Awards shows are notorious for being too lengthy, too self-reverential and too wooden. But the Bartell Community Theatre Foundation tried its luck with the Bartell Theatre Awards, or the Barties, and last Saturday's inaugural ceremony at the Bartell Theatre was a lighthearted, fun appreciation of the people who make community theater tick.
The celebration of the theater's resident companies featured a red-carpet entrance complete with paparazzi and adoring fans. Company members, volunteers and theater aficionados alike turned out to support one another and to don their award-night finest. For the 2009-2010 season, the Bartell companies were Encore Studio for the Performing Arts, Laboratory Theatre, Madison Theatre Guild, Mercury Players Theatre, StageQ and Strollers Theatre.
Ably hosted by George Gonzales and Peter Hunt, the show clipped along at a bearable pace and had the audience laughing and cheering throughout. Several musical numbers broke up the actual award- and thanks-giving, including a hilarious medley from StageQ's The Stops, a comedy that got more than a few nods. This year's official "Miss Bartie," Jessica Jane Witham, added levity to the proceedings, alternating between a vacantly chipper awards girl and a brassy crowd tamer.
In addition to the usual prizes for Best Actor/Actress, Best Comedy and Best Drama, Bartell-specific accolades were also given for categories like Best Portrayal of a Non-Homo Sapiens and Best Save by a Cast Member.
There were plenty of jabs at the world of the stage, including some pointed commentary about the lack of pay, the small audiences and the backstage drama. What ultimately came across was a decided sense that the people involved love what they do.
The Bartell Foundation also recognized four individuals for going above and beyond in supporting the theater: Kirk Stantis (for being a diligent and dedicated tech), Sarah Hafner (for creating the theater's new volunteer program), Steve Noll (for creating and naming the bar in the lobby) and Wisconsin State Rep. Mark Pocan, who was thanked for his "consistent political and social support of theater in Madison."
And the Bartie goes to...
Tie: The Hot L Baltimore (Madison Theatre Guild) and Two Rooms (Madison Theatre Guild)
The Stops (StageQ)
Best Dramatic Performance by an Actor/Actress
Tie: Liz Angle in Random Harvest (StageQ), and Jessica Jane Witham in The Hot L Baltimore (Madison Theatre Guild)
Funniest Performance by an Actor/Actress
Molly Vanderlin in Sappho in Love (StageQ)