On August 25 at 6 p.m., the beautifully renovated Woolfe Street Playhouse will open the curtains on the first annual Theatre Charleston Awards Gala. Members of Charleston's favorite theaters will be on hand, dressed in their finest, to mix and mingle and spread the word about just how much their shows have to offer.
The Theatre Charleston Awards are the culmination of several years of hard work and brainstorming by the board members of Theatre Charleston. Made up of representatives of 13 of Charleston's small theaters, including organizations like PURE, Threshold, and the Flowertown Players, the group sought a way to celebrate and promote the shows they put on around the city each year, and to highlight local actors who aren't Bill Murray.
Emily Wilhoit, the executive director of Theatre Charleston, hopes above all that the night will be fun. "We want to make it a celebration everyone can enjoy," she says, knowing full well that awards ceremonies can be tricky. Anxious to keep the voting fair while still being inclusive, she and her team loosely modeled the awards on the Ovation Awards put on by the Los Angeles Stage Alliance.
Last year, Theatre Charleston opened applications for a group of voters to nominate shows, ranking each aspect of production on a 1-10 scale using an online voting system. Voters were reviewed and selected by a board committee. Each voter committed to viewing a minimum of eight shows across five different member theaters. Production categories included set design and costume design as well as lead and supporting actors/actresses and directors in both plays and musicals.
The idea was to include nominees in each theater, rather than allowing two or three of the biggest theaters to garner all the awards. Thus you'll see the top-ranked shows, actors, designers, and directors for each theater, rather than across all votes.
Nominees were named at the end of July, and all ticket holders at the gala event will vote on the final winners (voting takes place before the event). "We have our own sort of PriceWaterhouse to tally the final votes," Wilhoit says with a laugh.
It's evident that the city has been hungry for this type of celebration. The gala sold out of tickets before Theatre Charleston even had a chance to advertise, so they opened up a second room at the Woolfe Street Playhouse apart from the main stage, where viewers can watch the awards via a live video feed. Tickets for the second stage are still available, and are $15 less than the main stage tickets. Regardless of ticket type, patrons will have access to the open bar with specialty cocktails and heavy hors d'oeuvres catered by Home Team Kitchen. Most importantly, all patrons are able to vote for the winner of each award.
Charleston may not be as big as Broadway or as fancy as Los Angeles, but the talent in this town is certainly worthy of celebration.