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And the Award Goes to …

By Rick Pender · August 31st, 2011 · Curtain Call
Almost exactly a year ago, I excitedly announced in this column that a merger had been agreed upon to bring together Cincinnati’s two theater awards programs, the 14-year-old CEAs established by CityBeat in 1997, and the newer Acclaim Awards, launched by The Cincinnati Enquirer in 2004. In my Sept. 1, 2010, column I recalled a plea I had made earlier in the year to create “a stronger, singular program,” and I described how this combined effort would lead to “a program with a promising future while combining the best features of each program under the Acclaim banner.”

Well, as they say, not so fast.

Combining the two programs proved to be no simple matter. The Acclaims, while largely the brainchild of the Enquirer’s Jackie Demaline, had an executive committee that oversaw the program, operated under the aegis of the League of Cincinnati Theatres. As an incorporated nonprofit organization, LCT made it possible for the Acclaims to raise funds in support of a range of worthwhile theatrical activities, such as stipends to help “rising stars” beginning their careers and grants to small theaters needing additional dollars to hire professional actors.

The combination of the two awards programs was agreed to just as the 2010-2011 season began, so lots of details hadn’t been resolved, and given the volunteer nature of the Acclaims, that became an ongoing conversation lasting for several months.

There had been general agreement about changing the Acclaims to a process with winners announced at season’s end chosen from nominations made during the season, but how that would actually happen never resolved. Further complicating matters, the addition of a public voting component (similar to one employed by the CEAs for years) was debated but never implemented. By early March 2011, with two-thirds of the season already completed, there were still many loose ends, and the Acclaim executive committee leadership (including Demaline and me) decided the best course was to recognize nominees in late May and leave it at that.

Around that time LCT’s leadership expressed interest in becoming more closely aligned with the Acclaims and asked that the awards program eliminate media involvement. Accordingly, with the imminent arrival of the 2011-2012 season, plans are under way to try again. Although several productions are already under way with more opening very soon, it appears that a lot of details are still being addressed, among them what the awards will be called. Since the Enquirer launched the Acclaims, Demaline claims that the moniker belongs to the newspaper, not the program. It appears that they’ll be called the League of Cincinnati Theatre Awards, at least for the time being.

So what’s in store? I plan to write more about this in the months ahead. I hope to bring you news of recognition bestowed on excellent Cincinnati theater productions — which will be happening whether or not there is an awards program. I’m an optimist and a believer that a way will be found to make this work, even though it’s not what I envisioned so optimistically a year ago. In the meantime, please let me know your opinions about great shows when you see them so I can be sure we cover them in CityBeat.

CONTACT RICK PENDER: rpender@citybeat.com



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