Thinking it would be a neat idea to throw a party to celebrate Richmond's hard-working theater talent, four other local reviewers (including fellow Style critic Mary Burruss) and I came up the first-ever Richmond Theatre Critics Circle (RTCC) Awards — a local answer to the Tonys. We assembled a list of nominees, set a date on the calendar and tried to think of a cute nickname for the awards.
These awards — presented at a boisterous, black-tie ceremony this past Sunday — proved the theater community is a talented and enthusiastic bunch. We scrambled to find contact info even as others asked for extra tickets. Our generous hosts at the Firehouse Theatre set capacity at 125, forcing us to turn away many theater supporters hoping for a chance to hobnob with the local theater glitterati.
On the night of the event, I learned why awards shows are such paparazzi fests: Actors — already pretty gorgeous in plain clothes — look spectacular in gowns and tuxes. Local actress Jill Bari Steinberg proved an exceptional master of ceremonies, mixing good-natured ribbing of her fellow thespians with her introductions. Instead of garish musical productions, we had simple arrangements from nominated productions, performed with a few hilarious improvisations. I learned at some point that a nickname for the awards was circulating that translated to, ahem, “rodent penis” — those clever folks managed to make a bawdy play on “RTCC.”
Things weren't all fun and games, though. The audience was moved to tears during the presentation of a special award in memory of the beloved Liz Marks, an Emmy-winning talent scout who succumbed to cancer this past year. Marks was responsible for putting the city of Richmond as well as its acting talent onto the screen in productions such as HBO's “Iron Jawed Angels.” Best Supporting Actor in a Musical winner Jason Marks touchingly remembered his father and all of the artistic directors involved in producing risk-taking shows in Richmond.
The most amazing thing was how genuinely happy everyone seemed to be, not for the awards necessarily, but just to be hanging out with fellow theater pros. Next year, we're doing it at the Empire Theatre so everyone can come. We haven't settled on a cute nickname yet but “the Arties” is sounding good. Or at least better than the alternative.