THE AWARDS PROGRAM MANAGER & CEREMONY PRODUCER OF
Discusses their First Ceremony with Iride Aparicio
ROBERT SOKOL photo: courtesy Hardenpartners.com
SAN FRANCISCO, CA – On a phone interview, prior to this year's not-to-be-missed theatre event, the first THEATRE BAY AREA (TBA) AWARDS CELEBRATION that will be held at the GEARY Theatre (415 Geary St. in San Francisco, CA 94102) on Monday November lOth, CULTURAL WORLD BILINGUAL had the opportunity to ask Mr. SOKOL, the TBA Awards Program Manager and Ceremony Producer, some questions regarding the first TBA AWARDS CEREMONY ever held in this city.
C.W.B. How did the Idea of having TBA AWARDS in San Francisco came about?
R.S: “It has been percolating for about ten years. BRAD ERICKSON, (TBA Executive Director) who has been with THEATRE BAY AREA for about eleven years, had said that from the very first day on the job people had asked him about having some sort of quality, credible and representative awards program for the theatre in the region and it has taken this long for the circumstances to come together. This time, TBA was able to get some funding from the CANON and the FLEISHHACKER FOUNDATION to underwrite part of the costs of the program, and there was someone to do it. All these things magically came together at the right time. So it was decided that this was the time to do it.”
C.W.B What inspired you to produce the TBA Awards Ceremony?
R.S: “ I am producing it because the good folks at TBA asked me to do that. They had seen a previous Awards Ceremony that I had produced for another organization and they were very impressed on how that ran. So, in addition in asking me to run the Awards Program in the ongoing basis, they asked me if I could produce the ceremony since I had some experience that they did not have in that area. “
C.W.B. How do you define the purpose of the Awards?
R.S: “ The purpose of the Awards is, first and foremost, to recognize the outstanding achievements by members of the Bay Area Theatre Community. We don’t use words like “BEST” because it is all very subjective. Nobody could agree in what is “BEST” but it is very easy to get consensus in what is an outstanding achievement, so the main purpose of the Awards is to recognize the “outstanding achievement” of (individual) theatre’s artists in the Bay Area. “
“The other primary purpose of the Awards, is to raise the profile of Bay Area Theatre to the public. It is surprising that of all the theatre markets in the country, of which San Francisco is the third largest after New York and Chicago, we have not had a region-wide Awards Program, anything that covers the entire region. So, it was very important (for TBA) to have something like that to really raise the profile of theatre to the community. People are aware of the big companies: The Berkeley Rep, American Conservatory Theatre (A.C.T.) which are absolutely wonderful, and people are aware of the big touring shows, which are also wonderful for the most part, but not about the exciting things that happen in Santa Rosa, or in El Cerrito, or in Antioch, or in any other place. Good theatre is happening everywhere, and people need to be aware of the broad spectrum of the incredible rich theatre community that we have. It is probably as important a goal as to recognize the achievement. "
C.W.B. Could you give us an idea of the categories TBA plan to award?
R.S. “Many of them are the traditional categories that people will expect. The various types of Acting, Directing, Set design, Costume design, these are old things that people know from the Tony Awards® from the Oscars ® and from the Emmys. But we have some interesting Awards that people might not expect: We have an award for “outstanding original score” for a play. Usually plays did not have music, but now plays are incorporating musical underscores, similar to the underscores you have in film, and we need to recognize the artists who are working in that field, the very talented composers who are doing that. Also another hybrid between theatre and film is the more prevalent use of video in stage productions, and so we have an award for outstanding “Video Design” as well. Those are two of the more “unique” Awards categories that people might not expect in a Theatre’s Awards Program. We also are recognizing “World Premieres” of both plays and musicals, and we have another category that we call “Outstanding Creative Specialty” what it is, is an opportunity to capture “Outstanding Achievement” in a craft and discipline that may not have enough activity, for instance “fight choreography,” (choreography that is not dancing) or “Puppet Making” “Mask Making” which requires a very specialized talent because they are specialized crafts.”
C.W.B. What do you expect to accomplish with the TBA AWARDS CEREMONY?
R.S: “To establish a tradition of recognizing these outstanding achievements on an annual basis and to create more dialogue from patrons and from theatre makers. (Give them an idea of ) What is “Outstanding Achievement” What is being accomplished by the theatre community in the Bay Area. And, in the very commercial way, to “put butts on seats” because we want people to go to more theatre.”
"Theatre used to be very much a part of the people, but now with television, you really have to make a commitment to want to go to the theatre because it is so easy to just stay home. So our purpose is to really create an appetite for theatre in the people and let them know that it is not an elitist thing. Theatre is not just for rich people, one can go to a theatre for as low as ten dollars. Theatre is now available to everyone.”
Geary Theatre, Crown Jewel of American Conservatory Theatre (A.C.T.) Photo courtesy: Hardenpartners.com
C.W.B. Is there something else that you would like to add?
R.S: "Yes. That what I consider the most important thing about the Awards is that they are a celebration, not a competition. The event is not about who is a winner and who is the loser, or about somebody being better that somebody else. It is about celebrating a thing that to me is particularly "magical" which is a live performance. I love film, I love television, I love recorded music, but there is nothing compared to the experience of a performer creating something infront of you and doing it for that moment, and that moment only. That moment is between you and the performer and it will never be repeated in the same way again. It is one of the most amazing things that a man can do. I really hope that the Awards generate that: the feeling of celebration."
ROBERT SOKOL has been touching showbiz all his life. He is the editor at BAYSTAGES, the creative director at VIA MEDIA. He is a Writer, diva wrangler, cinefiler, and occasional saloon singer. His bi-line also appears in the San Francisco Examiner, Theatre Bay Area Magazine, the Sondheim Review broadwayworld.com and other regional or national publications and websites.