By Bill Hirschman
Broad changes to the Carbonell Awards, designed to assuage a theatrical community whose love-hate relationship has exacerbated in recent years, were detailed Monday night at its annual town hall meeting.
Many of the changes, developed with the direct participation of theater directors and managers, reflect a revised philosophy to reduce the emphasis on head-to-head competition and amplify the existing goal of honoring excellence.
One result was the announcement that the Maltz Jupiter Theatre, the first of several companies that withdrew from consideration over the past three years, has agreed to have its work put back in the mix, said board member Gary Schweikhart, who was deeply involved in designing the changes.
“I am very pleased to announce that due to all the changes we have made to the Carbonell Awards process and organization, last Friday (producing artistic director) Andrew Kato called me and said the Maltz is returning for the 2021-2022 season. All of their shows will once again be eligible for Carbonell Awards consideration. The first one out is the now the first one back.”
“We are hopeful that these positive changes and our strengthened commitment to diversity, equality and inclusion will persuade” the other companies to return, he said. “We want you back. We need you back.”
Kato, one of program’s strongest critics, was involved in the special committee used to develop recommendations adopted unanimously by the Carbonell board.
All of the changes have been spelled out in detail on the website www.carbonellawards.org. Several changes have been reported earlier here, including efforts to bring more diversity to the process. To read about them, click here.
“Any of the changes have to be recognized as a work in progress,” said R. Kent Chambers-Wilson, the newly-appointed Carbonell coordinator.
Privately, some judges and nominators as well as outside observers have questioned the need for some changes and the validity of others. But board members have said that the awards’ future was in jeopardy due to the complaints and withdrawals of some theater leaders and artists. “If we lost judges, we could replace judges, but if we lost theaters, we are doomed,” Schweikart said.
Several new judges have been added for a total of 29, and other judges and nominators have resigned for a variety of reasons. Because some theaters and artists questioned the qualifications of previous judges, all of the judges were reexamined by a Carbonell committee based on a new list of criteria spelled out in detail on the website. A full list is on the Carbonell website.
Two changes were underscored at the meeting. The first is a major overhaul of the judging for what were the competitive awards.
“Shows are no longer competing against each other per se; they are competing to get the highest possible score in each category,” said board President Jeff Kiltie.
A separate group of judges has been assigned to see work in the county they live in. Chambers-Wilson will assign seven people to each show, five from the county where the theater is based and two from a pool of people who will travel across the region.
They will vote on a scale of 1 to 100 on each of the 20 categories, including the new “Outstanding Achievement in an Artistic Specialty,” which replaces the problematic Ensemble category.
Those seven judges can receive free tickets for themselves and a companion. Any other of the 29 judges living anywhere in the three-county region can attend the production at their own expense and vote as well. But every judge living in a specific county does not have to see all the shows in their county, let alone in the entire three-county region – only the shows they are assigned to.
The highest and lowest scores will be thrown out. The rest of the scores will be calculated into an average. At the end of the season, the average scores for all productions and all theaters will be compared to determine six finalists, which will include the winner in each category.
The second is the creation of Audience Choice Awards. Every participating theater can choose five outstanding facets of the previous season: a production, a performance, a design element, an usher, a donor, virtually anything. All of the nominations for all of the theaters will be put on the Carbonell website and can be voted on by anybody. Each one of the individual theater’s top vote getter will be honored.
About 20 people attended the meeting in person at the Broward Center and dozens of others attended through Zoom.
Among the details contained in the answers to their questions:
*** The new calendar for consideration will be Oct. 1, 2021, through Sept. 30, 2022. The awards gala will be sometime in November or December of 2022. Shows and performances occurring from the fall of 2019 and the winter of 2020 will not be considered, but the board is considering some kind of recognition at the 2022 gala.
*** Judges may contribute money to individual companies, but they will not be assigned to judge productions from those companies.
*** Companies will recommend whether a work is considered a play or a musical, and whether a performer is considered a supporting role or a lead.
*** The role itself, not the performer, will determined the gender for which it is considered for which award.
*** Several issues are being examined for the future including: What if a role or a performer is transgendered? Will Spanish-language productions be considered?