Patty Amador, then-features editor at the Daily Republic, asked me in 2008 if I wanted to be involved in the Arty Awards that salute excellence in local theater. I thought she meant announcing an award winner.
She instead asked me to emcee.
Besides one speech class I had at Solano College and talking to imaginary friends when I was much younger (37), I had no experience whatsoever. Still, I am comfortable talking in front of people and, in fact, find it much easier to talk to a roomful of strangers rather than carry on a one-on-one conversation with someone I do not know.
I have now been the emcee for the Arty Awards for six years running and have served as emcee for many other events. I have yet to meet a microphone I didn’t like. In fact, I keep an emergency one in my truck.
Last year, I was asked to emcee the Downtown Theatre Foundation for the Arts’s inaugural March Red Carpet Gala fundraiser. As many locals know, the foundation stepped in when the city shuttered the Fairfield Center for Creative Arts in 2012.
Now, the Arty Awards always has a script, with performance introductions and stage directions. It was written by Kirsten Lunde until last year when I wrote it, so I expected the Gala to have one, too.
When I got to the theater at 4:30 p.m., Downtown Theatre Foundation for the Arts President of the Board Robert Brudney handed me a bunch of papers that had been printed off the Internet with descriptions of the shows I was going to introduce – some a whole page long. I freaked out in my head, because the show started at 6 p.m.
I furiously edited them, then winged it. It went off very well and the audience was none the wiser. This year, I wrote the script and felt more prepared.
During my opening monologue, I ripped off Ellen DeGeneres’ most-Tweeted selfie stunt she pulled when she hosted the Oscars on March 2.
The only thing was, I went to center stage and started calling for people to join me, but no one came. I guess they didn’t think I was serious. Right before it got awkward, singers/actresses/theater heroines Dae Spering and Gina Coyle jumped up on stage and saved me.
Our mugging selfie was later photoshopped into the original Ellen DeGeneres pic by actress/photographer Vicki Victoria. In it, my surprised wide-eyed facial expression appears to be a reaction to being unceremoniously goosed by Meryl Streep.
I love to engage the audience and have them participate in the evening, as opposed to just being spectators. That became easier in the second act because at intermission they offered free drinks.
Other Gala highlights :
Reach Fairfield writer Tony Wade at [email protected].