Readers make much ado about the Kevin Kline Awards

 FEATURE, FEBRUARY 17, 2011
MUCH ADO ABOUT THE KLINES
The award's the thing: Nice job on the Kevin Kline article ["The Winners' Tale," Melissa Meinzer]. My theater group is a Kevin Kline member, and I do attend the roundtables.

A couple of other angles in your story that I think all of us KK members missed concern the other cities and their theater awards. We were assured by KK personnel that they'd researched all these other cities, and we were modeling our structure on theirs. I guess none of us did similar research. For example, you pointed out that few awards groups mandate pay. (We weren't told that.) You also mentioned the successful split Phoenix did concerning Equity/non-Equity. (We were told rather brusquely that we weren't going to do that — I don't think Stages St. Louis, the Rep, etc., would like that.)

And no one touched on the fact that in Chicago, Washington, D.C., Phoenix, etc., the theaters use primarily resident actors and directors. (We all know that lots of actors in LA move there, but at least they're living there when they're being recognized as "LA theater.") Any time someone brings up all the New York actors winning awards in KK meetings, they're quickly shouted down by reps of the aforementioned theaters.

As I wrote on my website's blog, "One of the only issues not addressed in Kevin Kline meetings — the white elephant in the room — [is] the issue of what is 'St. Louis Theater.' The current team trying to run the Kevin Kline group cites research undertaken on theater awards in other cities — Chicago, Washington, D.C., Phoenix, Los Angeles — and how the origin, operation, judging and standards of the Klines are reflective of those other cities' awards. However, what's unique about so-called 'St. Louis Theatre' is that these larger groups —Stages, the Rep, the Muny — not only employ out-of-town talent for the majority of their on- and off-stage roles, but also win the vast majority of Kevin Kline Awards. That doesn't happen in any of those other cities."

It's a complicated issue, but the issue of "St. Louis Theatre" is at the heart of it. The Kevin Klines are like saying, "U2's going to play here; what a great St. Louis band," or giving Matisse "St. Louis Artist of the Year" for an exhibit of his work at the art museum. We support the arts in St. Louis, but we don't sufficiently appreciate or support the arts of St. Louis — the work created in, by and of this city.

Thanks again for the solid, brave work on the issue.
Joseph Hanrahan, artistic director, Midnight Theatre Company

Cannon fodder: I have a major issue with Ms. Meizner's work on this article: the negative tone and piling on against Jason Cannon. If the article is about the Klines, and Mr. Cannon is representing the organization, that's fine. However, at times, her article seems to be taking shots at Mr. Cannon, and I'm not sure I understand why.

If you want to write an article making fun of Mr. Cannon, then write that article. But, apparently, this article is supposed to be about the Kevin Kline Awards. So stick to that, please. Specifically, comments like, "Everyone's got a Jason Cannon story." That has nothing to do with the Kevin Kline Awards.

Our theater community is a small one. One could also feasibly say, "Everyone's got a Ben Nordstrom story" or a "Scott Miller story" or a "Michelle Hand story." This is bad journalism. Why did she not also tell a less-than-flattering story about Andrea Torrance or Donna Northcott or Ed Reggi or Scott Miller or John Contini?

I, too, am seeking clarity on this issue. But reading this sort of writing is maddening. In the interest of full disclosure, I am a local professional actor, previous Kline recipient, a current nominee and a colleague or at least an acquaintance of everyone mentioned in this letter. I do not intend to defend or tear down the Kevin Kline Awards. I'm not really sure what I personally think. I simply wish for fair and mature reporting and a productive discussion among my friends and colleagues. We don't have to agree on this, but keep the cheap shots to yourself.
Ben Nordstrom, via the Internet

 
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