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THEATER NOTES : Ovation Awards by the Numbers

November 13, 1994|Don Shirley | Don Shirley is a Times staff writer

Charlton Heston, Alfre Woo dard, Leonard Nimoy, Rue McClanahan, Mariette Hart ley, Ray Bradbury, Bruce Davison--they're all slated to present Ovation Awards on Monday night at the Alex Theatre.

But what might not be acknowledged Monday is that a few of the final decisions in this process--the first peer-judged competitive theater awards to cover most of Los Angeles County--will have been judged by a very small number of peers.

Eighty-two voters turned in score cards on shows during the preliminary round of voting, which resulted in the nominations announced a month ago. But during the final balloting, in an effort to ensure scrupulous fairness, only those voters who had seen all five nominees within a given category were allowed to vote in that category. (A computer knew who saw what, because voters turned in score cards on each registered show they saw.)

In one category, no one saw all five nominees--so no one voted in the final round. In that case, the computer chose the winner based on the raw scores turned in during the first round. In "four or five" categories (out of 24), there were five or fewer voters in the final round, said Bill Freimuth, executive director of Theatre LA, which sponsors the Ovations. Freimuth wouldn't identify the categories or voters.

This means a few voters had a lot of power. "But they weren't told they had that power," Freimuth said. There will be no ties--in the event of a tie, the computer breaks it by using the initial raw scores.

A pool of 70 voters, including some new participants, has already begun judging for the 1995 awards. Any voter who saw fewer than 25 shows last year was dropped from the voter list, so Freimuth is optimistic that voters will see more of the shows in the next go-round. However, there probably will be more to see--so far, 48 shows have registered for the 1995 awards. Last year at this time, only 22 had.

The ceremony Monday is designed as a splashy Tony-like affair. Eventually, Theatre LA hopes the event will be televised, like the Tonys. But this year there is at least one advantage in not having to fill a Tony-like TV time slot--acceptance speeches will not be cut off by the orchestra after a few seconds, as they have been at recent Tony ceremonies.

Or is that a disadvantage?

Excerpts from seven or eight of the 10 shows nominated for best musical (in separate larger and smaller categories) will be presented at the Alex. The definite no-shows in that regard are "Sunset Boulevard" (which is otherwise occupied with a New York opening Thursday) and "Falsettos." The stakes are higher in the smaller musical category than any other, because the winner will receive $1,000 in honor of the late Franklin R. Levy, who often produced small musicals in L.A. The money was donated by Levy's friends and family. The other winners will receive nothing but statuettes.

The ceremony will be followed by a party in the lobbies and forecourt of the Alex. The whole event will cost Theatre LA approximately $30,000. The hall, most of the food, much of the labor and the accounting services of KPMG Peat-Marwick were donated.*

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