For 11 years, CityBeat has sponsored the CINCINNATI ENTERTAINMENT AWARDS. I'm occasionally asked how nominations are chosen, with some people wondering if I just pick my favorites. The answer is an emphatic "no." The process is simple and clear: I invite others who write about theater and the arts in Greater Cincinnati for an evening of conversation about the season. We discuss productions from the past 12 months; the 2007 CEAs include any production staged between July 1, 2006, and June 30, 2007. We review lists of potential nominees in 20 categories for each award — often more than a dozen in each category — as we focus in on four eventual nominees. The nine of us who came together in mid-June lobbied for various shows and performances we admired, encouraging votes from one another. Sometimes only a few of us have seen a specific production, but we respect one another's critical judgments and are sometimes persuaded to vote for a show we didn't see. Some of us vote for fewer than four in a category if we haven't been convinced. I tally the votes in each category, with the top four becoming the CEA nominees. I'm always fascinated by the outcome: Sometimes I agree, sometimes I don't.
But I trust the process, and I like the fact that many opinions are reflected in the final decisions. In 12 categories, the public votes; for the remaining eight, the same panel of nine critics make final choices, again voting for their top pick. The results reflect both public taste (which sometimes includes lobbying from the producers of various shows) and experienced critical judgment. I like the fact that so many shows are recognized, and I'm always excited when a broad array of theaters are under consideration, because it lets everyone know how much good theater is presented in Greater Cincinnati. That's certainly the case for 2007, with 34 productions named, presented by 14 theaters. No single company dominated this year; in fact, the top six companies could have changed places with just one nomination more or less. Another sign of balance is represented in the three "best of" award categories. Nominated for the most memorable LOCAL PREMIERE are New Stage Collective's production of Edward Albee's The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?, Know Theatre's See What I Wanna See, and two shows at Ensemble Theatre, which specializes in new works: Opus and Souvenir. Two of those works show up again in the category of OUTSTANDING PLAY: Opus and The Goat, but they're joined by Know Theatre's contemporary video-enhanced staging of Hamlet and Cincinnati Shakespeare Company's presentation of The Tempest (Bruce Cromer, known to many as the Playhouse's current Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, played the magician Prospero). That's four shows from four different theaters. The same holds true in the OUTSTANDING MUSICAL category, where Know's See What I Wanna See shows up again. It's joined by three others: A brand-new musical from the Cincinnati Playhouse, Ace, about a young boy yearning for a father; a classic 1954 musical comedy from UC's College-Conservatory of Music, The Pajama Game; and a contemporary 1999 Tony Award winner, Parade, which earned a powerful and dramatic staging by Footlighters, Inc., an ambitious community theater company based in Newport. You can submit your choices using the ballot on page 26 of this week's issue or by going to citybeat.com and voting online. The 2007 Cincinnati Entertainment Awards will be presented in a gala ceremony on Monday, Aug. 27, at CCM's Patricia Corbett Theatre. The public is invited. More than an entertaining evening, it's a great way to experience the depth and breadth of our local theater scene and to marvel at the broad array of theatrical choices that comes our way every year. In Curtain Call over the next several weeks, I'll provide more commentary about nominees in selected categories.
contact rick Pender: rpender(at)citybeat.com