Monday was Red Carpet Night in Buffalo. Theater folk turned out in force--and in satin, sequins, feathers, and furs (well, we saw one fur) for the 27th annual Artie Awards at 710 Main Theatre, sponsored this year for the first time by WNED/WBFO. And what a splendid night it was. People came in their finery for a celebration of the vibrancy of local theater and of each other. It was fun, funny, heartfelt, and joyous. Wine flowed, as did whiskey, vodka, gin, and that trendy new drink – beer. And, of course, like all award shows, it was too long. At one point, it appeared our host Anthony Chase’s head might explode as he waited for a long-winded winner to finish his acceptance speech. Which just added to the fun.
Much has been written about the importance of theater and the arts in the life of a community. Monday night was a reminder and an example of how theater impacts us. Theater tells our stories in a way that only live performance can. And telling our stories is essential to our sense of community, to being seen and heard. We learn how others so different from ourselves live; about other cultures and how they function in the world; how we all cope or don’t cope with the vagaries of life; and we see ourselves and our own challenges and successes on the stage. Underlying all of it, theater shows us the common humanity that sustains us. The immediacy of being close to the people on the stage can be a powerful, transformative experience for the audience and the actors as stories unfold and we are all engaged in the moment and the next moment and the next. Actors on the stage allow us to see ourselves in our vulnerability, our joy, our pain and our goofiness. Theater teaches us to take ourselves seriously but at the same time to be irreverent. It opens our hearts, makes us laugh 'til we cry. It enlightens us, scares us, uplifts us, and just entertains the hell out of us.
The Arties celebrated all of that Monday night, and as it was a very long show – did I already mention that? – I will give you just a few of the highlights.
Jimmy Janowski, the Queen of Buffalo United Artists, received the Career Archievement Award. Resplendent in an orange sequined jacket, he said that when he was told about the award, he asked, “Am I dying and no one told me?” He told a very funny story about almost being fired by Studio Arena twice – once when he worked in the box office and, as an homage to her, he put a picture of Josephine Hogan on the ticket machine so that the tickets appeared to be coming out of her mouth. Management was not amused. The second time was when he was in rehearsal for Shear Madness and the director said he was not gay enough. Hmmm. He spoke about what BUA has contributed to the LGBT community and the community at large over the past 25 years, and to him personally. He ended by saying, “My credo as an actor is I just don’t want to bore anyone." Little danger of that occurring.
Hosting responsibilities were handled expertly by Anthony Chase, Amy Jakiel, and the hilarious Charmagne Chi, who rolled around on the stage to demonstrate an alternative to the "overused standing ovation." She also said how glad she is that there were two plays about incest this season, because it’s so relatable and she is so very attracted to her family. And someone really should video Anthony Chase giving out the Blossom Cohan Debut Awards to the unsuspecting local theater rookies. It would surely go viral on the very latest social media.
The musical numbers from the nominated shows were outstanding, energetic and foot-stompin’ good. Urinetown won, but it could have been any of them. And that is almost always the case with award shows.
Acceptance speech quotes:
Michele Marie Robert, Best Actress in a Musical for Evita: she said the most important parts “are the ones that scare the hell out of you.”
Anthony Alcocer, Best Actor in a Play for The Motherf**ker With the Hat: “I am a proud Mexican American actor…and no wall will stop me…”
Both of these winners and many others spoke with great heart and great feeling.
Mr. Alcocer’s acceptance speech rivaled that of the all-time winner, Greer Garson, at the 1942 Oscars (No, I wasn’t there). That is when Mr. Chase’s head was in danger of exploding.
On that note, I will just say that there was much, much more…
Unlike the movies, when a play closes it doesn’t go to Amazon or Netflix. It continues to exist only in our memories and in the effect it has had on the players and those of us in the audience. So, all 41 plays mentioned in nomination are gone forever. But, next season is just a few months away, and it will all begin again. Lucky us.
Thank you Buffalo Theater Community for all you do for all of us, and congratulations on another successful Artie Awards show.
You can find a complete list of the nominees and winners at http://news.wbfo.org/post/artie-award-winners-announced.