Golden Mask Awards at Harlequin: Here’s to the Makers of Things!

Presenters for Outstanding Technical Work award

Monday, January 26th was the annual Golden Mask Awards at Harlequin Production’s State Theatre in Olympia. The “GMAs” are based on the ballots cast by everyone involved at the theatre in a given season  (cast, volunteers, staff, and tech & design teams). Award-worthy individuals receive distinction in several categories, from outstanding technical designers and board members to “musical magic” and dedication in actors. There’s also an audience choice award or two, based on public ballots and comments.

The husband and fellow Harlequin performers

The husband and fellow Harlequin performers

This year was the husband’s and my first year attending, and we had a wonderful time. How could we not, with delicious catered food, the famous “knock you on your ass” Harlequin-tinis, and an excuse to dress up and visit with former cast mates and crew?
So many talented and genuinely nice people make their temporary (and permanent, in some cases!) homes at Harlequin, you can’t help but enjoy your visits.

Me and one of the incredible costume designer/changer/stage crew. We're born a day apart, and are basically the same person. Except I didn't get a concussion during Rocky Horror.

Me and one of the incredible costume designer/changer/stage crew mavens at Harlequin. It's hard to tell here, but we were born a day apart, and are basically the same person. Except I didn't get a concussion during The Rocky Horror Show.

And even though neither of placed in the “finals” of our nominated categories, I think everyone who did, and who won the coveted GMAs was more than deserving.

Between the two of us, we have a slightly unique vantage point that spans the season: We were both in the 2007/2008 season opener (Operation Stardust) and closer (Antony & Cleopatra) and I filled in the middle months in the extended Rocky Horror Picture Show. During that time, we saw a lot of good work that resulted in great shows. People work hard at what they do, and apparently some of those recognized this year have been actively involved for 5 or more years. Something to aim for, right?

The best part of the evening, by far, was Artistic Director Linda Whitney’s opening speech. As everyone who works at Harlequin knows, Linda and her husband Scot Whitney, the Managing Artistic Director, are two of the main reasons for being there. I’ve told Linda on several occasions that it’s apparent the moment you start a new project how invested they are, and how carefully, lovingly they have peopled their theatre with other hard-working, loving hearts. Linda’s speech was a testament to that care.  Even more importantly, her words were a testament to our collective responsibility to nurture that  hard work and love inherent in the theatre, because it is and will be an important part of supporting a community–a nation– that is accountable to its neighbors.

Linda very graciously shared  her “script” with me, and I’m posting the bulk of it here… even if you aren’t a “theatre person,” I think you’ll find it heartening all the same:

…you may not have noticed, but President Obama actually mentioned us in his Inaugural Address last Tuesday. Sure, he was talking to all Americans that day – the whole world in fact – but when he spoke of the “risk takers, the doers, the makers of things … some celebrated and most who labor in obscurity” as being the foundation of the greatness of America, he spoke to us directly.

What are we if not risk takers, doers, makers of things?

Those of us who understand that greatness is earned largely by laboring in obscurity, know that theater is a dangerous, fragile, heartbreaking and enormously rewarding profession. We martial expeditions into the darkest and most treacherous tangles of the human heart and we are armed only with the razor sharp minds of great playwrights.  We must cut our way through that jungle and come back out with a diamond. We aspire to bring back a spangle of light, just a flash of illumination. It is the most we can hope for. All of our efforts, all the way from the management of the day to day operations to the most inspired design or performance must be focused on that most ephemeral of events: the split-second kindling of consciousness.

When an audience gives us an ovation it’s good for the soul, we love them … But we may never know when we’ve truly sparked awareness, alertness or perception. It’s a much quieter event and it may only come back to us in individual expressions of gratitude, if at all. But it does come back. It reveals itself in the form of a greater human communal process, maybe a subtle shift in experience that improves a life.

I truly believe it is only through the willingness to find meaning in something greater than ourselves that we are able to even approach work that enriches and enlightens – and somehow it has been my great good fortune over these years to have worked with you who come easily to the effort, who surrender yourselves to the bigger picture … and daily, by the force of your example, lead me to adapt to better ways of seeing and doing.

I wanted to share these things with you, only to remind you of our value in our community and our world as risk takers, doers, and makers of things. Our place in the current economy may feel perilous right now, but our place as contributors to our culture, to the emotional and spiritual requirements of a nation in the process of rediscovering itself … is not in question.

[…]Together we invent worlds; we reaffirm the human experience and make the transformation of perception possible. As a team we commit to risks, to getting things done, and to making things that shine.

Linda Whitney
Golden Mask Awards
Jannuary 26, 2009

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