BY ANTHONY CHASE
Final preparations for this year’s Artie Awards, celebrating excellence in Buffalo’s 2015-2016 theater season, are being made. The event will take place at 710 Main Theatre on Monday, June 6. The bar opens at 7 p.m. The show starts at 8 p.m. Admission is a cash donation of $15, or $10 for students with the proceeds going to the Immunodeficiency Clinic at ECMC.
Charmagne Chi and Amy Jakiel will co-host with me, maintaining the fun and tradition of the event as it enters its 26th year. Allan Paglia will serve as the music director. Peggy Farrell will provide the pre-show entertainment for the 26th time, and Jimmy Janowski will work the red carpet.
This will be the first year in many without music director Michael Hake. It seemed the theater community had avoided the dreaded rule of three that applies to bad news, until, in recent weeks actor Luther Nelson, and Theatre of Youth co-founder Toni Smith Wilson also passed away. Memorial tributes are planned as part of an evening imbued with celebration and tradition.
The event will feature an opening number and numbers from nominated musicals. Once again, the bar will remain open throughout the ceremonies, and will stay open afterwards for an after party. Attendees will be able to take cocktails to their seats, as 710 Main has arranged for cups with covers.
Each year the list of nominees adds a new chapter to the history of Buffalo theater. This year boasts a significant number of new names among those singled out for the excellence of their work.
Every so often, we add a new name to the roster of Career Achievement Award winners, individuals whose careers have touched many lives and will resonate well beyond their own duration. This year, we honor Tony Conte, who ends his impressive tenure as President of Shea’s Center for the Performing Arts after this season. Tony’s leadership has been distinguished by record subscription and attendance at Shea’s, and the impressive restoration of the building, but also for his inclusiveness of Buffalo’s wider producing theater community, particularly through 710 Main. Even our ability to host the Artie Awards at 710 Main is due to Tony. We are grateful for his vision and his generosity of spirit, (and pity the poor slob who has to fill his shoes).
Mr. Conte joins a memorable roster that includes John Buscaglia ’01; Javier Bustillos, 2015; Jeanne Cairns ’02; Derek Campbell ’03; Blossom Cohan ’93; Rosalind Cramer ’94; Beverly Dove ’09; Neal Du Brock ’94; Tom Dudzick ’13; June L. Saunders Duell ’09; Saul Elkin ’95; Warren Enters ’92; Beverly Fletcher ’96; Anne Gayley ’95; Michael Hake, 2015; Stephen McKinley Henderson ’02; Lorna C. Hill ’99; Fred Keller ’93; Randall Kramer ’05; Lynne Kurdziel-Formato ’04; David Lamb ’96; MaryKate O’Connell ’12; Vincent O’Neill ’10; Fortunato Pezzimenti ’98; Meg Quinn ’11; Brother Augustine Towey ’94; Kathleen Betsko Yale ’12.
As Betty Lutes observed at the very first Arties, held in a crowded Garvey’s Restaurant on Pearl Street, the event connects Buffalo theater’s past to its present and its future. There will, of course be an announcement of this year’s Outstanding Debuts, named in honor of the legendary Studio Arena publicist, Blossom Cohan.
I am particularly grateful to the Artie committee, a group of dedicated volunteers who give freely of their time, their personal resources, and their insights, as they give up approximately 100 nights of their year to attend theater in our community and report back on what they have seen. Sadly, until a few days ago, their ranks included the inspiring Toni Smith Wilson.
It always bears reminding, that while we do announce winners, the Artie Awards are not, in any real sense, a competition. Neither is there any campaigning; there are no winner-take-all primaries. We don’t call the winners “Best.” The Artie Awards are really a chance for the theater community to celebrate itself, and to take pride in the year’s accomplishments. That’s what we will be doing Monday, and we hope to have a lot of fun doing it.