It is better, they say, to give than to receive.
That must be why so many groups gather so often to give so many awards to so many people for their efforts in so many different art forms connected to so many different award-worthy fields of endeavor. Though most people in show business are buzzing about the upcoming Emmy awards, about 75 people gathered together on Monday, July 13, to watch the offbeat, quirky annual distribution of certificates known to local theater people as The Sonoma County Stage One Theatre Arts Awards, otherwise known as The SOTAs.
Now in its seventh year, the stated purpose of the SOTAs is to honor theater artists and theater productions taking place in Sonoma County. The SOTAs have earned a fair share of criticism over the years for awarding the lion’s share of their honors to shows that, how do I say this delicately, are sometimes conspicuously less deserving of the word “excellence” than shows that were either minimally mentioned or not nominated at all – Main Stage West’s exceptionally strong “Other Desert Cities” is one example from this year’s list of howlingly embarrassing omissions.
To the organization’s credit, under the direction of president Lito Briano, clear efforts have been made to make the distribution of awards more balanced and fair, and to do that more in the future, companies who feel they deserve more attention will have to step forward and work harder to get their own fans and followers to join as voting members.
With the San Francisco Bay Area Theater Critics Circle having stepped up in the last few years to finally notice the work being done by some (but not enough) Sonoma County theaters, the SOTAs will have to step up their game even more to retain any semblance of relevance and credibility in the future.
I say this with all hope that the SOTAs will do just that, because many of the smaller community theater companies and student productions honored by the SOTA’s certainly deserve some recognition, so vital are they as an engine of training and community good will throughout the theater scene.
With all of that said, allow me to offer my congratulations for the twelve awards taken home by Santa Rosa’s 6th Street Playhouse, which donated it’s G.K. Hardt theater for the awards ceremony.
Amongst those 6th Street artists honored were Best Director Bronwen Shears for her work on “The Beauty Queen of Leenane,” actors Lennie Dean and Danielle Innocenti Beem for their performances in ‘Beauty Queen’ (that would be Lennie) and “Thoroughly Modern Millie” (that would be Beem), actor Mike Pavone for “Clybourne Park,” and actor Dallas Munger for “The Glass Menagerie,” that last one also winning awards for best scenic and sound design, and tying for Best Overall Production with “Phantom of the Opera,” performed by Santa Rosa Junior College.
‘Phantom’ was the second-biggest winner of the night, also taking awards for Best Vocal Performance for a Male and Female – that would be Ezra Hernandez and Megan Fleishman – and other awards, including best costume and best makeup design.
Mary Gannon Graham won the Best Actress award for her amazing work in Main Stage West’s “Mother Jones in Heaven,” coincidentally now playing again in an encore run of the show featuring music by Si Kahn. And Raven Players won for best stage props for the prop-dependent drama “In the Next Room: or, the Vibrator Play,” and yes, you may feel free to make jokes about the props needed for a play of that name.
Congratulations to all the winners, and even those who did not walk off with a certificate, because the truth is, when there is this much good theater going on in a community of this size, everyone is a winner, especially the audience.
I’m David Templeton, Second Row Center, for KRCB.