Applause, Please 

The third annual Richmond Theatre Critics Circle Awards are acting up.

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Buoyed by a reported upgrade in its ceremonial glitz and related glamour, the third annual Richmond Theatre Critics Circle Awards will bestow Artsies awards upon professionals at the venerable Empire Theatre on Oct. 17.

The black-tie gala will feature awards in 20 categories covering the 2009-2010 season including best play, best musical and best ensemble acting. Long-time philanthropists and arts patrons Neil and Sara Belle November will receive this year's Liz Marks Memorial Award for ongoing contribution to Richmond theater. Additionally, live performances from the best musical nominees likely will bolster the entertainment value of the evening.

Nominees for this year's Artsies were first announced on Style Weekly theater critic David Timberline's blog Aug. 30. As in previous years, announcement of the nominees was publicly greeted with both joy and a bit of disappointment amongst Richmond's theater community as well as general fans of the local theater scene. Shortly following the initial announcement, Bruce Miller, artistic director of the Barksdale Theatre, updated the company's blog with a lengthy post expressing gratitude for the combined 48 nominations received by Barksdale and Theatre IV, but also politely bemoaned some of the critics' choices and related omissions. Miller did acknowledge in his post, however, the significant difficulty faced by the critics in selecting worthy nominees and thanked them for "giving kudos to theatres and theatre artists in Richmond."

Richmond Triangle Players' artistic director John Knapp also shared his feelings, via e-mail, about the multiple nominations received by his company. "This means a lot for us. In the preceding 2 years, we got 1 nomination each year; even though we had thought we were doing very good work. This year's 14 nominations is a real validation of the solid work that RTP strives to produce and we are so very proud of our work over 18 seasons." 

Reactions to the nominations aside, buzz this year has really centered on the critics' efforts to elevate the production value of the ceremony itself. According to co-founder and Style Weekly theater critic Mary Burruss, they are adding both a red carpet and a projection system "that will project pictures of nominees and nominated shows onstage during their appropriate category."

Proceeds from the event will support the Richmond Theatre Artists Fund. However, fellow Style critic and circle member David Timberline noted the greater intrinsic value of the awards. "… I think the principal value is to celebrate theater as a whole in Richmond and give people an opportunity to gather, have a good time, and express appreciation for each other. This kind of recognition reinforces the efforts of younger or smaller companies that have come a long way in the past year -- two specific examples this year are Henley Street Theatre Company and Richmond Triangle Players. These companies can use awards and nominations to promote their quality and value to supporters and the community as a whole. At the same time, the awards recognize the real blockbusters of the previous season, with productions like Barksdale's ‘The Sound of Music' and Firehouse's ‘Rent' receiving a large number of nominations."

The Richmond Theatre Critics Circle Awards will be held Oct. 17 at 7 p.m. at the Empire Theatre. For tickets, call 282-2620.



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