BTL Staff report
DETROIT – From the moment the curtain went up on the 2005 Wilde Awards Celebration the best of art and politics came together under the lights of the Gem Theater. The awards ceremony honored excellence in live theater, and was presented by Between The Lines, Michigan’s advocacy newspaper for the LGBT community.
Michigan’s U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow opened the show and was welcomed with a standing ovation by the crowd of over 200 actors, producers, directors and theater buffs.
“I grew up in a musical family, and know first hand how important the arts are in creating a vibrant, thriving community,” said Stabenow.
Stabenow said she appreciates the critical role that the arts play in Michigan, which was a welcome message to many of the struggling theater companies’ staffers who have seen governmental support dwindle in recent years.
Now in its fourth year, the Wilde Awards mission from inception has been to build bridges and cooperation between the theater arts community and the LGBT community.
“The world we hope for is one where all people are treated well, regardless of sexual orientation, age, race, sex – or anything else that uniquely distinguishes us from one another,” said Jan Stevenson, co-publisher of BTL. “Such a fantasy can probably only be realized in an artist’s mind, and in their work on stage, on canvas, in music. It is still our dream though, and we intend to pursue it for as long as Between The Lines can exist.”
The first award of the evening was the Publishers’ Choice Award, presented by BTL’s co-publishers Susan Horowitz and Stevenson to the Michigan Opera Theatre for their world premier of “Margaret Garner,” an original American opera commissioned by MOT and the opera companies in Cincinnati and Philadelphia, and written by Richard Danielpour and Toni Morrison. In accepting the award, MOT’s founder, David DiChiera, said, “We wanted to create a new opera in Detroit that honored the African-American experience, and we were overwhelmed with the support we received for ‘Margaret Garner.'”
BTL’s theater critic and master of ceremonies, Don Calamia, appeared in full Oscar Wilde attire, including a long haired wig covering up his otherwise quite bald head. Calamia said that he and associate theater critic John Quinn had reviewed 104 performances in the past year, making BTL one of the most thorough newspapers in its coverage of live theater.
Art and politics mixed both onstage and off at the Wilde Awards. Jay Kaplan, who was one of the performers in the opening act by The Actors’ Company, also serves as staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union LGBT Project in Detroit. Backstage before the show, Stevenson introduced Sen. Stabenow to Kaplan as one of “the lead attorneys” in the fight against the anti-marriage amendment Proposal 2’s impact on domestic partner benefits for public employees. The Senator was impressed, and seemed to take in stride that Kaplan was standing before her with a feather headdress and gold lame bra with tassels in preparation for his role in the opening act.
The audience was theatrically welcomed with an original musical comedy number by The Actors’ Company that teased the audience with “you gotta have a gimmick” to make it in the theater. Performers sang about the successes of religious themed and gay-themed productions, and ended with a bawdy rendition of “Ruthless” from “The Producers,” which claims that it takes a hard competitive edge to get ahead in life and theater.
Later in the evening the cast from Meadow Brook Theater performed a provocative scene from their new production of “The Rocky Horror Show” which is opening this month. John Manfredi as the oversexed, transvestite doctor delighted the audience, especially when he tried to lead the scantily clad – and very buff – actor playing the demure Brad into new realms of decadence.
The entertainment was not limited to these two outstanding performances, though. BTL’s own ad director almost stole the show with his other talent as a highly accomplished ballet dancer. As each award recipient came to the stage to receive their Wilde Award, Justin Gargis greeted them with an original dance and then handed their award to them. When Laurie V. Logan came onstage to receive her award for Favorite Supporting Female Performer in a Local Professional Production for her performance in “The Last Yankee” at the Jewish Ensemble Theatre Co., she was swept off her feet by Gargis, quite literally, when he spun her around – almost off the stage! But all was fine as she caught her balance and her breath, and took the podium to give her acceptance speech.
The Wilde Awards was sponsored by Paramount Bank and WDET 101.9FM, Detroit’s public radio station. Dee Dee Sung from Paramount Bank assisted Calamia in presenting the awards, as did Kevin Piotrowski and Ralph Valdez from WDET.