This week, the Colorado Theatre Guild bravely took on the task of hosting hundreds of excitable, dramatic theater enthusiasts for the presentation 7th annual Henry Awards. This year, a total of 12 companies were nominated for production awards in 21 categories, and 7 companies won at least one award. But in a night set to honor theatre productions, perhaps the largest applause was for the critic!
Taking the title of most decorated of the evening was Curious Theatre, snatching up eight awards. Season-ender Red individually won seven of those awards; including Outstanding Production of a Play, Supporting Actor for Benjamin Bonenfant, and a near sweep of the technical categories (only missing costume design, which went to the Denver Center). Perhaps the most impressive for Red was their win for Outstanding Ensemble Performance – a tricky feat given the show consisted of merely two performers.
That win seems to have caused some rumbling from people wondering whether a one or two person cast counts as an ensemble. In reality, the award is meant to honor casts – large or tiny – that have clicked in with each other in a special way, so we have no problem with a two person show winning that award.
But the more musically inclined might hear of the ensemble category and think that it is meant to reward a wonderful musical chorus. We’ve wondered the last several years if there should be a separate category for Outstanding Chorus in a Musical, as well. So many times we leave a musical thinking how incredibly robust a group number was or mesmerized at how busy the chorus was playing several background characters. Should that effort not receive special attention, while still allowing the cast of a show, comprised of 2 or 22, to also be recognized for its cohesion?
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Speaking of the the musical side of life, things became a bit more split in those categories. After being nominated in 13 separate categories (basically every area possible for a musical), the powerhouse Arvada Center garnered 4 awards- Lead Actress in a Musical for Megan Van de Hey (Ragtime), Lead Actor in a Musical for Tally Sessions (Chess), Outstanding Production of a Musical (Ragtime), and perhaps the top honor of Outstanding Season. As for the awards honoring the leaders of a musical, Nick Sugar won both for Direction of Musical and Choreography for his take on The Who’s Tommy at Town Hall, while Donna Debeceni perhaps beat the odds and won for Musical Direction of the same show. Following last year’s Outstanding Production of a Musical award for RENT, this is the second year in a row that Sugar has been honored for helming what is perhaps the edgiest show in the Town Hall season. It’ll be interesting to see if the theater’s board decides to take this information and let it influence how they determine their season.
In a rare turn of events, the night’s honor for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Play actually went to two women. After counting the judges’ scores, Erin Rollman and Hannah Duggan apparently tied for their respective work in The Roast Beef Situation and Tommy Lee Jones Goes to Opera Alone, both performed at Buntport.
Several special awards were also presented, including a presentation to Actor’s Equity for their 100th birthday, an award to the National Theatre Conservatory to honor its closing, an award to Thunder River Theatre Company for Outstanding Regional Theatre, an awards to Charlie Miller for Outstanding Multi-Media Presentation, and a Lifetime Achievement award for Tom McNally.
But of all the special awards, the most rousing moment of the night was during the presentation of a special award in Journalistic Excellence to former Denver Post theater reporter John Moore. Although Moore’s position as a critic gave nearly everyone in the room cause to dislike him over the past decade, he has also worked so tirelessly advocating and championing the theatre community in Denver, he was easily the most popular person in the room. Moore’s humble and humorous acceptance of the award reminded us all why there has been a vague feeling of mourning in the community for the past half a year. But Moore almost insisted we do not mourn, but rather turn our eyes to the near two dozen writers left – including some kind words about our own little site. Even as he accepts an award for his years of service, he is still trying to help point us in the right direction.
As with any award show, some people are going to leave the night with some thoughts on which shows were slighted or overlooked. But, in the end, the Henry Awards are not just in place to provide recognition to an Outstanding (not best) performance or production, but they are there to honor what it is we theatre artists create. And the best thing we have ceated is build a loving and supportive community that can come together and honor each other. As Tom McNally said in his acceptance of the Lifetime Achievement award, “we theatre artists…we’re the shit.”