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:
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.