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Our Say on the 2012 Henry Awards

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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?

Click HERE to tell us what YOU SAID: Should there be a category for Outstanding Chorus? 

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.

John Moore received two standing ovations during the 7th annual Henry Awards

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.”


7 thoughts on “Our Say on the 2012 Henry Awards

  1. If you want to add categories why not add best props, or best sound (sound design is already included so I mean best sound in a theater), best set construction, or any of the often overlooked technical categories. Many many hands and hours work tirelessly behind the scenes to make these shows possible. Why not honor those people as well?

    Posted by Rick Thompson | July 17, 2012, 9:41 pm
    • Interesting points, definitely. Set construction would be very difficult to judge from an audience vantage point. If one was sitting several rows back, one would have no idea to what quality the set was constructed. It is possible for sets to look amazing (scenic design), but be stuck together in a really poor manner. Seems like it would be hard for a Henry Judge to evaluate.

      Not sure how you are differentiating between sound and sound design. Would love to hear how you are distinguishing the two.

      Although often times it does fall under the purview of the scenic designer, we love the idea of a prop/set decoration category. A really detailed decoration or authentic prop pieces can elevate a piece. They have done special awards for this category in the past.

      Posted by He Said/She Said | July 17, 2012, 10:23 pm
      • I see your point about set construction.

        In interest of full discloser, I was the sound board op at Town Hall last season. The difference in sound design and sound in general is one that I’m sure not many people understand. The sound designer is usually in charge of sound effects used throughout the show, and the overall sound “vibe” that’s needed for the show. The sound board op is the feet on the ground, so to speak, of making sure that vision happens. The sound board op is the one that tends to all the gear, get’s the actors into the mics, and mixes the levels for the show (which is an art unto itself). A good sound board op will be constantly making adjustment to the room and channel equalizers throughout the run of the show. What’s more, the sound board op is at every performance whereas the sound designer often will get the show up and running and then only check in from time to time to make sure the board op is maintaining the vision of the design. I hope that explanation makes sense.

        I guess my point is that there are many people that work really hard to make the shows happen. Stage managers, prop masters, show runners, sound ops, etc… that really deserve some recognition as well. I have no idea how that would be judged because I’m not qualified to speak to that point. It would just be nice to see.

        Posted by Rick Thompson | July 17, 2012, 10:41 pm
      • To continue the sound topic further: The tricky part of understanding what the sound board op does is that if it is done correctly no one should notice. How many times have you left a show saying, “I wish I could have understood the actors better. The sound was terrible!” In that case you noticed the sound. But on the other side of that do you ever say “boy, the sound was great! I could hear every line, the music was balanced, the sound effects were clear…” Probably the answer is never. The person that mixed the show properly did it seamlessly so as to make it sound “natural”. Thus, you don’t notice a good mix.

        Posted by Rick Thompson | July 18, 2012, 12:38 pm
      • Actually, in our experience, the unfortunate reality is that the sound is often times not mixed properly, so we do notice when the sound is great. In one of our earliest reviews, we commented on that very aspect because it was surprising to us. That’s us, though. Your point is definitely true for a lot, if not most, people, which would make it hard to score/evaluate.

        You are right. It takes a village to raise a show and there are A LOT of sometimes thankless jobs, unfortunately. Curious if you would draw the line anywhere. Would a house manager get a yearly award? A ticket booth attendant? Should there be a yearly award for graphic designers who make original posters?

        There are probably some new awards that might make sense, while others might be best left to an occasional special award, but where is that line? Interesting to think about and the Guild is always open to suggestions.

        Posted by He Said/She Said | July 18, 2012, 1:00 pm
      • I see what you’re saying. It would be tricky to find the line. I think though that sound mixing and props are two technical aspects of a show that are too often overlooked. And either can make or break a show.

        Perhaps if critics and judges DO notice good props and good sound then those are two categories that would be a good addition. As I said, I’m a sound guy so I’m obviously biased, but it would be nice to add some more tech awards.

        Thanks for listening.

        Posted by Rick Thompson | July 18, 2012, 1:08 pm
  2. As far as the Henry Awards go I think Tom McNally said it the best;“we theatre artists…we’re the shit.” As far as other awards that could be added are an outstanding chorus for the musicals and maybe outstanding crew which would include the stage managers, run crew, props, etc. The show itself was very well done and well advertised.

    Posted by Erin Petty | July 18, 2012, 8:23 pm

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