The annual Syracuse New Times
Syracuse Area Live Theater (SALT) Awards are Central New York’s
equivalent of the Academy Awards and the Tonys, and for this fifth
presentation rule changes will make them more like those national
events. For starters, there are now two rounds of voting, both
for the famously anonymous 50 or so members of the SALT Academy as well
as the populist free-for-all known as the People’s Choice Award. The
list of names and titles accompanying this article is essentially a
first draft drawn from a large pool. See page 14 for the nominations.
For example, the first time around an Academy member might well have voted for last fall’s Syracuse Stage production of Les Liaisons Dangereuses in the first category, Professional Theater, Play of the Year. Now that there are four nominees, the voter is reminded that Death of a Salesman and Gem of the Ocean also ran at Syracuse Stage in spring 2007, and that the Redhouse’s Frozen
was also a professional production. There is nothing to prevent a voter
from ignoring his/her first choice and voting for one of the three
others in the second round.
A second rule change could have equally
wide effect. Academy members must cite a specific production when
nominating performers in different categories of community theater
competition. As a result, newcomer Jodie Baum is named for two
different roles as supporting actress in a musical, as is the
frequently nominated Binaifer Dabu as supporting actress in a play.
Previously enthusiasm for two different performances by the same person
would channel into one vote total. Now each of these ladies must, in
effect, compete with herself. Their fans in the Academy, who don’t know
each other’s names, cannot caucus and select one performance as the
The title-included rule did not apply
for directors, although many of those persons had only one show.
Curiously, the Academy likes some of the same people for both musicals
and dramas: John Nara of Simply New Theatre and Dan Tursi of Rarely
Done Productions appear on both lists.
A certain capriciousness entered the
voting this year not seen before but frequently seen in Oscar voting.
That’s when voters seem to like everything about a production except
the production itself. For the Talent Company’s Footloose, a
box-office hit in the fall, Katherine Clare Bilofsky is nominated as
the female lead, Mark Bell Jr. is named in the male lead, and both
David Baker and Shawn Forster have been cited as supporting actors. But
somehow Footloose did not make it to the final four as the year’s best musical.
The list of perennial favorites is
shorter this year, no more than nine or 10, and in their places are a
host of new faces. Tom Quinn, longtime partner with Simply New, was
nominated both as an actor (Kiss of the Spider Woman) and as a director (presumably for Things You Shouldn’t Say Past Midnight). Quinn
split from the company in the fall and has since left town. Young
performers, like Aubry Ludington-Panek and Shawn Forster, who were more
active before the establishment of the SALT Awards, are now recognized.
Richard Harris’ versatile good work stretches back several decades for
many companies. This year he is recognized for his supporting role in
Wit’s End Players’ The Fantasticks, where he played the Old Actor.
Sentimental favorites rule in two
categories, Lifetime Achievement (Currently Active) and the Hall of
Fame (No Longer Active). At one time SALT organizers wondered aloud if
limited memory would keep some people from being recognized. The late
actor Derek Coleman and set designer Dan Dossert have not been
forgotten, and the 2007 passing of Monsignor Charles Borgognoni, of the
Pompeian Players, reminded voters how much he contributed to our lives.
Former Syracuse Stage artistic director Arthur Storch, alive and well
at 82, is still very much active in New York City. For the Lifetime
Achievement, all these people feel much too young, but David Feldman,
69, has just announced his retirement from Armory Square Players, the
new plays reading group he founded.
Those who vote in the People’s Choice Awards are readers of the Syracuse New Times who
have a 41-cent stamp; no photocopied ballots are accepted. Response
this year far exceeded that of previous years. In many instances, the
vox populi agree with the Academy, as with Simply New’s A Man for All Seasons and Appleseed Productions’ 1776,
as well as performers like Gennaro Parlato, Michael O’Neill, Chris
Kimpel and Paul Gundersen, presumably for his scene-stealing Ben
Franklin in 1776, although he kept busy all year.
Twirls and curls: Bob Brown in Wit’s End Players’ The Will Rogers Follies and Susannah Livingston (below) in Syracuse Stage’s Les Liaisons Dangereuses, two of the 2007 SALT nominations.
Differing from the Academy, however, the readers favor Always. . . Patsy Cline (probably
the one at the Glen Loch in February 2007, not at Auburn’s
Merry-Go-Round Playhouse in September), which first put the spotlight
on Becky Bottrill eight years ago. Additionally, the choosy people pay
attention to parts that reviewers might have overlooked. Gerrit Vander
Werff, also a nominee in 2006, took small roles that lasted only a few
minutes in Appleseed’s Our Town in September, but the voters rank him with leads in other shows.
The Syracuse New Times SALT
Awards will be presented on Sunday, April 27, 7 p.m., at Syracuse
Stage, 820 E. Genesee St. Tickets are $15, $17 by mail using check or
credit card to New Times SALT Tickets, 1415 W. Genesee St., Syracuse 13204, or $20 at the door. For information, call 422-7011.
Pom-pom noms: Jodi Bova, Melissa Pearsall and Andrea Colabufo in Rarely Done’s Debbie Does Dallas: The Musical, up for a SALT People’s Choice Award.