By Bill Hirschman
“It’s an honor to be nominated” goes the sometimes insincere condolence from the friends of an award nominee who doesn’t take home the golden watchamacallit or Plexiglass flopadopalus.
But the truth is many times it is, indeed, a high honor, just to be nominated and this year’s Carbonell Awards crop will prove this with a vengeance.
The full list of what shows are eligible has just been drawn up, but the “spirited” discussion of who will be nominated is slated for January 15. So this is the perfect time to discuss it with as objective an eye as possible and with no idea what will happen.
Any judge going into the January voting booth will tell you: This is going to be a hell of a challenge.
Because as I’ve been saying over and over: The last 12 months (18 actually) has been unequalled since the 17 years I’ve been attending theater down here. It is a validation of the evolution of South Florida theater and a kind of coronation for its status as a no-excuses regional theater community whose best work can be rightfully compared with regional theaters around the country.
The bottom line is that whatever happens from here on out, it actually will be a genuine honor to be nominated.
After that, whoever wins, that will be a crapshoot.
I’ve been judging journalism contests for decades across this country, I’ve been a judge and/or chair for the American Theatre Critics/Steinberg New Plays Award for several years, and I’ve been a judge, nominator or assistant administrator for the Carbonells for 13 years. I know how your sausage is made.
For the most part, it’s a bunch of well-intentioned, usually objective, always hard-working flawed human beings trying their best to identify and reward excellence. Sometimes they succeed, sometimes they err. Oftentimes the result is a compromise, which, by definition, will not satisfy everyone that the best man/woman/set designer won.
Therefore, to be nominated into a golden circle of mutually agreed upon excellence (requiring a greater consensus of judges) is truly the honor.
After that, so many things can affect the final decision, valid and invalid, that all you can be assured of is that the winner will usually (but not always) be at least worthy.
This year is going to be the hardest and you can bet that there will be as much arguing going on in the judges’ chambers as in the courtyard outside the Broward Center for the Performing Arts after the awards April 2.
Just an example: best new work. There are probably others to add to the list, but just off the top of my head, you know that the judges will be faced with Michael McKeever’s Stuff, the best work he’s done since Melt; David Michael Sirois’ Brothers Beckett, a stunningly fresh and youthful voice; and Christopher Demos-Brown’s polished breakout Captiva.
Heck, I’ll take everyone reading this out to dinner (to Checkers) if there are not worthy contenders left off the nominee list for several categories. I know this is a safe bet because there is at least one show, Lobby Hero at the Alliance Theatre Lab, that was inexplicably not passed on to the judges for consideration. In my universe, director Adalberto Acevedo, lead actor Mark Della Ventura and supporting actor David Michael Sirois ought to at least be on the short list.
There are many people who resent the win or lose nature of the Carbonells and it can be argued that perhaps we ought to just give citations to a list of nominees, although some people would still be miffed upon being omitted.
So for the third time, take it from one who knows, it will be an honor to be nominated. It’s also a privilege to live and work in a region where the theater is so outstanding that we can say that in the first place.
By the way, the Carbonell Awards now have a Facebook page in addition to the website. And there are five additional nominators: Tom Regnier (actually a returning veteran), Shari Upbin, Terrie Tempkin, Michael Yawney and Andie Arthur! We’re grateful for the volunteerism and as E.K. Hornbeck said to Henry Drummond in Inherit the Wind, “Hello, Devil, welcome to Hell.”