Theater community applauds as Louies step into spotlight vacated by Klines
A new organization has announced it will pick up the baton left by the decision of the Professional Theatre Council of St. Louis (PTC) to put its Kevin Kline Awards on hold.
The newly formed St. Louis Theatre Circle, consisting of local theater reviewers, will hand out its Louies awards for the 2012 season. Nominations will be announced in mid-January, with a low-budget awards ceremony to take place this spring.
Critics will consider for nomination the presentations of all local theater companies, excluding touring, college and community productions. Companies will not be required to pay fees or commit to a specific number of shows a year, and members of the theater community will not be part of the circle.
The Louies awards gathering will be a small, inexpensive affair with winners taking home certificates, not trophies. Food and beverages will likely be for sale at the event.
The new awards are not designed to take the place of the Klines, according to Ladue News theater critic Mark Bretz, one of the organizers. The idea was under consideration several years before the PTC decided to suspend its awards earlier this year.
“It was always to complement and supplement the Kevin Klines,” Bretz said. “It is our hope and our wish that the Kevin Kline Awards will return in 2013.”
Theater professionals embrace idea
Deanna Jent, artistic director of Mustard Seed Theatre, which took home 2011 awards for outstanding new play or musical for “Falling” and outstanding director of a musical for “Godspell,” was thrilled to hear about the circle.
“I think it’s great we can continue to celebrate all the wonderful professionals in the St. Louis theater community,” Jent said. “I’m glad they’re doing it, not for the awards as much as for the gathering, for the party. I enjoy having a chance to dress up and go out and see my other theater friends,” Dent said.
Scott Miller, founder of New Line Theatre -- which stopped participating in the Klines several years ago -- also welcomed the announcement as well as the prospect of a less formal gathering.
“I always felt the theater community took the Kevin Kline Awards too seriously,” Miller said.
Miller also believes that a group of reviewers will have a better grasp of New Line’s brand of theater productions.
“One thing that always bothered us about the Kevin Klines is that so few people among the judging pool understood the kind of theater we do,” Miller said. “The critics understand theater and studied theater, and that will be a better situation for us.”
Black Rep founder Ron Himes added to the chorus of praise for the new organization and its members.
"Of course, we respect our St. Louis critics and appreciate their efforts to build awareness for the appreciation of St. Louis theatre excellence," Himes wrote in an email.
Outgoing PTC president Charlie Robin also noted that the concept of a critics group has been in the works for some time, and, speaking for the PTC board, applauded the idea.
“I’m all for anything that’s similar to the mission of the Kevin Klines and the PTC, that promotes and celebrates theater in St. Louis,” Robin said.
Robin can envision either one of two scenarios: the circle working with the PTC or taking over its mission.
Should the Klines make a comeback, the two organizations will support each other, Bretz said, pointing out that other cities and other performance categories already offer more than one set of awards.
“New York has its critics circle, which compliments the Tonys,” Bretz said. “With movies, you have a number of awards like the Golden Globes and the Oscars.”
The cast of local critics is still being formed. Specific rules regarding the selection of nominees and winners are still being worked out, and an informational website will soon be available.
“We’re excited about the possibilities these awards will bring to the community,” Bretz said.