I'd like to thank the AKA-AH-AKEVIN-AKLINE-KADEMY!
Nominations were just announced for the 3rd Annual Kevin Kline Awards, recognizing theatrical excellence in St. Louis, and The Midnight Company was pleased and proud to receive two nominations for their production of two original one-acts, SOLDIER BOY and THE LITTLE FRENCHY FILES, written and directed by Joe Hanrahan. Midnight (under the producing banner of afterMIDNIGHT) was nominated for Best New Play
and Best Sound Design by Mike Radentz, staff audio engineer at Technisonic Studios, where the play was presented.
Awards for the arts under any umbrella, of course, are suspect in the best of circumstances. It's terminally difficult to select one piece of work over another, or just to nominate five pieces of work over any other five. And it's especially difficult in this Kevin Kline/St. Louis theatre arena.
While I am pleased and proud about the Kevin nominations for us, I'm also agonizingly aware that our Best New Play nomination came in the easiest category to get nominated in (there's just not that many New Plays in St. Louis.) And, going into the project, I did look at it more as an experiment, a chance to write a couple little things I was thinking or reflecting about, and a chance to work with some specific actors.
But, again, given the paucity of new work in town, I guess it does deserve to be among the top five nominees. I was very pleased that RETURN OF THE BEDBUG from Upstream was nominated in the same category. I was in the cast of that show, and know the work that went into it, and was very happy with what went up onstage.
Overall, however, one has to regard these awards (or any) with very jaded eyes. I didn't see all of the St. Louis shows represented in many categories, but I was baffled by some of the nominations; not just in relation to some other people eligible in the same categories, but some of the nominations in and of themselves. A few shows and pieces of work that were honored were not only just not as good as some other things I saw, but were also painful things to sit through.
It makes you wish for some kind of barometer or quality control for these awards. The Oscars, for example, usually follow the general lead of most of the nation's critics, and it's very seldom that most of the nominees haven't been mentioned favorably by at least a majority of critics. And if films or work of great merit are ignored, it's usually met by enough complaints that the ignored parties feel some measure of satisfaction.
I do think a number of factors play a part in Kevin Kline judging. These include reviews (I don't suspect judges are instructed to ignore reviews, and I have to think reviews predispose judges to what they're seeing; and not just the reviews of the show they're seeing, but previous reviews singling out actors, directors or the presenting Company);
Blogs (a la the Yahoo theatre site, where anyone can proclaim someone the best director in town, or some show the one that has to be seen); and the Kline organization itself (I would hope the group feels that it can never rest, that it should continue to learn to do what it can to educate and prepare their judges as thoroughly as they can.)
All of these thoughts come from someone who learned at an early age about the heartbreak (or at least the unfairness) of awards. The movie that turned me on to the art of film – not just movies, but film – was BONNIE AND CLYDE. I loved movies, but they were just entertainment to me till I saw Warren Beatty's production about six or seven times in 1967. I knew something was going on with this movie – the combination of the acting, structure of the story, camera work, music, and especially the dark view of the perils of celebrity and the rupture of the American dream – and it stirred my imagination and made me realize there could be more to the movie-going experience than James Bond.
I eagerly watched the Oscars in Spring, 1968, just waiting to bask in the adulation for BONNIE AND CLYDE. (It received ten nominations). But the night proved painful, as only Estelle Parsons (for Best Supporting actress) and Burnett Guffey (for Cinematography) won Oscars, while the other four principal actors were ignored, as were the picture's nominations for Best Costume Design (robbery that would have made the original B&C proud)), best script, director and picture. IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT won Best Picture, and while a solid police procedural with strong acting and a nod to the racial issues of the day, it's basically a melodrama while BONNIE AND CLYDE not only advanced the art of film, but set the tone for the brilliant films of the 70's to follow.
But all that aside, I will happily attend the Kevins (just as I have the first two years, even when I wasn't nominated – some theatre folks in town are selective that way, and only attend when nominated). As before, I'll anticipate a well-produced (if overlong) show, and a good party afterwards, where lots of people will promise to see my next show (that's before they make their out-of-town plans – St. Louis must have the best-travelled theatre community in the country.)
And I will hope that the Kevins continue to explore their role and responsibility to St. Louis theatre. We all need more help promoting St. Louis theatre to St. Louis audiences. None of us need any more opportunities to pat ourselves or our friends on the backs.
Feb 15 p.s.
On this subject, there's a well-reviewed new book called PICTURES AT A
REVOLUTION by Mark Harris, subtitle Five Movies And The Birth Of The New
Hollywood. It focuses on the five Academy Award nominations for Best Picture, 1967, including (in addition to BONNIE AND CLYDE and IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT) THE GRADUATE, LOOK WHO'S COMING TO DINNER, and DR. DOOLITTLE.
The book posits that the film industry was poised on the brink of irrevocable change, from the old and transitional (NIGHT, DINNER, DOOLITTLE) to the new (BONNIE, GRADUATE), and it would never be the same. Check it out.