This event is everything I love about my job.
In Downtown Los Angeles, 1,300 people were in ballgowns and tuxedos in a historic and beautiful theatre. The room was filled with artists, patrons, friends, and anticipation as the 2017 Ovation Awards were about to start. This year I was in the amongst the crowd, proudly displaying my badge of honor, a purple lanyard that said "staff."
Despite wearing a navy blue floor length ballgown, a Tiffany Bracelet and a stunning diamond necklace, this lanyard was my favorite part of my outfit. After two years of being a volunteer, I had been hired at LA STAGE Alliance, and was working my dream event.
Inside the Theatre at Ace Hotel, there were hundreds of theatre artists and supporters celebrating Los Angeles theatre. Everyone is dressed up, drinking, laughing, and connecting. It is the best networking event I have ever been too.
To be fair, I fully understand the love/hate relationships with awards shows. If you don't know the nominees, there is not much to care about. I never really watched the Emmys/Grammys/Oscars/Tonys because I didn't pay a lot of attention to pop culture, so I just catch up with the drama and musical numbers in the morning. Yet somehow the Ovations are different, even when I don't know a lot of the nominees.
Los Angeles theatre is validated. Which is important.
This is true in all aspects of life. Validation is important. People naturally like to be recognized and praised, this happens in every field. Even when I worked at Hollister they had employee of the month. In every leadership book, seminar, or podcast I have every listened to, they all say the same thing. Recognize your employees if you want quality work.
This works for art as well, and this validation helps us push the standards higher, make our voices a little louder, and try a little harder.
"There’s this incredible shift in power happening. And it always happens in art first." - Kirsten Vangsness
Los Angeles theatre reflects the people of Los Angeles, it is challenging, strong, and diverse. East West Players won the most awards at this year's ceremony. "East West Players is the nation’s longest-running professional theater of color and the largest producing organization of Asian American artistic work."
There were shows about drag queens, black women singers, and abortion and they were all recognized for being powerful, but mostly for being artistic. Costume or Lighting Design don't always scream SOCIAL CHANGE, but they can make or break a show, and those amazing designers get recognized for that at the Ovation Awards. Even something as subtle as a light change, sound cue, projection, can make a powerful play beautiful as well.
In a world that is constantly screaming for change, it is important to have those messages be presented in a beautiful way. Beautiful does not mean weak, or watered down, it just means beautiful.
It shows a sense of progress, in theatre, and in myself.
I took a lot of pride that this year I upgraded from the lanyard that said "volunteer" to the lanyard that says "staff." This year I also knew way more people at the event. I knew more of the plays. I knew more of the rules. Next year I will know even more people, plays, and so on. It is a great benchmark for me every year to see how I am progressing as an artistic leader in my community, which is theatre.
It is also amazing to see how much theatre grows and changes in the year. What plays will be produced? How will Los Angeles respond to that? Hamilton has come and gone from California, how will that effect Los Angeles Theatre? These are all things we have to wait an entire year to find out, and it is amazing to reflect back on the shows that are produced at the beginning on the Ovation Voting season (September). Shows that were recognized this year could have been produced in 2016, and it is a great reminder that those shows happened and were considered excellent.
Most importantly, the Ovation Awards help us remember why we started, why we continue, why we will never stop producing art that changes lives.
Los Angeles theatre continues to grow, and so will I.
I will see you at the Ovations!