards were held last Wednesday night at the Gem Theatre in Detroit, recognizing 100 productions at 27 venues over the 2007-2008 season. One show, however, stood out above the rest - because it was performed by three different area theater companies.
"Doubt" tells the story of the Saint Nicolas Church School, where Father Flynn is confronted by a nun after he allegedly has an inappropriate relationship with the school's first black student.
Locally, the play was performed at the BoarsHead Theater, the Performance Network Theatre and the Detroit Repertory Theatre. At the Wilde Awards, at least one performance showed up in five different categories. Several "Doubt" productions even battled one another for an award in Best Technical Design, Best Actress in a Drama and Best Local Professional Drama.
But though it was a "Doubt"-ful night, there were still many other performances honored with some 19 awards, including three additional awards recognizing special achievements.
The evening began with hors d'oeuvres and a social hour punctuated by music from two members of the Tony Lannen Trio. Then, Master of Ceremonies and Between The Lines Theater Critic Donald Calamia - whose last name was ritualistically butchered in the video just preceding the show - kicked off the awards ceremony with his co-hosts Jaime Moyer and Suzie Jacokes. He gave highlights of the 2007-2008 theater season in Michigan, noting that not only had no theaters closed, but three had just finished their first season. "The Wilde Awards give us an opportunity to celebrate and honor the people and organizations that enrich our cultural lives here in southeast and mid-Michigan," said Calamia.
This year, the Community Pride Award was renamed for teacher, actor, choreographer and director Jim Pasante, who passed away in 2007. "Rather than mourn his loss, we wanted to celebrate his life," Calamia said. "And what better way to do that than to present an award each year to a deserving group or individual that accomplishes what Jim did in his everyday life, which was to build important and much-needed bridges between and among the various communities to which he belonged."
The award, fittingly, was given to Out 'N' About Flint. "Black, white, young, old, male, female, religious, atheist, gay, straight and everything in between. If there's anything that can bring people together from all walks of life, it's the arts," said ACLU of Michigan LGBT rights Attorney Jay Kaplan, who presented the award.
Kaplan went on to say that the Greater Flint Arts Council had done just that with Out 'N' About, bringing LGBT contributions to the arts to the forefront in the Flint area.
The Publishers' Award for Excellence was presented to the Detroit Repertory Theatre for being the oldest professional theater company in the area. "What a wonderful surprise," said actress Barbara Busby, who accepted the award. "Many of you in this room have worked at theaters over the past 50 years and I just want to say 'Who's been there the longest?'"
The Critic's Choice Award, presented at the end of the show by Calamia, went to Box Fest 2007, which celebrated women in theater. Calamia pointed out that only 28 of the 100 shows reviewed that year by him and his fellow critics were directed by women. "Last August's Box Fest 2007 was, by all measures, a smash success," he said, highlighting some of the shows directed by women over the past year.
"There is such an amazing groups of women who put this on every year," said Artistic Director Shannon Ferrante, who accepted the award.
The event also honored shows with LGBT themes, with nominations for such shows as Second City's "Night of the Living Debt" and Who Wants Cake? Theatre's "Southern Baptist Sissies." "It was a show I felt really strongly about and a part I just dove into," said Joe Plambeck, who won best actor for his performance in "Sissies," after the show. "It feels good to be recognized."
As has become a tradition, The Actors' Company put on a comedic musical at the Wilde Awards' midpoint. This year, of course, they did a parody of "Doubt."
Three father-and-nun duos battled for "Doubt" bragging rights, singing songs with lyrics like, "Any 'Doubt' you can act, I can act better" and "Get down on both your knees and fiddle with your rosaries." Finally, as the battle becomes heated, God speaks, telling them that they can, in fact, all do "Doubt."
"Michael Gravami (of the Actors' Company) at first had no idea what they were going to do for entertainment," Calamia said. "And then it just hit. Let's do 'Doubt.'"
The midpoint show wasn't the only humorous event, of course, as videos from The 313, an improv troupe composed of past Second City actors, made an appearance. This year, they were political in nature, with one even poking fun at Republican presidential candidate John McCain calling his wife a very dirty word.
The Wilde-r Awards were also presented, honoring such things as "Best Save by a Stage Crew," presented to the crew of "Biloxi Blues," whose railroad props went haywire twice during the production. Another presented was the "It was so tempting to reach out and touch someone, but I didn't" Award, given to a woman watching the Abreact's "Equus," who had a close encounter with a nude male actor's genitals.
"Every year, we always try to top the previous years," Calamia said of the night filled with laughs, fun and awards. "That's always our objective. It's never easy, but the bottom line is everybody always has a good time and it turns out to be a memorable night. That's exactly what this year turned out to be."