Friday, September 12, 2008

Back Stage from the IT Awards

So, the 4th annual ceremony for the NY IT Awards is fast approaching and, for the 4th year, I prepare for my role as on-camera interviewer along with my partner, the lovely Ellen Reilly. Now, one might think: "Oh, that's a cushy job. All you have to do is look pretty and ask questions." Well, I'm here to tell you: Yes, it's fun...but it sure ain't as easy as it looks, folks. In fact, I can't always explain why, but it turns out to be one of the hardest roles I've ever played, and each year I think: "Well, that's it. They're going to can me and go with someone else next year, I just know it!" Fortunately, Ellen and I keep getting invited back and every time I find myself crying à la Sally Field, "You like me?! You really like me?!"

Now, this isn't simply a story of my fragile ego. It's a difficult job for two major reasons:

(1) First of all, there is the question of sincerity. I find this to be one of the most important aspects of interviewing people because, personally, I have a dreaded fear of appearing superficial or fake. Maybe it's because it has always been a pet peeve of mine when someone asks me a question but only pretends to care about the answer. Maybe it's because we've all seen red-carpet interviews where the person holding the mic asks a question, but then starts mugging for the camera as if to say, "Who cares what that person is saying ...Look at me!! Aren't I pretty?!?!" Whatever the reason, I make sure that when I ask someone a question about their life or theatre it is of utmost importance to really care about the answer. This means not thinking about the next question you're going to ask, not thinking about the ceremony that you can hear going on in front of the curtain, and not zoning out by wondering, "What am I going to have for dinner" or "Did I shut off the curling iron?" Plus, I'll let you in on a little secret that works for interviews but works even better for everyday life: if you sincerely LISTEN to what people are saying you become automatically engaged and your questions will start flowing naturally.

(2) The other reason that interviewing is a challenge can be summed up in one word: homework. There is nothing worse than seeing an interviewer with a look of a deer-in-headlights as they as they ask an ignorant question. When your kind elementary school teacher told you, "There's no such thing as a stupid question", she wasn't referring to backstage interviews. To start with, there are always hi-profile presenters at our awards ceremonies and it really does behoove us to do a modicum of research on each one so that we don't find ourselves saying things like, "Hmmmm, Edward what plays have you written?" This task is made harder when it comes to researching the nominees since they are not always as well-known, but the modern world has given us a tool to counter that: Google. Amazing what a little web search can teach you about both the nominees and the shows they are nominated for. We put our research on note cards, familiarize ourselves with the info, and then try to relax so that it all comes out naturally [see 1].

All stress aside, I have to admit: Ellen and I have the coolest job of the whole awards ceremony! Seriously -- not only do we get to meet celebrities and other talented people working Off-Off-Broadway, but we actually get to talk to them, ask them questions, and befriend them for a short while. I wouldn't trade this role for any other on ceremony night!

JOIN US SEPTEMBER 22nd at FIT's Haft Auditorium for the

4th Annual New York Innovative Theatre Awards

Ceremony begins at 7pm and will feature performances by the Blue Man Group

Go here for tickets

And if you can't make the ceremony stop by the after party being held at MUSTANG HARRY'S at 352 Seventh Avenue (between 29th and 30th Streets). There will be $5 cosmos, $4.50 well drinks and $4 draft beer. The shindig will start around 9:45pm.

Desmond Dutcher

Judge Wrangler

New York Innovative Theatre Awards

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