by Jennie Webb
I’m not a big awards gal. As in, I don’t personally watch the Academy Awards and if you have an Oscar party I probably won’t come. Tonys are not really on my radar, and I pretty much stay away from local theater awards & ceremonies. (How clever of me to personally avoid any recent nominations, huh? Right. Let’s not go there.)
Now I know awards are kind of a necessary not-so-evil. They’re a very useful tool for artists. In the best sense of the word, I think they can celebrate our art. And they mean a lot to a whole lot of people – just because there are winners does not mean the rest of the world (read “us”) are losers, right?
Okay. Admittedly, I have not been above posting awards on my own damn resume. So I should just get over my fine socialist self, keep an eye on my over-developed empathy gene (why can’t everyone win?) and put this all into perspective.
Which brings me to the Hollywood Fringe Festival Awards. And a question about LA FPI’s contribution to them.
Awards are a big deal at the Festival, and when we first began to partner with the Fringe (thanks to an introduction by the incredible, soon-to-be-leaving-LA Cindy Marie Jenkins – thank you, mama!), the subject of sponsoring a Fringe Award came up. But wait: LA FPI can’t be choosing one artists or project over another! (See “socialist,” above.)
Still, we didn’t want to miss out on an opportunity to celebrate female artists. So we tried to figure out how to give an award that would let us highlight numbers, give accolades and create some good old gender parity awareness.
Here’s what we thought up: We’ll give our awards to venues, not artists. We’ll tally the numbers to determine the overall percentage of Fringe shows written by women, and give “Most Wanted” Awards to recognize venues that had over 50% shows by female playwrights.
Well, we’ve done it for the past four years, and the numbers we got each year told us that about 39% of the scripted Fringe shows each year were by women. We gave away a few “Most Wanted” Awards every year and that was all well and good.
But for the first time, this year over 50% of the venues got LA FPI Awards – 10 total, the most ever. Also in 2015, we found that over 46% of the overall Fringe shows were femme-penned. Statistically, that’s a pretty significant leap… in the right direction!
I was ridiculously excited about this – thrilled at the reaction by the Festival peeps (Ben, Stacey & Meghan are my heroes for making this madness happen every year) and the Fringe Femmes. And so grateful to Madison Shephard & Julisa Wright (Constance Strickand behind the scenes) for graciously presenting the 2015 “Most Wanted” Awards.
I heard the Fringe Awards Ceremony this year was a blast and then some. Hooray for accolades, congrats to all of the “winners” and so glad LA FPI was a part of it, again! (Even though my ass was conspicuously absent, again – see “over-developed empathy gene,” above.)
So here’s where I am now with Fringe award-ness: When we first thought up the LA FPI Award we dreamed that in the best of all possible LA theater worlds, venues would proudly post them on their walls and compete for women artists to book in their spaces so they could get them. I’m not sure that this is quite happening, but I am gratified that theater operators have come up to me and told me that they deserved one, despite the numbers (tee hee hee).
What are your thoughts? Especially if you have a healthier attitude towards awards than some of us, is the “Most Wanted” Award something that gets our message out in the best way? Is there another way we can celebrate the work of the Women on the Fringe, and the theaters and theatermakers that are actively supporting that work?
Let us know. We’ve got awhile to think about it. And in the meantime, accolades to all the Fringe Femmes from LA FPI – you’re all winners and we want you ALL!