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PREVIEW: Seventh Annual Richmond Theatre Critics Circle Awards

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If, as James Thurber said, the theater is the primary evidence of a nation's culture, Richmond’s been looking pretty cultural over the past year.

All that culture gets competitive this Sunday when the curtain rises on the 7th annual Richmond Theatre Critics Circle awards after a banner year of local theater. Chosen by local theater critics, the awards recognize the most outstanding work during the 2013-2014 theater season. Lines have been drawn (see this year's nominees here). "Cabaret" versus "The Color Purple." "Clybourne Park" or "Quality of Life"? Who’ll get the coveted Artsie?

Among the presenters handing out Artsies this year will be the talent who won acting awards last year, all but guaranteeing onstage drinking, embarrassing revelations and mad-libbing. The event, which raises money for the Richmond Theater Artists Fund, will feature musical performances from the original casts of productions nominated for best musical, as well as an original song penned by the masters of ceremonies, local actors Debra Clinton and Jason Marks.

But as anyone who ever helped out behind the scenes in a high school play knows, a memorable production is about more than just acting. If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a hamlet to mount a successful production and that means the behind-the-scenes work done by technical crews, volunteers and board members. At this year’s awards gala, there will be a panel of current and former stage managers presenting awards to recognize the contribution of some of the behind-the-scenes players in the local theater scene.

"As theater critics, we only give out awards and accolades for what we see on stage,” says David Timberline, event chairman and a theater critic for Style Weekly. “But we know there are often amazing, heroic efforts going on behind the scenes. So this year we're trying to do at least a little bit to recognize the work that goes on behind the curtain that supports local theater.”

RTCC’s annual valentine to the theater community will be a black-tie gala at 7 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 19, at Virginia Repertory Theatre’s November Theatre. Tickets are available for $15 at 282-2620.

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