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TBA Online: News & Features: Top News

Celebrating Together: The Team Behind the TBA Awards

Wednesday, October 18, 2017   (0 Comments)
Posted by: TBA Staff
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On Monday October 30, members of the Bay Area theatre community will gather at the Herbst Theatre for the fourth annual TBA Awards Celebration. With over 300 finalists in the various awards categories, it is an event of epic proportions and requires a veritable army to pull off.

This year’s squad includes 400 or so adjudicators, members of the theatre community who attended over 350 productions in order to select the finalists and recipients; the Theatre Bay Area staff, who work countless before-, during-, and after- hours on the celebration; the event’s hosts, performers, producers, the newly formed TBA Awards Celebration Advisory Committee, that provides logistical and moral support for the event; and of course the theatre companies and theatre makers whose work over the past season has given the Celebration its raison d’être.

Theatre Bay Area checked in with some members of this year’s team to hear what working on the Celebration has meant to them. 

Erin Merritt (producer/director)

Erin Merritt. Photo by Lia Keating.

 TBA: What was the most challenging thing about producing this year’s awards celebration?

Erin: Producing the awards is a little like producing Hamlet—there's this incredibly well-known script that you have to follow: the script is really longer than ideal, plus everyone has a perfect realization of it in their minds that you aren't going to be able to match. So I'm just hoping to strike a balance of making sure everyone feels both fully honored and truly engaged so they enjoy the time they spend there. 

TBA: What are you most looking forward to at the celebration?

Erin: I'm most looking forward to the performances and to a couple of moments we aren't publicizing. If things go well, people should leave feeling deeply connected with each other, with the sense that in the continuum of our careers, we will each get our turn on that stage, and that we are here less to compete with one another than to pull each other up and thrive as a community … The person sitting next to you at these awards might be your next great collaborator, and the conversations you have might be the spark for shows you never could have dreamed of before you arrived that night.

TBA: Have you been surprised by any aspect of this year’s preparations? 

Erin: What has struck me is the overwhelming feeling of love that is coming from the team of people working on the show … My favorite moment so far was watching the video co-host Tristan Cunningham made for the [Theatre Bay Area] Facebook page. I had asked her if she'd film herself saying something about the awards, and the next thing I knew, she had sent us a whole, carefully orchestrated, titled-and-everything promo video about how excited she is to be hosting. I must have watched it 10 times already because the love and creativity absolutely emanates from the screen—it's this mini-masterpiece in itself, packed with curiosity and enthusiasm. … It made me excited to see what she and [co-host Jeff Raz] will bring to the actual show. But even more than that, it reminded me exactly why making theater is such an important and radical act in difficult times—every bit of connection between individuals, every shared curiosity or passion, every communal imagining both brings joy to us as individuals and fortifies us as a community. Our work is important work in these times, and the Bay Area theatre community knows how to make its efforts count. There is nowhere I'd rather be than here, and I hope everyone will come to these awards and celebrate our “here” together.

 Tristan Cunningham (co-host)

Tristan Cunningham at the 2016 Celebration with her award for Outstanding Female Actor in a Play.

 Photo provided by Tristan Cunningham.

TBA: How are you preparing to host the Celebration? 

Tristan: Truthfully I think I am still a bit in shock that I was chosen to host. To get the opportunity to lead the celebration [of] so many amazing folks in the Bay Area is such an honor. I really realized how amazing this event was last year after winning an award. I felt extra special for months afterwards.  So I am hoping with co-host Jeff Raz by my side that we really spread the love and make everyone feel that extra special feel. Erin's focus seems to be embracing the reality we are in, honoring the incredible work folks in the arts are doing, and having a good time while doing so. So my homework seems to be finding opportunities to embrace her vision and I'm really excited to do so.

Clay David (member of the advisory committee) 

Clay David attending the 2016 Celebration with his mother. Photo provided by Clay David.

TBA: What made you join the advisory committee?

Clay: We formed a TBA Theatre Collective, a coterie of seasoned professionals animated by a desire to ensure that the awards ceremony would be an exquisite fête.  Since I have orchestrated and designed very large galas and celebrations, from The Bentley Reserve and Bill Graham Civic Auditorium to intimate receptions, I know how to advance the unique ritual of expressing love and gratitude, guaranteeing that everyone feels valued, honored, and treasured.  As a Cajun from South Louisiana, I bring my cultural “lagniappe” (something unique and special to express gratitude) to the table.  Southern graciousness is not a catchphrase, as anyone who has worked with me knows that my foundation is good cooking, a splendid setting, kindness, and charm that is open to everyone.  Everyone is a winner, everyone is embraced, and we all sing the praises of the unsung in our unique theatre family in the Bay Area.

The 2017 TBA Awards Celebration takes place on Monday, October 30 at the Herbst Theatre at 7pm. Get more information and tickets here.