Sunday, June 21, 2009

Outstanding Stage Manager Award

When Nick, Jason and I first conceived the idea of the Innovative Theatre Awards, we discussed at length what the award categories would be.
We wanted to make sure that they took into account the uniqueness of OOB and honored the many people who contributed to the productions. We included categories like: Outstanding Ensemble, Outstanding Short Script, Outstanding Sound Design, Outstanding Choreography (that included fight choreography). These are categories that most of the other theatre awards do not present. But we all know how valuable the contributions of these artists are.

In those initial conversations we discussed presenting an Outstanding Stage Manager (OSM) award. It was something we felt very strongly about. The challenge (as you might imagine) was, how to adjudicate it in a way that was fair and meaningful.

We took months devising the adjudication process for the production awards. The idea was to get the community involved, to make connections between companies and artists and get audiences more invested in OOB. We consulted hundreds of theatre practitioners, other awards organizations and even a mathematician. While we felt very confident about the process for most of the awards, we still did not have a good plan for the OSM award. It was very frustrating, but we decided to move forward without it for the time being.

However, it was never far from our minds. Every year it was at the top of the list of improvements we wanted to make. Four years of managing these awards - including the honorary awards - gave us some significant insight and we began to see a way to make this happen.

We contacted a number of Stage Managers and some well regarded OOB artists and asked them what they thought of the idea of an OSM award and the plan we had devised for selecting this person. Everyone we contacted was over the moon about the idea. They eagerly provided feedback about the qualities of a good Stage Manager and suggestions on how to evaluate the applicants.

Some of the ideas were great, but not something that the IT Awards could reasonably undertake. As an example, one person suggested sending a judge to shadow and evaluate the Stage Manager as they ran the production. And true, that would give us a clear idea of how the SM handled them self during a production. However I think that most SMs would feel a little intimidated by that; OOB booths rarely have enough room for the crew let alone an additional body; and it would mean sending an additional judge to all registered productions, which honestly is beyond our capability and too much of an imposition on the production.

The feedback helped refine the application and selection plan. I would like to mention that Cat Parker was very instrumental during this process. She helped us improve our initial application, identify people we should consult and generally provided sound advice.

This is an exciting year for us. We are celebrating our 5th year and it is such a great birthday present to be able to present the Outstanding Stage Manager Award.

I wanted to thank everyone that provided suggestions and response. This award is an experiment of sorts (we think we might be the first awards to present this honor along with all the other production awards) so feedback from the community is important and we are eager to hear from you.

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