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The seventh annual Wilde Awards again lived up to their reputation as "One Wilde Night," as more than 220 local thespians came together August 20 to honor their contemporaries. Sponsored by Between The Lines, Michigan's weekly newspaper serving the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and allied communities, some 19 awards were presented, celebrating the very best professional productions and performances of the 2007/2008 season. Three additional awards recognizing outstanding achievements were also bestowed.
"The Wilde Awards give us an opportunity to celebrate and honor the people and organizations that enrich our cultural lives here in Southeast and Mid Michigan," said Donald V. Calamia, BTL theater editor and the night's master of ceremonies.
The evening began with hors d'oeuvres and entertainment by Ian Finkelstein and Alex Levine, two thirds of the acclaimed Tony Lannen Trio. Following the social hour, guests adjourned to the beautiful Gem Theatre, where they were treated to a sequence of hilarious video productions. The first, created by Mikey Brown, featured area theater critics Martin F. Kohn, Robert Delaney, Jenn McKee, David A. Blackburn and Calamia, along with ceremony co-hosts Jaime Moyer and Suzie Jacokes, who provided audience members a comedic insight into what a critic's day really entails. The short production proved, as Calamia put it, "That when you can't do something, you can always write about it."
The second video, produced by Marc Evan Jackson of the Los Angeles based improv troupe The 313, offered guests a brief, but humorous retrospective of Between The Lines' 15-year history. Co-publishers Jan Stevenson and Susan Horowitz would later comment that the years had, in fact, flown by, but not quite so quickly. Later in the two-hour event, four additional videos provided by Andy Cobb and starring various members of The 313 were also screened - to much laughter and applause.
Following the introduction of Calamia and co-hosts Moyer and Jacokes, the serious business of the Wilde Awards began. Production and performance awards were dolled out in a variety of categories, and the evening's first half culminated with the presentation of the annual WILDE-r Awards, which honored unintentionally funny moments in the 2007/2008 season. This year, a number of the WILDER-r Awards went to anonymous audience members for performances that could never have been scripted. Also recognized was the stage crew of Meadow Brook Theatre's Biloxi Blues, for excellence in the face of disaster during the production's problem-plagued opening night.
As has become a Wilde Awards tradition, local troupe The Actors' Company staged an original comedic musical at the mid-point of the ceremony. This year's mini-production spoofed the play Doubt, which was independently staged by three of Michigan's professional theaters during the 2007/2008 season. All three productions were nominated for Wilde Awards, but it was Ann Arbor's Performance Network Theatre's Doubt that walked away a winner, taking home three well-deserved awards.
After the musical interlude, co-publishers Stevenson and Horowitz returned to the stage to present the Publishers' Award for Excellence to the Detroit Repertory Theatre, which recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. Stevenson also discussed the success of EncoreMichigan.com, launched during the 2007/2008 season - and alluded to a large Encore-related announcement on the horizon.
Also presented was the recently renamed Jim Posante Community Pride Award. Presented by ACLU attorney Jay Kaplan, the award was given to Out 'N About Flint for using the arts to raise awareness of LGBT issues in Genesee County.
Posante, a highly regarded teacher, director and performer, passed away last year, leaving large holes in both the theater and LGBT communities. Calamia's announcement that the Community Pride Award had been renamed in Posante's honor drew the audience to its feet, as many had felt his impact on their careers and lives. They returned to their feet when Posante's production of Dirty Blonde won for Best Production with LGBT Themes. A tearful Carla Milarch, Performance Network's executive director and star of Dirty Blonde, accepted the award in his absence.
The final award of the night was Calamia's Critic's Choice Award, which went to Box Fest 2007, for creating opportunities for women in theater.