Each year for the last few years, usually around the time the Barrymore Awards are announced or awarded, I pick out my favorites from the previous Philadelphia theater season (see my choices for 2009/10, 2010/11, and 2011/12). This year, the Barrymores are on hiatus, so I wanted to organize something more ambitious than just one fellow’s choices. I sent an email to every theater writer I could think of, asking them to submit five choices in twelve categories. Votes from those who responded (12 people from almost every publication in the city) were ranked using a points system and tabulated. Those with the most points won. And the winners are.. [see the full list of results here]
- Best Overall Production: North of the Boulevard (Theatre Exile)
- Best New Play: North of the Boulevard, Bruce Graham (Theatre Exile)
- Best Director: Matt Pfeiffer, North of the Boulevard (Theatre Exile)
- Best Actor, Male: Scott Greer, North of the Boulevard (Theatre Exile)
- Best Actor, Female: Jenni Putney, Venus in Fur (Philadelphia Theatre Company)
- Best Supporting Actor, Male: J Hernandez, Othello (The Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre)
- Best Supporting Actor, Female: Karen Peakes, A Little Night Music (Arden Theatre Company)
- Best Ensemble: Noises Off (People’s Light & Theatre)
- Best Set Design: Matt Saunders, North of the Boulevard (Theatre Exile)
- Best Lighting Design: Thom Weaver, A Little Night Music (Arden Theatre Company)
- Best Costume Design: Janus Stefanowicz, Salome (Villanova Theatre)
- Best Sound Design: Daniel Perelstein, Under the Whaleback (The Wilma Theater)
The awards also listed “Runners Up” and “Honorable Mentions”. Runners Up were the few next highest vote getters; each received votes from at least two or three critics. Honorable Mentions were given to any entree which received votes from at least two critics, or a single first-place vote. They are listed in order of points.
With five of the twelve awards, and four of the “big five” (in Oscar parlance), Theatre Exile‘s North of the Boulevard was the big winner. Matt Pfeiffer helmed an excellent production of a new work by one of the city’s best playwrights, Bruce Graham. Scott Greer deservedly won for his role as a South Philadelphia mechanic and Matt Saunders got a not for his well-realized mechanic-shop set..
The only other multiple award winner was the Arden’s A Little Night Music, which saw Karen Peakes win for best supporting actor and Thom Weaver win for his lighting design (Thom also received votes for numerous other productions!).
A non-native, Jenni Putney, pipped local talent to the other best actor award for her role in PTC;s Venus in Fur; another visiting actor, J Hernandez, won best supporting actor for his work on Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre’s Othello.
In total, seven theater companies split the twelve categories. the Wilma, Villanova Theatre, and People’s Light, in addition to those mentioned above.
Running these awards has taught me how subjective such awards are. The sample size is small. Memories are short: many of the plays are recent. For some categories there was broad agreement; for others, votes were all over the place. All the winners were deserving, but some of those who didn’t win were also very deserving. The Barrymore’s will be back next year, and welcome. But all such awards should be taken as representative, not authoritative.