L.A. theater takes center stage at Ovation Awards
By Daily Bruin Staff
Nov. 18, 1998 9:00 p.m.
Thursday, November 19, 1998
L.A. theater takes center stage at Ovation Awards
HONOR: Spotlight shines on low-profile troupes at equally
By Stephanie Sheh
Daily Bruin Senior Staff
The Academy Awards’ golden statuette stands with its arms drawn
in toward its chest, unapproachably regal. But Theatre L.A.’s
glassy statuette throws its arms up in the air with reckless
abandon, in celebration and praise of the Los Angeles theater
The audience that gathered Monday night at the Shubert Theatre
for Theatre L.A.’s Ovation Awards honored just that. It may be true
what host Nathan Lane said about Los Angeles theater in his initial
address to the audience – the term is an oxymoron.
Los Angeles left its mainstream Hollywood persona behind,
though, for an awards ceremony in which the orchestra does not
interrupt the thank yous, and the audience screams and hollers in
support of its nominees. Lane even took a stab at himself and
network television, referring to his NBC sitcom "Encore, Encore" as
"No more, No more" and suggesting that we get rid of Saddam Hussein
by putting him on NBC’s fall lineup.
Those assembled were not simply there to celebrate their love
for the stage, but their love for the Los Angeles stage. Unlike the
Tony Awards, which are dominated by Broadway’s big shows and big
theater stars, the Ovations reflect the preponderance and
importance of smaller theaters in Los Angeles. Certain awards are
actually split into two categories, one for larger theater and
another for smaller ones.
In fact, when the Court Theatre’s Stephanie Faracay won for
Featured Actress in a Play, she commented to a nearly packed house,
"I feel I could’ve run that play for a year and not seen as many
faces as I see before me tonight."
Similarly, the lucky Theatre L.A. winners do not take their
statuettes back to posh homes and mingle with upper-class theater
society. Some of the nominees actually worked on their projects for
free. M.E. Dunn remarked as she won for Costume Design (Smaller
Theatre), "And for my mom and dad: I promise I’ll get a real job,
but not tonight."
When Tony Abatemarco ("The Mystery of Irma Vep") won for Lead
Actor in a Play (beating out Sir Ian McKellen and Frank Langella),
he similarly cried, "It’s totally insane. It’s also sending the
wrong message to my subconscious because I’m going to sit there at
home saying, ‘I really am good’ and wonder why I don’t get another
"Nine months ago in New York, I was catering in these pants,"
Tom Beyer announced after winning Featured Actor in a Play for "The
Cider House Rules." Before he left the stage he added, "I don’t
have a theatrical agent, and I’m single."
The night focused on the communal ambience of the Los Angeles
theater population. And the awards reflected that, with no one show
One of the highlights of the night came when Ed Begley Jr. read
the nominees for Ensemble Performance and jokingly announced West
Hollywood Theatre’s "Bring in da Boys, Bring in da Hump." Seconds
later, the cast of "Bring in da Noise, Bring in da Funk" did
actually go home with the Ensemble Performance.
Lifetime achievement awards went out to Sir Ian McKellen and
Terrence McNally. Unfortunately, neither one could attend the
ceremony, so a prerecorded video acceptance was played. The James
A. Doolittle Award for Leadership in Los Angeles Theater went to
Barbara Beckley, the co-founder and producing director of the
Colony Theatre Company.
Another brand-new special award went out Monday night. This
year, Theatre L.A. unveiled its Community Outreach Award, which
went to Margaret Ladd and Lyle Kessler, co-founders of the
Imagination Workshop. The workshops provide isolated communities –
such as mental institutions, geriatric centers and schools – with
the opportunity to create and participate in theater. It is based
on the idea of helping people to obtain an emotional outlet through
Despite this celebration of Los Angeles theater’s achievements,
the production itself was lacking. Compared to last year’s
Ovations, this year’s spectacle seemed less creative; the sponsors
were read in the traditional boring fashion, and the medley of
musical theater nominations only featured actors standing on stage
with a microphone, singing a bit of their song.
Not all nominations were even presented, and the sound system
made it difficult to understand the singers. It seemed to be an
omen when, before the awards show began, the audio for the video
introduction of the ceremony suddenly turned on and then off
Throughout the night the temperamental microphones either
sporadically produced static or failed to pick up the speakers. The
faulty audio system prompted Bob Blackburn, who won for Sound
Design in a Smaller Theatre, to jokingly ask, "I-s this ‘-icro-one
‘-rking?" But the happy-go-lucky theater fans did not seem to mind
and exuded a real warmth.
Theater members cheered so heartily for their colleagues that
one would think that the awards were voted on by a talk show
And though, like all award shows, the Ovations seemed a bit
long, the audience did not seem to particularly mind, flooding the
lobby of the Shubert to hob-nob and share in the Los Angeles
theater community experience.
Actors Ian McKellen and Terrence McNally were honored for their
lifetime achievements at Theatre L.A.’s Ovation Awards Monday
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