A Better Barrymore? Theatre Philadelphia: A Celebration! gave the arts community a much-needed boost at just the right moment.
Last Monday night, Megan and I attended Theatre Philadelphia: A Celebration! at the Kimmel Center. Although Canary Promotion handled PR for the long-running and now defunct Barrymore Awards for several years, I had never been to the awards ceremony myself. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this new event: acceptance speeches for awards that were announced weeks ago via email? Lamentations on the precarious future of Philadelphia theater?
Despite my preconceived notions of what the Barrymores were all about, I was delighted in the notion of what this longstanding tradition could very well become in the caring hands of the newly assembled, community-driven Theatre Philadelphia.
Yes, the community has suffered some blows in recent months — the disbanding of the Theatre Alliance of Greater Philadelphia, the subsequent cessation of the Barrymores, the recently announced departure of full-time Philadelphia Inquirer theater critic Howard Shapiro.
But if last week’s celebration is any indication, theater is absolutely thriving in this city. And if Theatre Philadelphia has anything to do with it, we don’t need the Barrymores to prove it.
Most of all, Theatre Philadelphia: A Celebration! was pure, unadulterated fun — from 11th Hour Theatre Co.’s energetic, lighthearted opening number (pictured, above) to June Wolfson’s fantastic hot-pink tights.
A few of my favorite moments:
- When two of Philly’s best physical comedians, Lee Etzold and Sarah Sanford, did what they do best
- When Wilma Theater artistic director Blanka Zizka imagined what director Jiri Zizka would have said were he alive to accept his Lifetime Achievement Award (to quote Oscar Wilde: “Popularity is the one insult I have never suffered.”)
- When a stellar who’s-who of past winners of the F. Otto Haas Award for Emerging Artist took the stage (pictured, above), immediately proving the award’s value to the community (Congrats to this year’s winner, Steve Pacek!)
- When it was announced that a new annual award, the June and Steve Wolfson Award, will be given at next year’s celebration to an outstanding small theater company — with a $10,000 cash prize!
- When the Bearded Ladies Cabaret started a revolution
The local theater community needs our support now more than ever. To voice your concerns about Philadelphia media’s shrinking arts coverage, leave a comment on the Inquirer’s story about Theatre Philadelphia and send a letter to the editorial staff through the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance’s Action Center.
What was your favorite part of Theatre Philadelphia: A Celebration? Let us know in the comments.
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