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Recognizing Good Theater With the CEAs

By Rick Pender · July 9th, 2008 · Curtain Call

On June 25, nominees for the Cincinnati Entertainment Awards were announced. The 20 categories include nearly 100 nominees (20 percent more than in past years) since the decision was made to expand from four to five nominees per category. You can see the full list of nominees here. Readers have posted comments on my blog item, including complaints about "same old/same old" and one person who wrote, "Sure these nominees are talented, but if you are going to give awards, you need to see everything."

The nominations derive from deliberations by a half-dozen local theater critics, people who see more theater productions than the average fan. I personally attended 75 local productions during the 2007-08 season, plus more than a dozen Fringe shows (several of which were nominated). Maybe that's not everything, but it's a lot. Every nominated show or performance was seen by at least one critic; nominees were chosen from a dozen or more options in most categories, following thorough conversation about why a particular actor or show should be recognized.

(Additionally, I solicit suggestions about community theater performances from a group of people involved with those groups.)

I'm confident that every CEA nominee deserves recognition and that the list of nominees is a balanced reflection of good theater in Cincinnati. Of course, some good work has been overlooked -- even with the expansion of nominees. Just as criticism is a subjective endeavor premised on opinions, so is our nomination process. Most critics see a show when it opens; during its run, it might get stronger and more cohesive -- or it can become sloppy. If you attended, you might have had different experience than what a critic saw. That's both the challenge and the beauty of theater: It's live and in the moment, and it changes from evening to evening.

The Cincinnati Entertainment Awards strive to draw attention to the depth and breadth of local theater. Readers can vote for nominees in a dozen categories, and we know some theaters mount campaigns to urge voting for work they produced. (That's very much like the lobbying that goes on for the Tonys and the Oscars.) The CEAs offer you 12 more opportunities to express your opinion than our city's other theater awards program, run by The Cincinnati Enquirer. (The Acclaims use a secretive process to determine awards that even some judges don't fully understand, based on a recent e-mail correspondence that was copied to me. The Acclaims, handed out in May, recognized far fewer productions than have been cited by the CEAs.)

I'm glad that people feel passionate about who is nominated. If you think a show or an actor has been overlooked, send me an e-mail. I'm glad to know your perspective. I've already voted for my CEA choices. Have you? You have until Aug. 4 at cea.citybeat.com.

CONTACT RICK PENDER: rpender@citybeat.com



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