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Talks about Theatre Bay Area Awards (TBA)

By Iride Aparicio

Photos courtesy: Harden Partners Com.

TBA  Executive Director BRAD ERICKSON

TBA  Executive Director BRAD ERICKSON

SAN FRANCISCO, CA –  Theatre Bay Area (TBA) announced  to the press on September 19th, that a new peer-adjudicated awards program had been created to celebrate the artistic achievements in professionally-oriented theatres in the entire Bay Area.

Mr. ERICKSON serves as Executive Director of TBA one of the nation's largest regional performing arts service organizations , with some 300 theatre and dance company members and 2,500 individual members. Under his leadership TBA has gained a national reputation for innovative programs. Mr Erickson is also a playwright with "Woody and Me" one of his plays, winning "best new play" in the Festival of Emerging American Theatre. In a telephone interview, we talked to Mr. ERICKSON to ask him about the TBA awards.

C.W.B.  For those  unfamiliar with it, what is Theatre Bay Area? 

B.E: “Theatre Bay Area is a non-profit service organization for theatre and dance through the Bay Area. We have over three hundred theater companies as members and nearly twenty five hundred individual members all around the Bay Area. We have been around for 38 years, and we have a variety of different programs and services that we do to promote, advance and strengthen the theater community in the Bay Area.

C.W.B. Can you tell us something about your programs?

 B.E: “We have Granting programs, so we give out money to small companies, and individual artists.
We publish a magazine which covers trends and give people news. Our magazine has been known for decades.
We have an annual conference which draws about four hundred people every year. It is a way to understand trends, learn about  opportunities, and discuss problems in the field.
We have half-price tickets (to local shows) selling at “The TIX BOOTH” in Union Square (in downtown San Francisco) Which is our way to help those who cannot afford them.
We have general auditions each year that brings four hundred actors in front of four hundred theater companies, which is our way to connect actors with opportunities and for theater companies to cast their shows.
So, we have a variety of different programs.”

C.W.B.  What is the purpose of TBA?

B.E: “Our mission states that our purpose is to unite, strengthen, promote and advance the theatre community in the greater Bay Area.

C.W.B. How did TBA start?

B.E: “We were formed when A.C.T., the BERKELEY REP, the MAGIC THEATRE and some individual artists came together and created this organization to serve the field. We have been doing it for 38 years.”

C.W.B. I understand that this is the first time that TBA is going to have Awards. What can you tell us about it?

A.C.T. Theatre S.F.B.E: “This is something that we have been looking at doing for quite a while. I have been the Executive Director here for eleven years and the minute I came out we wanted to put on an annual Awards program here in the Bay Area that would shine the light on all the work that has been done in all these companies by  the theatres’ artists all around the Bay Area. So, we looked at the different programs that have been done in different cities and we looked at the JOSEPH JEFFERSON’s AWARDS, in Chicago, which are very well known, and we looked at the OVATION AWARDS in Los Angeles and others, and took the pieces, that we thought that were appropriate, for a program that we could work here, and we sort of stitched those ideas together and tailored them into a unique awards program that we lunched early this year in January. We are having our first event to celebrate the Awardees on November 10th at the A.C.T. Theatre  (30 Grant Avenue, San Francisco, 94108) and this is going to become a program that we are going to have each November 10”                                                               ACT Theatre San Francisco

C.W.B.  With so many theaters in S.F. and so many good performances, how do you plan to select the best ones?

B.E.: “ That was actually the biggest problem we had to solve. I have really great regard for the “JOSEPH JEFFERSON’s AWARDS” in Chicago and they are held in high esteem by the theatre makers there, but the problem we faced is that the geographic (theater) area in Chicago is much more condensed, and  that here in the Bay Area we  have companies who are, literally, a hundred miles from downtown San Francisco. So, the model that seem to work for us on how were we going to get to all those different shows and assess them, was something that they use in Los Angeles. There, they have a very large number of theater makers which are de adjudicators (the persons acting as judges), and they are assigned to see shows, or volunteer to see shows all around the greater Los Angeles area, where there are hundredths of theater companies spread out over a very large area. So we took that as a model.”

“We know the folks in the Los Angeles Stage Alliance very well, so we had a number of meetings with them to try to understand their program and how it works, and we modeled that aspect of our program on theirs. So we now have 270 people who volunteer to go around to see different shows.

C.W.B.  Do these 270 people see all the shows?

B.E.: “No, but  there is a minimum number of Adjudicators that each producer needs to have to come see their show to have it qualified to be judged. It all depends on the size of their company and in the size of their venue. So, while some companies have six, others have nine, even twelve adjudicators for the larger companies who go on line and post their scores, in a numerical way, within 48 hours after having seen the shows.”

C.W.B.  What do these Adjudicators rank in the shows?

B.E: “ They rank things like, the acting of each performer, the directing, the design, (and rate them) on a scale from zero to one hundred. All those scores are then tabulated to determine the finalists and the awardees. And that system, that was created by LA, seems to be working for us really well.”

C.W.B.  Who serves as your Adjudicators? 

B.E: “We have some critics, among the adjudicators, they see a lot of shows.  and we have some actors and designers and theater administrators. Those are the people who are going out to see the shows.”

C.W.B.  Is there an stipulated number of shows the Adjudicators  must see?

B.E: “They have a minimum number of shows to see to stay active in the program. We may ask them to see two shows a month and we assign them to see one show, and they can volunteer to see another show of their choice.” 

C.W.B.  As the Executive Director of TBA, what is your future vision for the Awards?

B.E: “ What we really want these wards to do, is for the people to believe in these awards (as they do now in LA and in Chicago) to believe in their credibility and to to honor them. We would like the theatre community to embrace the “Awards Program” and more importantly, for the “Awards program”  to be  noticed by the general public.”

“If you go to Chicago you read “Just recommended” in the newspapers, and it means that (the Adjudicators) have seen the production and have “recommended” some aspects of the show. We like that idea a lot.  We have a “Recommended Status” as well, so that the companies could use that “Status” to advertise their shows and bring more people to see their shows. We would like for the general public to say “This show is recommended for an award” and have them go to see it because of it and maybe, even wait to see if the “recommended” show won an award. The Awards will also show the companies (Theatres)  that their shows are being acknowledged, recognized and awarded. It is part of the program to have an involvement of the Theatre community, the press and the public.

;Interior of A.C.T. Theatre
  Interior of A.C.T. Theatre

“At the end, the idea is to raise the profile of Theatre in the Bay Area. We want more people to come to the theatre.”