By Bill Hirschman
The virus-delayed 44th annual Carbonell Awards will be presented August 3, but the usually boisterous “Theater Prom” will be held online and include an acknowledgment of the current tumult about racism in America.
The virtual pre-recorded program will be released at 7:30 p.m. on the Carbonell’s Facebook page and through the YouTube channel of the Broward Center for the Performing Arts. The program will be archived for later viewing on the Broward Center channel.
Artists and even theaters’ partisan patrons have been increasingly asking about how and when the awards for theatrical excellence in South Florida would be presented since the April 6 gala was postponed because of the pandemic.
“While the Carbonell Awards was very much looking forward to holding our first ceremony at the Lauderhill Performing Arts Center, we are determined to present a fun and exciting event virtually, where we can publicly celebrate some very talented performers, directors, designers and theatre companies, even in today’s socially distanced environment,” wrote Donald R. Walters, board president.
Some of the details of the program are still being fine-tuned, but the current plan is to have sponsors list the nominees and then the winner revealed by announcer by Geoffrey Short, a frequent director and the operations manager of PPTOPA, as well as a singer and music producer.
The awards program founded in 1975 covers basically productions across the calendar year for eligible professional theaters across Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties. This year, awards will be presented in 20 competitive categories, featuring 100 different nominations. Four special honors, including the prestigious George Abbott Award, will also be presented.
To see the entire list of nominees announced in late January, click here.
The gala will likely be preceded by a statement from the Carbonell board expressing support for equality and justice, Walters said.
While the Carbonell Awards Inc. must avoid overt political statements as a non-profit organization under federal tax laws, the group wanted be clear that “there is no room for racism in our communities, theater or the community at large,” Walters said. “Silence can be interpreted incorrectly.”
The Carbonells have been a flashpoint for discussion whether South Florida theater has a racism problem. All of the winners in the performance and directing categories in 2019 were white, as well as nearly every winning designer. But the year before, four of the winners in eight acting categories were African-American. M Ensemble, the oldest continuing black troupe in the state, was also awarded statues for Best Director and Best Production of a Play.
A Florida Theater On Stage analysis of nominees and recipients listed on the award’s website plus reporting on the program from 2011 through 2019 shows 14 productions dealing directly about race or with a specific racial element received nominations and four of those won the award. Similarly, artists of color from actors to designers received 74 nominations with 16 of them bringing home the award.
The event is being produced by Fantel Music including Caryl Fantel, who has been part of the award show’s production team for 12 years, a Carbonell winner herself, two-time Silver Palm Award-winning music director, pianist and vocal coach; and her daughter Alyssa, an actress, acting coach and award-winning playwright.
The program, which is still being written and designed, plans to strive to capture a bit of the collegial atmosphere that pervades what the community has nicknamed Theater Prom. To that end, the Fantels have asked anyone in the theater community to email a three-second video or photo of themselves with a sign answering the question”Why does theatre matter to you now” in three words or less. A limited number can be accommodated during the program, so the earlier the entry, the more likely it will be used. Send the video to firstname.lastname@example.org by Wednesday, June 24.
Caryl Fantel wrote on Facebook, “We want to hear from you! It’s been months since we have been able to hold space for one another, create with one another, laugh with one another, discuss with one another, or be there physically for one another. Because theatre is collaborative, and our community would not be what it is without each and every person in it, we want to take this opportunity to include your voice and message.”
GableStage’s Producing Artistic Director Joseph Adler, who died in April, will be prominent among a “sadly very lengthy” in memoriam part of the program, Walters said.
Another highlight of the virtual ceremony will be the awarding of the 2020 Jack Zink Memorial Student Scholarships to Skye Alyssa Friedman (Palm Beach County, $3,000), Jeremy Fuentes (Broward County, $2,000) and Amaris Rios (Miami-Dade County, $1,000).
Along with New York’s Drama Desk and Chicago’s Joseph Jefferson Awards, the Carbonell Awards are among the nation’s senior regional arts awards and predate others such as Washington, D.C.’s Helen Hayes Awards. Each season volunteer panelists and judges choose nominees and recipients from hundreds of shows produced on stages throughout the tri-county area. The award is named after Manuel Carbonell, an internationally-renowned sculptor, who designed the original solid bronze and marble award in 1976.
The board is currently trying to decide how to treat productions’ eligibility for the current calendar year since only about 20 shows opened before the shutdown and no one knows how many theaters can or are willing to reopen before the close of the year, Walters said.
Links to the event will be