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These Awards Are Going on the Road

February 18, 2001|DON SHIRLEY | Don Shirley is The Times' theater writer

You too can vote for a theater award.

With the imminent introduction of the National Broadway Theatre Awards, nicknamed the Stars, audience-based balloting is about to begin in one segment of the theater world.

Shows eligible for Stars will be "official Broadway tours" outside New York City that play at least four weeks and are produced or presented by members of the organization sponsoring the Stars, the League of American Theatres and Producers.

The league is the trade association for commercial theater. It co-sponsors the Tony Awards, but they're limited to shows in New York City on Broadway contracts.

"The road"--the network of touring shows--brings in big bucks for commercial producers. While some artists on these tours are eligible for Tonys because they work on the New York versions of the same shows, others--especially actors--do their work only for the tours.

These shows "are such a critical part of our industry," said Jed Bernstein, the league's executive director. Failure to honor them in the past is "an oversight that needs to be addressed." The Stars also "will provide a fun way for fans to participate."

Here's how: Register on the Web at You will be asked which of the eligible shows you've seen since June 1. As of last week, 27 shows were eligible, but several more might be added.

On April 1, ballots customized for each market will be e-mailed. For those who don't have access to computers, printed ballots will be available at theaters that hosted the eligible shows. Voting ends April 20.

Winners will be selected in each of 10 categories, based on the highest proportion of votes from those who say they've seen the show. The categories are musical, play, score, song, director, actor, actress, "visual presentation" (sets, lights, effects), costumes and choreography. Winners will be announced May 21 at the league's Road Marketing Conference in New York.

In Los Angeles, the eligible shows will be most of those that appear at the Ahmanson, Pantages or Shubert theaters. But the Pantages' "The Lion King" won't be included. If it moves to a second city within the next eligibility period, it will then enter the competition.

Touring shows that play Pasadena, Thousand Oaks, Long Beach, Costa Mesa, Palm Desert and San Diego will be eligible. Productions remain eligible as long as they keep touring, so--as with TV series that win Emmys--a long-running tour could win several years in a row.

COLONY MOVES UP: Colony Theatre Company has received the OK from Actors' Equity to sell 168 seats per performance, up from the 99 seats used in the group's debut last year in its new quarters at Burbank Center Stage.

The company had planned to stay at 99 seats through the first year of its new residency, but rising subscription totals--from 3,240 last season to nearly 4,800--forced an earlier expansion, said the company's Barbara Beckley.

The Colony will operate on a per-performance agreement with Equity for the next year; actors will be paid "significantly more" than they were on Equity's 99-Seat Plan, Beckley said. They also get rehearsal pay, but pension and health contributions aren't required. Another row of seats will open up with each production during the coming year until the Colony reaches full capacity of 276 a year from now, when a regular Equity contract will kick in.

SANTA BARBARA UPDATE: Santa Barbara Civic Light Opera is planning to cut back on its own productions and supplement them with tours produced by others. Details of the restructuring will be announced this week, said managing director, Anthony Rhine.

The organization was in serious trouble a year ago but successfully raised enough money--about $1.9 million--to keep going, Rhine said.

However, artistic director Charles Ballinger and three other staffers were laid off last week. Rhine said it would be "fiscally unwise" to keep paying them during the next two months--in the absence of the previously scheduled "Into the Woods," which was canceled in order to do required renovations in the group's venue, the Granada Theatre, following a change of ownership.

Rhine hopes to reschedule "Into the Woods" before 2001 ends, he said. "Fiddler on the Roof" and "Forever Plaid" are still slated for May and June.

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