Tony Wade, Arty Awards prop, wondering how in the heck to prounounce a name in the script.  (Photo: Robinson Kuntz/Daily Republic)

Tony Wade, Arty Awards prop, wondering how in the heck to prounounce a name in the script. (Photo: Robinson Kuntz/Daily Republic)

Local lifestyle columnists

Backstage at the 28th Annual Arty Awards

By From page A2 | September 17, 2012

In 2008, then-Daily Republic Features Editor Patty Amador asked me to emcee the Arty Awards. I had only asked if I could be one of the presenters. I never asked Patty how many people she’d asked before she got to me, but whatever; I’m just glad she did. I’ve hosted them for the past five years.

The Arty Awards have recognized outstanding Solano County theater productions since 1984. It is a black-tie-optional event that features presentation of awards and excerpts from nominated shows.

My job at the Artys is simple: I am basically a prop. I sit next to Technical Director Darsen Long and when prompted, go onstage, read my lines and return and sit down.

Since it was my fifth-straight year, I now have some juice and I demanded a comfy office chair instead of the hard plastic one of years past. It was granted.

Emboldened, I went into Full Diva Mode and demanded to be led offstage by Darsen each time by Reese’s Pieces, ala “E.T.” and that only Beatallica (Beatles tunes played Metallica-style) or Dread Zeppelin (Led Zeppelin tunes played reggae style) be played in my dressing room. They threatened to replace me with a hologram and I shut up.

I love the controlled chaos backstage. At one point, Downtown Theatre/Missouri Street Theatre Artistic Director Dae Spering matter-of-factly told Darsen she needed a hammer. When he asked what for, she replied, “Gary Coleman.”

Unlike me, who assumed the deceased diminutive actor was making an appearance at the Artys as a murderous zombie (or cabinetmaker perhaps), Darsen immediately knew it was for Miranda Lawson, who was reprising her role as Coleman in the “Avenue Q” excerpt.

It would be awesome if all Arty nominees had easy-to-pronounce names. I received phonetic pronunciations beforehand of names of several Benicia High students from BHS Drama instructor Christine Mani and then ironically mispronounced her name as “Mon-nee” instead of “Manny.”

Other highlights of the 28th annual Arty Awards:

  • Fairfield City Councilman John Mraz was to be a presenter, but was a no-show so I read his lines verbatim, introducing myself as him. I ran with it and since Mayor Harry Price and Councilwoman Pam Bertani were there, at intermission we held a special City Council meeting and made Cap’n Crunch’s Crunch Berries the official cereal of Fairfield and H.R. Pufnstuf the official fictional character.
  • Two local giants of the theater community, George Maguire of Solano College Theatre and Barbara Norris of Solano Repertory Company, were given special honors as they are both stepping down from posts they’ve held for many years. George referred to Artys coordinator Robert Ponce as “Bob” and backstage Robert expressed mock anger and threatened to storm the stage as Chris Guptil held him back.
  • I loved “Crimes of the Heart” and the excerpt with Maria Stats, Julie Saunders and Rebekah Damaris Vega (who won an Arty for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama) cracked me up backstage, as it did when I first saw it.
  • Molly Millet won an Arty for Best Supporting Actress in a Musical for “Reefer Madness,” and said she’d been in theater for 21 years and always wanted to win one. Then she had to go and ruin it by bringing up the 49ers winning earlier.
  • Doris Bumpus, who tied for Best Lead Actress in a musical with Dae Spering, started to sing the showstopper “(And I Am Tellin’ You) I’m Not Goin’ ” from Ivory Arts’ “Dreamgirls” and Darsen noticed immediately that her mike went out. Bumpus continued sans amplification and blew the doors off anyway.

Ironically, I think pitting artists against each other like a sport is kind of odd. So much of it is subjective. But if pursuit of those engraved statuettes helps fuel local creativity, then bring ‘em on.

After five years I had planned to hang it up, but I‘ve become a pretty good prop. Plus maybe next year that Reese’s Pieces thing may happen.

Reach Fairfield writer Tony Wade at [email protected]

Tony Wade

Tony Wade

Tony Wade is the slightly older yet infinitely more handsome brother of long-time DR columnist Kelvin Wade

Discussion | 4 comments

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  • CarmenSeptember 17, 2012 - 5:46 am

    You are awesome !

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  • Jeff BristowSeptember 17, 2012 - 8:19 am

    Tony, You come back next year and I promise to be right there as you come off the stage with your candy of choice. It wouldn't be the Arty's without you!

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Dan ClantonSeptember 17, 2012 - 8:28 am

    4 MORE YEARS! 4 MORE YEARS! Actually, 4-EVER!

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Rebekah Damaris VegaSeptember 22, 2012 - 9:10 pm

    Tony! You spelled my name wrong! But thank you, you did an amazing job and were wonderful as an emcee.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
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