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The Artsies at 10: A Brief Oral History of Richmond’s Beloved Theater Awards Show 

click to enlarge The cast of the Richmond Triangle Players’ “This Beautiful City” accepts the first-ever people’s choice award, selected through $5 apiece votes at the Artsies.

Jay Paul

The cast of the Richmond Triangle Players’ “This Beautiful City” accepts the first-ever people’s choice award, selected through $5 apiece votes at the Artsies.

When this many thespians get together, you know the party’s on.

The Richmond Theater Critics Circle award show, known as the Artsies, is our own local version of the Tonys, and it’s become such a big deal every year that it nearly fills the November Theatre with people who know what to do in the limelight.

Not only does it bring the tightknit local theater community together for a night of recognition and camaraderie, but it raises money for the Richmond Theater Artists Fund, which provides emergency assistance to theater professionals in dire financial need.

We asked Style theater critics, who have been involved in the production for years, as well as some well-known names from the theater scene, for a brief stroll down memory lane in honor of the anniversary of the show.

“On the night of the very first awards, an actor friend sheepishly told me that people in the community were calling the awards the Rat Cocks [it was originally called the RTCC awards]. At first, I bristled because it seemed derisive, but when it sunk in, I couldn’t help but laugh. Now, I think it’s endearing. People eventually made up Rat Cock pins and I was able to snag one. These days, I wear it with pride.” — David Timberline, Style theater critic, co-founder of RTCC

“While everyone’s dressed to the nines, it can get a little rowdy. The atmosphere is a lot like the Golden Globes. Some people refer to it as Theater Prom.

“The opening from two years ago may be my favorite. Georgia Rogers Farmer was our host, and she regularly performs cabarets. I worked with her to include a lot of her personality in the show. She’s really funny. For the opening number, we surprised the audience by having a drum line come from the back of the theater. Scott Wichmann appeared onstage to distract the audience while Georgia ran from backstage to the lobby and entered with the drum line. They had this rap about all of the year’s nominees as the drum line played. She ended her number in a headstand while belting. It was awesome.” — Rich Griset, Style theater critic, critics circle event committee and scriptwriter

“The first year I went to the Artsies was in 2012, and that year there were three acts with two intermissions. So, K.B. Saine, then artistic director of Sycamore Rouge in Petersburg, thought it would be really funny to bring a huge pack of fake mustaches that she could hand out to people during intermission. … A lot of people got fake mustaches, but then by the second intermission, people were loving those mustaches and had been having a good time and had maybe consumed a few cocktails, suddenly everyone wanted [one]. By the end of the show, there were like a hundred super-tipsy people with ridiculous fake mustaches on, having the most ridiculous time. It was hilarious.” — Deejay Gray, artistic director at TheatreLab

“My favorite moment was when I won for best actress in 2012 for “August Osage County” by Cadence and Virginia Rep. [Laughs.] It was thrilling.

I remember the first year [of awards] at the Firehouse was so well-attended, Harry Kollatz Jr., who was president of the board then, couldn’t even get in. … Two years ago, the wrong envelope was given like at the Oscars. They were presenting best supporting actress, and they read the best actress name instead, Desiree Roots. She was so gracious about it. She got up and said, “Gosh, this is such a shock!” — Melissa Johnston Price, operations manager for Quill, actress and planning committee for Artsies

“You’re celebrating everybody. Everybody has worked everywhere. There’s less competition than you think. You want everyone to do well. Best memory for Richmond Triangle Players was to win best play award the first year we opened this venue, for “Take Me Out,” That was amazing. It meant to us: We made the right choice, and we have arrived now. — Phil Crosby, executive director of the Richmond Triangle Players

“It’s always cool to see Tim Kaine or Mayor Jones up there giving awards, the variation of nontheater personalities. But the thing I find extremely cool is the event is to financially support the Theater Artists Fund – which is intended to be a safety net. The fund is growing larger and larger and it’s nearing [$100,000] now, which ain’t nothing. Our goal is half million, then a million bucks, so that there are significant resources there. It’s fun to get dressed up, but this has been so helpful to the 15 individuals supported by this fund so far.” — Phil Whiteway, managing director of Virginia Repertory Theatre

“There have been dozens of outrageous, hilarious and moving moments onstage over the past nine years of Artsies events. But one of my favorites was in 2015 when we were honoring deVeaux Riddick for the lifetime achievement of him and his late partner, Robert Watkins. DeVeaux is a dignified nonagenarian. He walked slowly on stage, and all he said was ‘Thanks for remembering.’ If we do nothing else, I hope we can assist in the remembrance of incredible work that’s done here in Richmond.” — David Timberline

The Artsies take place Monday, Oct. 9, at the November Theatre at 7 p.m. Tickets are on sale at the Virginia Rep box office or by calling 282-2620.

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