New Philly theater group revives Barrymore awards

The Barrymores are back.

The annual regional theater awards for best plays and players were canceled when the presenting organization, the Theater Alliance of Greater Philadelphia, folded last year.

Now, a new organization called Theater Philadelphia has taken on the role, and changed it. During the 2013-2014 season, plays will go through a two-tiered nominating system whereby a short-list of theater productions will be submitted to judges.

“So many shows were being sent to the judges that they would see 90 to 100 shows a year. Which is difficult to do, trust me, I used to be a judge,” said Kevin Glaccum, board president of Theater Philadelphia. “So we changed some of the rules to make it a little more difficult to get to the judges.”

To qualify, a theater company must meet an elevated pay scale for cast and crew ($150/week for actors, $500/show for designers, $750/show for directors) and have a minimum of 12 performances within a 30-mile radius of City Hall.

Glaccum, who is also the artistic director of the small, edgy Azuka Theater company in Center City, says the lighter load of the new system will allow more local theater professionals to take on judging responsibilities.

In addition to awards for best actor, director, ensemble, etc., Theater Philadelphia will continue to present the three endowed honors — the Otto Haas award for an emerging artist, the Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Brown Martin award for play-writing. Glaccum says a fourth award will be instituted: the Wolfson Family award for an evolving theater company, carrying a $10,000 cash prize.

The next award ceremony, slated for October 2014, will likely be a more toned-down affair than previous Barrymore galas at the Walnut Street Theater. Several town hall meetings among the local theater community arrived at a consensus that the ceremony had become bloated.

“There was a lot of grumbling about the ceremony itself in years past,” said Glaccum. “Brevity is important. We would still like to have some live theater involved in the award ceremony, but it had gotten out of hand. The red carpet thing always felt a little ersatz, not who we are as a community. It felt like we were trying to be something we weren’t.”

The Barrymore Awards are the only function of the new organization. Its predecssor, the Theater Alliance, had also coordinated auditioning events, ticketing systems, and marketing campaigns, some of which have been assumed by other theater companies.

Applications for prospective judges will be posted to Theater Philadelphia’s website next week.

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