I saw 73 plays this year, and covered 30 of them in these pages and on WFCR Public Radio. I also directed five shows and performed in three. Call it a passion, call it an obsession, it's what I love. As the year draws down, I've enjoyed looking back over those hours—most of them happy ones—spent in the aisle seat. So I'd like to take this opportunity to conduct a year-end award ceremony for some of the performances I didn't get to cover.
The Much More Than Muppets Medal belongs to Putney's Sandglass Theater and 10 other troupes from around the world, for bringing inanimate bits of wood and cloth vividly to life in sophisticated mini-dramas at the fifth biennial Puppets in the Green Mountains festival.
Double Edge Theatre receives the Page to Stage Plaque for its performance, at the National Yiddish Book Center, of Republic of Dreams, a magic-realist piece based on the frenetic life, quirky prose and dreamlike drawings of Bruno Schultz, a Polish Jew who evaded the death camps only to be shot over a love rivalry by a jealous Nazi officer.
The Hey, Kids, My Dad Has an Old Barn Award goes to the Renaissance Center Theatre Company, UMass grad students who are staging low-budget, no-tech Shakespeare in what used to be a stable on the Center's property in North Amherst.
Hartford Stage and Berkshire Theatre Festival share the Christmas Cash Cow Cup for their year-after-year Yuletide productions of A Christmas Carol, Hartford's a lavish spectacular replete with special effects and flying ghosts, BTF's a cozy, warmhearted bowl of wassail.
The Who's a Cheeky Boy Prize goes to Keith Langsdale's butt-flash in a hilarious moment from Enchanted April at the Majestic Theater—a foreshadowing of the full-frontal tease to come in The Full Monty later in the season.
Shakespeare and Company takes home the You Can't Beat the House Consolation Prize for their vain attempt at performing an intimate, small-cast Hamlet in the cavernous Fine Arts Center Concert Hall at UMass before a rude and restless audience that seemed largely composed of chatting, texting students who were there under orders for a class assignment.
The Ko Festival of Performance earns the Chewing the Scenery Award for doing a whole summer season of shows about food, including one that featured a woman completely covered in honey and a post-show talkback with a caf? ambience.
The Sisters Are Doing It for Themselves Crown belongs to the Springfield-based Walaalo Somali Sisters Collective for Shekadii Walaalo (Sister-Stories), an original production based on the songs, dances and tales of their African homeland and their personal narratives of the war and displacement that brought them here as refugees.
The Come On, Birdie, Light My Fire Booby Prize is sent to the copyright owners of the musical Bye, Bye Birdie, who squawked when they heard a (false) rumor that the Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter School was adding songs by the Doors to their production and including (gasp!) the title song in the performance. (Dan Robert, as Conrad Birdie, did a Jim Morrison parody instead of the usual Elvis clone, but no Doors music, and the "Bye, Bye Birdie" song was in the movie but not the original stage version. In the end, both changes prevailed in PVPA's show.)
Munson-based Greenestreet Productions gets the This is Not Your Father's Community Theater Blue Ribbon for its outing at the Academy of Music with the trans-rock musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch, a scruffy, sassy Halloween extravaganza complete with a Rocky Horror-esque costume contest.
The What's in a Name Titular Trophy goes uncontested to Julian Olf's evening of one-acts at UMass: the intriguingly titled Unaired Public Radio Segment followed by the one-man People Almost Always Smell Good in the Art Museum, which also pulls down the Monologue Moniker Medal.
The Forest of Arrrrden Skull and Crossbones is awarded to my own Young Company cast of As You Like It at Hampshire Shakespeare Company, for the aesthetic mutiny they pulled off despite the director's misgivings. Having just performed in HSC's mainstage production of the same play, they wanted a different concept for their own version—Shakespeare as a pirate adventure, me hearties.
Finally, the A-Live Again Silver Chalice is gratefully presented to the Academy of Music for reinventing itself as a multiarts performance venue, allowing the old music hall to ring once again with the real-time thrills and applause of live theater.
My New Year's resolution is to see 100 shows in 2009 and to cover most of them on this page. Meanwhile, a happy Hanukwansolstmas to all, and to all a jolly good year!