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TBA Online: News & Features: November 2019

#TBAawards19 Recap

Wednesday, November 6, 2019   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Sunshine Lampitoc Smith
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By Sunshine Lampitoc Smith
with contributions from Shannon R. Davis and Nicky Martinez

It’s the first week of November, and another TBA Awards Celebration is now in the history books!

What a night! The Herbst Theatre was closed to packed with at least 800 folks in attendance. Our hosts for the evening were the legendary Margo Hall and the delightful Dave J. Abrams, who opened the program with a hilarious and entertaining number about some of the finalists for this year’s awards. Tony-winner, former Bay Area resident, and all-around superstar Daveed Diggs appeared via pre-taped video to provide a surprise intro and touching closing tribute to the Bay Area theatre community.

This was the first awards celebration for two of TBA’s newest staff members, and I wanted to share what their experience of the evening was like.
All of us in the office are still recovering from the awards celebration, but keep an eye out for a social media roundup and official event photos. We’ll post them as soon as we get them! Please share your favorite highlights from this year’s awards celebration in the comments below or on TBA’s social media channels.

Shannon R. Davis (she/her), Wagooshequaw
Director, Educator, Actor, Activist, Membership & Events Associate at TBA

2019 was my first ever TBA Awards ceremony! It felt good to see so many artists lifting each other up and celebrating the Bay Area’s diverse artistry.

I had the distinct honor of inviting the audience to acknowledge the land, and the original peoples of this land with me. It was heartening to hear that the audience was struck by my words. I was proud to share my Ojibwe greeting with them. I was glad that TBA & the Awards team understood the importance of adopting the practice of land acknowledgement. Acknowledgment itself is a beginning step. When it’s paired with knowledge, informed action, and partnerships in the Native community, it becomes more powerful. But this beginning step is crucial in us calling upon the public consciousness to be aware of our culture, our rights, and reconciliation. I hope Artistic and Managerial teams in the audience were inspired to start an informed acknowledgement, or naming practice. And, inspired to hire Native artists to center our own stories.

A few days ago, I met and talked with Sacheen Littlefeather, the famous Apache activist/actor/filmmaker that declined the Academy Award in Marlon Brando’s stead in 1973. Brando, hearing about the mistreatment of Natives in the industry, used his celebrity to help Sacheen shed light on the issue. When I spoke with Sacheen, I mentioned that I would be doing a land acknowledgement at an awards ceremony in a few days. She told me to be unapologetically Native, and that the opportunity to speak was a gift we are not always afforded. She’s right. And when we’re given a microphone, we should speak our truth unapologetically. Naming, speaking, and creating are an exercise in power:

“Naming is an exercise in power. Who gets the right to name or be named? Whose stories are honored in a name? Whose are erased? Acknowledgment of traditional land is a public statement of the name of the traditional Native inhabitants of a place. It honors their historic relationship with the land.”

 -Honor Native Land Guide. USDAC.

Beyond getting to be onstage, and speak my truth around such luminary artists, I enjoyed getting to know the TBA volunteer staff. They came from all walks of life. They all had unique connections to theatre. The common thread was that they wanted to gift their time to lift up theatre artists. What a beautiful gift. A special thank you to them. Thank you for the mic, TBA. Miigwetch, Niijis! (Thank you, friends!)

Nicky Martinez, THEY/THEM
Playwright, Actor, Director, and Visual Artist Activist
TBA's Programs and Grants Coordinator

This was my first experience at the TBA Awards Celebration and I didn’t really know what to expect. I was in charge of our Instagram stories and ran around the exciting buzz of the lobby and theatre, capturing moments and really immersing myself into understanding the point of our awards. Jokingly, I related it to the Bay Area Tony’s whenever trying to pitch it to non-theatre goers, but honestly I had no idea how it’s so much more than just awards.

Yes, we acknowledge and award those who do outstanding work within our community, but it’s a gathering of artists appreciating each other. It’s a time to acknowledge our work for ourselves and celebrate each other as an artistic community. It was lovely to reconnect with people I haven’t seen in ages and meet new artists of all talents and specialties, while simultaneously taking videos and pictures of all of these lovely people. Being an artist that was born and raised in San Francisco, there was a big sense of pride and belonging I felt within this celebration, especially when watching the awards ceremony itself.

Seeing Daveed Diggs introduce Margot Hall and Dave J. Abrams, to then introduce the ceremony, was a lovely domino effect of the night. How these well known people within our community began to lift up others from nominees, to legacy award winners, and our angels who are emerging artists within our community. It really solidified my feelings that our artwork makes a difference for our city, and it makes it beautiful, unique, and heaven-like.

I kept thinking of Tony Kushner’s description of San Francisco being Heaven in his play Angels in America; I also thought about Alan Ginsberg’s “Footnote to Howl” where he states, “Everything is holy! Everybody's holy! Everywhere is holy! Everyday is in eternity! Every man's an angel!” And I felt that during the night—the overwhelming feeling of recognition through the mouths of artists cheering and lifting others up that were onstage and off. It’s something that I will always cherish and hold when thinking about the awards moving forward. I’m excited to continue working with TBA and for next years Awards celebration where we remind ourselves again that our work is valid and beautiful and is recognized by our community.