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Giving Credit Where It's Due : League's awards will pay tribute to individuals and draw attention to Valley's high-quality stage work.

October 21, 1994|T. H. McCULLOH | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; T. H. McCulloh writes regularly about theater for The Times

NORTH HOLLYWOOD — There are those who question the value of awards, from the Oscars and the Tonys on down. But awards have always exist ed, and they seem to proliferate yearly.

There are good reasons for this, according to the Valley Theatre League and the organizers of the first Artistic Director Achievement Awards, which will be presented Wednesday at the Academy Plaza Theatre in North Hollywood.

The awards, which will honor San Fernando Valley theater productions staged the past two years, were created for a number of reasons, according to Edmund Gaynes, who along with Cynthia Baer helped organize this inaugural event.

The No. 1 reason, Gaynes said, "is to recognize achievement, and to show our appreciation to all the people who work so hard for so little in our theaters. Another is definitely for morale and spirit. And also for visibility for the theaters in the Valley, which are getting the short end of the stick in coverage. . . .

"We felt there is a need to let people know that the theaters are here and they're high-quality professional theaters."

The initial presentation of the ADA Awards, celebrating the second anniversary of formation of the league, will be emceed by television and radio personality Tom Hatten. Presenters will include Kevin Dobson, Noel Harrison, Peter Mark Richman and Alley Mills, among others.

League President David Cox, artistic director of American Renegade Theatre, suggested the awards to the league, patterning them after similar ones he has started giving at his theater.

Cox said it's important to pay tribute to small theaters and the people who produce their shows, largely on a volunteer basis, or for just "a pittance of pay. These people work very hard with little recognition."

Gaynes, whose West End Playhouse was closed because of the January quake, and Baer, whose Richard Basehart Playhouse also recently closed, said the awards will honor nominees in 33 categories, ranging from direction, writing and acting to technical areas, including stage management, a job rarely given a nod.

Artistic directors at Valley theaters made the initial nominations, which were later narrowed down by a league committee.

Gaynes said the selection process is similar to the system used for the Tony Awards. "They have a committee of critics and other professionals who make judgments that have to be objective. We had to do the same thing. None of this is an exact science. We try to make objective judgments of what fit the categories most appropriately, measuring the subjective criteria you have as to your perception of the shows."

Baer added: "It's not as though we don't know each other's work. We really know each other very well."

The organizers believe that Valley theaters need more visibility.

"There has been an amazing amount of critically acclaimed shows out here in the Valley, and no one pays attention to them," Cox said. "It makes you think."

"It's also consciousness-raising," Baer added. "For some strange reason, people think once you cross the Santa Monica Mountains, you're into community theater. That's not true at all. The actors, directors and writers who work out here are the same actors, directors and writers who work over the hills. We want to make people understand that this is one city and they all live within this one city."

The thought that eludes most people, Cox added, "and should be brought out more and more, is that we are the embryonic stages of all the stuff that goes on. Broadway starts on a grass-roots level like this. So do the movies. Until people realize that these little theaters are where the creativity starts, and give them their just due, we're going to be fighting this battle."

The awards will also bring theater people together, Baer said. "It brings back a very wonderful experience that went on for months and months. That's the nurturing of theater people that's so necessary. It is a community. It's a heritage. It's very hard work for the love of it."

Where and When

What: Valley Theatre League Artistic Director Achievement Awards.

Location: Academy Plaza Theatre, 5320 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood.

Hours: 6:30 p.m. reception, 8 p.m. awards ceremony Wednesday.

Price: $15, Academy parking $3.

Call: (213) 660-TKTS or (818) 996-0505.

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