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Opinion: Why Didn't the 2013 B. Iden Payne Committee Make Any Nomination for Director of a Musical? Print E-mail


Posted by Juliana E. Wright on October 17 as a comment on the Austin Live Theatre blog's listing of the 2012-2013 nominations for theatre art made by the B. Iden Payne Committee on October 8:

How are there no B. Iden Payne Awards Council nominations for Outstanding Director of a Musical for the 2012-2013 season?

There is a lot of theatre in Austin. Good, Bad, Ugly, Transformative.

Austin is fortunate in that it recognizes that there is theatre being produced that should be recognized for its outstanding quality. Thirty-nine years ago, The B. Iden Payne committee was created in order to do just that. Its current mission is to support, promote, and recognize excellence in Austin’s theatre community.

After 39 years in existence, it is disappointing that the 2012-2013 B. Iden Payne Awards Nominations contain no nominations for Outstanding Director of a Musical. It’s also confusing.

Assuming the council follows its posted Artistic Guidelines to quantify a nomination, it is difficult to believe there was not one Director of a Musical that followed those guidelines and met, at the very least, the most basic of nomination requirements.

According to the BIPAC Artistic Guidelines the following are definitions for the categories of both Outstanding Production of Musical category as well as the Outstanding Director of a Musical Category: http://www.bidenpayneawards.com/about/bipac-artistic-guidelines/

Outstanding Production of Musical: DEFINITION: The cohesive synthesis of all production elements including design, direction, & performance.

Outstanding Direction: DEFINITION: Guides and supports all creative and technical elements of a production to tell a unified & integrated affecting story.

Based on just these two categorical guidelines and their definitions, how is it possible that in the 2012-2013 season, there are several Outstanding Production of a Musical nominations, but none for Outstanding Director of a Musical? By definition a nomination for an Outstanding Production of a Musical includes “the cohesive synthesis of all production elements including design, direction, & performance”.

Based on these two categorical guidelines and definitions alone, it is a gross oversight on the part of the council to not include nominations for Outstanding Director of a Musical in the 2012-2013 season and therefore, the council is remiss in upholding its mission.

This theatre is created by and presented by hundreds of artists in this city who have, many to great sacrifice and effort, devoted their time, money, energy, passions and love to its creation. Regardless of motive, this art is created with the idea that it will in some way, strengthen those who experience it. This is by no means the sole (or any) reason to garner awards. However, the artists and community know there is work in this town worthy of recognition, nomination, and award and if the organization tasked to recognize, nominate, and award those accolades fails to recognize it, then the organization is remiss in its duties and thereby, the value of the organizations worth drops.

What does this action say to not only those hundreds of artists that have created this art, but to those patrons, supporters, and volunteers that experience and are shaped by this art? What does it say about the work being produced in Austin? What does it say about the council members and their credentials and qualifications to adjudicate? Is the nomination/voting procedure fair and balanced? To what validity does one hold a nomination if the process is flawed? What value do the BIPAC awards truly hold for artists working in Austin?

The lack of recognition in this particular category is unfortunate for the council and the community in general.

It is hopeful that the council recognizes this oversight and reconvenes for a special session to reassess and garner at least a few nominations for the quality work put forth by the many talented directors of musical theatre during the 2012-2013 season.

Julianna E. Wright
Artistic Producer
Half & Half Productions

Comments (2)Add Comment
written by Ken Shepardson, October 17, 2013
The short answer to Ms. Wright's pointed - but misguided - commentary is that while it is clear from the nominations list that there were musical theatre productions that reached the "Excellence" level, it does NOT automatically follow that it is the director of those productions that is responsible for the overall excellence. Indeed, in my experience as a theatre attendee, there are many productions - including some that Ms Wright is familiar with - that achieve excellence DESPITE the director's efforts. Ms Wright served on the Council long enough to know the difference. The proper conclusion is that the lack of an "Excellence" level nominee in a category is not that "the Council is remiss in upholding its mission," but that the Council is fulfilling its mission by refusing to recognize or reward something less than excellent. It is a shame that Ms Wright, who was deeply and very personally involved in making the Council what it is today, who invested so much of her time, energy, and opinions in shaping the very processes she now dismisses and derides, now prefers that awards should be given for "Pretty Good-ness" or "Hard work and dedication that falls short of Excellence." In fact, the Council should be commended for accepting the challenge of seeking and rewarding Excellence and NOT following the desires of some, like Ms Wright, who apparently think awards should be given to "The Best of the Bunch Even Though Excellence Wasn't Reached." Shame on you.
B. Iden Payne Awards Council Nomination Update
written by Julianna E. Wright, October 24, 2013
The B. Iden Payne Awards Council has received and responded to feedback received regarding the lack of nominations in the category of Outstanding Direction of a Musical for the 2012-2013 production season and has offered a compromise.

While this compromise does not address all issues brought forth, it does allow the opportunity to not see the disappearance of the Outstanding Direction of a Musical category this year.

It is hopeful this situation will initiate a move to better foster communication between the council and the community it serves. Let it also serve as initiative to review current business practices and procedures in order to align the organizations mission to the goals and needs of the community.

Thank you to the council for being receptive to community feedback and congratulations to all nominees this season.

Julianna E. Wright
Artistic Director

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