Aug. 22, 2002: A ‘Wilde’ Celebration Planned for Local Theater Community

This article is part of a series commemorating the 30th anniversary of Pride Source's print publication, Between The Lines

Having spent 14 years as BTL’s theater and arts editor and an occasional contributor for a few years thereafter, it’s impossible to identify a single story I wrote as my favorite or most memorable. What I am most proud of, however, is the trust and faith publishers Susan Horowitz and Jan Stevenson had in me and my wacky ideas.

In the spring of 2001, Susan and Jan placed a notice in BTL that they were searching for someone to expand and lead their theater coverage. Their goal was to bring together and forge a bond between the LGBTQ+ and theater communities. Why? Because, they reasoned, one wouldn’t exist without the other. How many others responded I haven’t a clue, but they chose me in time for the start of the 2001-02 theater season.

Little did they know what they were in for!

While a handful of theaters embraced our coverage from the beginning, others did not. A few wouldn’t even return our calls. But that changed over the course of that first season, which ended with reviews of 37 professional productions staged or presented by 14 Metro Detroit companies. Those numbers would expand rather quickly over the next few years!

And that got me thinking. Hence, my first (and most successful) wacky idea: Why not take the next step and throw a big gay theater party each year to honor the best plays and performances of the season?

Susan and Jan loved the idea — and the Between The Curtains Awards was born. Thankfully, Susan came up with a better name, and The Wilde Awards made its debut on Aug. 26, 2002 at The Furniture Factory in Midtown Detroit.

True to its namesake Oscar Wilde, The Wilde Awards would be different from other media-sponsored theater award programs. My co-host that first year was a young, up-and-coming female impersonator, Serena Escavelle, and rather than the critic deciding the winners, BTL published ballots for readers and theatergoers to submit their choices. (Thanks to ballot stuffing, that part of the process was revamped over the next few years.) And guests were encouraged to attend dressed in a manner befitting the late, great — and oh, so gay — Irish playwright.

The result was one Wilde night, and for the next 14 years, the event would receive national recognition, change co-hosts, locations, owners, sponsors, presenters and entertainers. All told, the awards included nominations for 864 productions, 898 artists and 93 companies. Although The Wilde Awards still exists today, it’s under the auspices of a different ownership.

I don’t know about you, but I think Jan, Susan and I certainly accomplished what we set out to do!

A few of my other ideas, however, weren’t so lucky. Remember Raves 'n’ Rants? My No Reservations column? Few people do.

You can’t win them all.