Thursday, June 3, 2010

An Open Letter to the Buffalo Artie Committee

I know we're all supposed to be too busy licking the Artie Committee's ass to ever voice the slightest breath of complaint, but I have to say that it seems quite obnoxious of the Artie Committee to pretend to be in a position to judge the best shows in Buffalo Theatre when they haven't even seen them all. We've barely ever seen any Artie Committee members at Subversive Theatre (the only one who comes on a regular basis is the narcoleptic Tom Dooney -- he snores so loud through each show that you can barely hear the actors -- but, hey, at least he comes! And Tony Chase comes to almost all our shows. But what became of all the rest of 'em?). As a result -- surprise, surprise -- we don't get any nominations.

Of course we at Subversive Theatre don't do what we do to get awards -- all that bourgeois snobbery is precisely the opposite of what the arts should be about. But over this last year we've had some very fine artists do some very fine work. And since the Artie Committee is either too busy, too blind, or too biased to give them the recognition they deserve, I'm going to do it instead.

So here's a list of the nominations you would have seen if the Artie Committee had ever bothered to come out to the Manny Fried Playhouse:

Best Actress -- Victoria Perez, TWILIGHT
Victoria played eighteen different roles in this one-woman show and was absolutely extraordinary! Every night she made superb lightning-quick transitions playing the roles of Black Congresswomen, Latino teenage gang-bangers, white lawyers, Korean store owners, cops, Black Panther Leaders, clergymen, etc. For her to not even be nominated is an insult to sanity.

Best Actress -- Arlene Clement, WIDOWS
The perfect role for the perfect actress! Arlene is one of the most tenacious and fiercely intense actresses I've ever seen. Playing the half-mad matriarch of a Latin American town where all the men had been dragged away by an unnamed military junta, Arlene was an unstoppable powerhouse of defiance, disgust, and determination.

Best Actress -- Rebecca Ward, EIGHTY-FOUR
Who would've thought that anyone could make the role of George Orwell's brain-washing torturer sexy? But that's just what Rebecca Ward did adding a sultry side to the sinister Big Brother lackey O'Brien in a performance that unfalteringly brought together the evil and the intelligence of Orwell's distopian authorities to life in a disturbingly believable way.

Best Actor -- Patrick Cameron, THE HAIRY APE
With incredible ability, the short and trim Patrick Cameron magically transformed into Eugene O'Neill's huge, boisterous, obnoxious "Yank" commanding the stage every second he was on it and demonstrating a masterful use of dialect with an out-of-this-world early Twentieth Century Brooklynian accent that would have made both Dashiell Hammett and Clifford Odets proud.

Best Actor -- Victor Morales, WIDOWS
Victor was just plain brilliant as the wanna-be reformer turned military strong man of Ariel Dorfman's anti-authoritarian drama. Every night he ran the gamut from tender peace-maker to brutal oppressor with chilling conviction. Seeing Victor and Arlene Clement square off in this play's truth vs. power showdown was downright electrifying.

Best Actor -- James Wild, THE LESSON
James was a man on fire in his relentless portrayal of the instructor in Eugene Ionesco's bizarre absurdist work. James rattled the rafters with his super-human lung capacity and voraciously turned in one of the gutsiest performances I've ever seen exploring depths of savagery and blood-lust that few actors would dare to touch!

Best Supporting Actress -- Martha Rothkopf, NECESSARY TARGETS
A gut-wrenchingly beautiful portrayal of a one-time proud doctor reduced to a meager existence as a destitute Bosnian war refugee. Martha played this role with a stunning balance of fortitude and righteous indignation. I felt my dignity as a human being rise five notches every time I watched her performance.

Best Supporting Actor -- Jack Agugliaro, WIDOWS
Jack displayed astonishing range miraculously managing four separate heart-rending portrayals in just one production. Playing a callous military doctor, a gun-shy village priest, a deranged torture victim, and a grandiose countryside patrician, with craftsman-like expertise, Jack infused every role with an unmistakable sense of honesty, individuality, and intensity that any actor would be proud to achieve with one character let alone four!

Best Supporting Actor -- Paul O'Hern, THE HAIRY APE
With his extraordinary facility for Irish accents, Paul crafted an unforgettably touching rendition of Eugene O'Neill's sorrowful old seaman "Paddy" beautifully contrasted by his light-hearted performances of this play's horny prison guard, crusty I.W.W. activist, and dehumanized 5th Avenue gentleman.

Best Set Design -- Dyan O'Connell, EIGHTY-FOUR
Subversive Theatre's resident set designer demonstrated her abilities once again taking our raw shoe-box-shaped ex-warehouse space and transforming it into the cold, intimidating world of Orwell's distopian dictatorship. Dyan's inventive set incorporated multi-tiered scaffolding, projection screens, ominous hand-crafted torture devices, massive tentacle-like webs of electrical cable, and even live rats! An unforgettable mise-en-scene if ever there was one!!!

Best Lighting Design -- Carlie Todoro-Rickus, EIGHTY-FOUR
Distopia never looked so elegant as it did amidst this breath-taking ambiance-rich lighting scheme. Somehow Carlie took the all-too-limited technical capacities of our humble venue and crafted a series of eye-popping lighting effects featuring side lights, up lights, gobos, intense shadows, and jarring interrogation lights that worked beautifully in tandem with this production's multi-tiered set and almost non-stop video projections.

Best Costume Design -- Paul Stephenson, THE HAIRY APE
Operating on one of Subversive Theatre's notorious shoe-string budgets, Paul found a way to assemble a resplendent menagerie of Turn-of-the-Century costumes replete with delicate parasols, lavish corsets, sailor suits, carny blazers, keystone cop-esque uniforms, upper class ladies gowns, deliciously sleazy prostitute attire, ape suits, and all the other regalia needed to complete the carnival atmosphere of our play within a play withing a play!

Best Ensemble -- WIDOWS
This fourteen actor ensemble came together with stunning beauty. I need only mention some of the names for you to know what I mean -- Arlene Clement, Victor Morales, Diane Gaidry, Bethany Sparacio, Jack Agugliaro, Joy Scime, Sandra Gilliam, Jenna Winnett, Hanna Lipkind, Justin Fiordaliso, Joanna Farrell -- it also featured the debut of high school actors Marisol Torres and Elijah Tyner. It was a great honor to work with such an exemplary team.

Best Production -- THE HAIRY APE
Undoubtedly one of our greatest productions to date, our totally experimental re-interpretation of Eugene O'Neill's uniquely political work THE HAIRY APE was an overpowering spectacle filled with daring use of interpretive movement, pantomime, and dance, puppetry, juggling, and even a live found-sound orchestra that provided music and Foley effects throughout. This production featured outstanding performances by Patrick Cameron, Candice Kogut, Paul O'Hern, Betsy Bittar, Sarah Brown, Brian Zybala, and many others and brought standing-room-only crowds to almost every performance. It was both a joy and an honor to have the opportunity to bring this project to life.

And here are some artists who made their Buffalo acting debut with us this season (in no particular order) . . . a fact that I'm betting will be woefully overlooked by the Artie Committee as well:
Joanna Farrell, JennaBeth Stockman, Marisol Torres, Daniel Henderson, Eric Mowery, Anthony Orlowski, Mary Boatman, Andrew Kottler, Ryan Berkun, Jane Cudmore, David Utter, Brittany Kucala, Angelina Buscaglia, and Dacia Dunnigan.

I'm happy to be able to say that we've had far too many excellent artists at work to mention them all. My apologies to anyone I missed. Congrats to EVERYONE who made our 2009-2010 Season such a terrific success!

Kurt Schneiderman,
Artistic Director,
Subversive Theatre Collective.


  1. Kurt -

    Just a few corrections for you:
    -Tom Dooney is not an Artie Committee Member - he has no voting rights. He merely provides administrative support.
    -The Arties don't judge the "best" in theatre - they choose 5 "outstanding" nominees because there is no such thing as "best," subjectively.

    -If Subversive believes Arties are "bourgeouis," why did you write this distribe in the first place? It's one thing to send an email/post the editorial on your blog, saying that you're proud ofd the work at your company and congratulating those who have worked for you. But it's another thing entirely to chastise the Artie Committee and then try to insist that the awards are pointless to you. It's hypocritical. If they are unimportant in the grand scheme of things, then you should do the proper thing: withdraw Subversive productions from Artie consideration, permanently. If the Arties truly don't matter to you, you'll have no problem doing this. I'll look foward to seeing if you do...

  2. If Tom Dooney is not an Artie Committee member, then why doesn't pay for the shows?

  3. Oh, don't me wrong. I won't lose any sleep over whether the Artie Committees decides to shower us with favors or not. But what I said quite clearly -- and will happily say again -- is that I think it's obnoxious of the Artie Committee to pretend that it's in a position to judge the "outstanding" (as though we don't know that's a thinly-vieled euphamism for "best") productions of Buffalo Theatre when they don't even bother to go and see them all. The Artie Committee has already effectively removed Subversive Theatre from consideration by choosing not to attend our shows. Why they've done this, I couldn't say -- you'll have to ask them. If they want their awards to count for anything, they really ought to consider everyone. But, I agree that awards are far too silly to waste time getting all bent out of shape about them. Ultimately the Artie Committee members are only hurting themselves by missing the best shows in town!

  4. Who is on the Artie Committee?

  5. Shoot. I really wish I had seen WIDOWS.

  6. W/ all due respect to Subversive...

    Let's not dismiss the validity of the Arties completely, shall we? One of the artists named by Kurt in his original editorial WON AN ARTIE on Monday night... and it was richly deserved. It might not have been for the "best" performance (or the "most outstanding" performance) that said artist gave last season, but the artist is phenomenally talented and deserves to be recognized. Let's not minimize this recognition by suggesting that the Arties are meaningless. The Arties, like any award, mean as much or as little as you want them to mean. We are stunned or outraged when someone we think is deserving loses (or isn't nominated), but then we are delighted and proud when someone else we think is deserving is nominated and/or wins. I'm pretty sure Kurt has embraced one or two Artie announcements w/ great pleasure in the past, and I'm sure he will again in the future.

  7. You make some points I totally agree with, Jon. I don't think I ever dismissed the "validity of the Arties completely." Some people have taken my comments to conclude that I'm some sort of hard core Artie opponent which I am not. The point of my letter was to say that more Artie Committee members ought to get more active in attending more theatres' productions. It's a very simple point and, I believe, a very valid criticism.
    By my reckoning, almost half of the Artie Committee have never even set foot in our theatre (and this is after we've held two full years of productions putting on more shows per season than any other theatre in town!). I'm sorry, but I think that's a pretty shabby attempt at coverage. As I understand it, their attendance at many of our fellow low-budget newcomer theatres is just as bad if not worse.
    For anyone who's interested to know, I'm not against the Arties, in fact, I rather enjoy them. I've been going to them for years and I attend to keep going for many years to come . . . unless, of course, they drive me off with pitchforks and torches! It's a perfectly good idea to hold an event to draw more attention to our theatre community and give some recognition to some excellent work (and a good excuse to get drunk with some cohorts!). But at the same time I think that the Artie Committee could go about its work in a more effective, even-handed, and thorough fashion. Futhermore, as with any awards or awards ceremony, I think there's a danger in taking them too seriously (as it seems to me some people do) and losing sight of the real reasons for creating art.
    If anyone has a problem with simple observations like that, I think there's something very wrong here.

  8. I think this is a great discussion. I also think the actual point is being too easily overshadowed by what people think they are hearing/reading rather than what is actually being said.

    The Artie committee would do itself a big favor in credibility if they came to all the shows that they are supposed to come to. That is it. Does the Artie committee want to just be looked upon as a political entity that votes for their favorite people (and thus, allowing no need to see all the shows that qualify), or do they want to actually take the time to see the good, the bad and the ugly - and maybe find themselves pleasantly surprised (it MUST happen once in a while, right?)

    The beat goes on, and Subversive, will keep doing what Subversive does, win or lose, just like everyone else. I don't taste the sour grapes here like others seem to be talking about. Nobody's taking their firetrucks and going home.

    But, with or without Subversive, if the Arties truly want to shine the light on the outstanding theatre we have in Buffalo, the committee needs to set a higher bar for themselves by actually seeing the plays that are eligible. It's pretty simple, really. If everyone is playing the game in a fair way, nobody else gets to call foul.

  9. Whatever the Artie Committee issues are or are not - it was just bad manners to call out Tom Dooney for a medical condition he has no control over. Tom is dedicated to the theatre community, and has been long before any of the 25 theatre companies existed in this town. He deserves more respect than that. On that score - badly done; the rest well...I do take issue with Artie Committee non-attendance and how it hurts a shows potential to be nominated. If - for instance - there are 10 committee members and all 10 see a show at ICTC, but only 5 see a show at ART (for instance) - ICTC has a 100% chance of being nominated, and the ART show only has a 50% chance. Simple math - and the fairness of that does not add up...and don't be niave to think that many more people than Kurt think the system is flawed...many, even the more frequent Artie winners.


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