Ann Arbor Theater Vixen: Jenn McKee's Blog











{August 28, 2009}   Awards and announcements

Between the Lines’ Wilde Awards – the only regional theater awards program left in southeast Michigan – happened Wednesday night at Detroit’s Gem Theatre, and I had a front row seat.

OK, not so much. More like a seat against the back wall at a small table by myself (since Joe stayed home with Lily). And I gave up after waiting several minutes, and getting absolutely no closer to the bar, on getting an overpriced, pre-show cocktail. But nonetheless, I was there as some terrific professional work from the past year got much-deserved recognition (and I eventually snuck out for a mid-show cosmo). Congrats and thanks to all who work so hard to bring high quality theater to our area.

Near the end of the ceremony, host Don Calamia announced that I – along with former Oakland Press critic Judith Cookis Rubens, now in the Grand Rapids area – would be joining the review team at BTL. This may have confused some folks, so I thought I’d clear up what’s happening.

As a staff writer at AnnArbor.com, I will continue to preview and review all the shows I would normally cover in the Washtenaw area. But now, thanks to the increased openness and flexibility of online journalism, I can also take additional work from publications like BTL. (My hope is that some cross-pollination will occur, bringing readers from AnnArbor.com to EncoreMichigan and vice versa.)

I’m stoked about this, since I will soon get to experience live theater in venues that will, in many cases, be brand new to me; places I’ve been dying to go but previously couldn’t. So Williamston, Tipping Point, Ringwald, Who Wants Cake?, BoarsHead, Planet Ant, Meadowbrook, Detroit Rep, Go Comedy, etc. – I’m coming for you soon. And I can’t wait!

In other news, AnnArbor.com is now encouraging local theater companies to consider filming part of a rehearsal for promotional purposes. The Acorn would post it with the preview when it runs, and obviously, the theater company could also post the clip on its own site as a new way of selling an upcoming show. I think it sounds like a fabulous idea…

A thought I had this past week, meanwhile, concerns high school coverage. Despite the high quality of high school productions in the area, I’ve always been hands-off about reviews. This shouldn’t surprise anyone. If you think about it, these are often young people who are trying theater for the first time. They should have the freedom to just enjoy the experience without the added pressure of an “adult” coming in and critiquing them. Yes, I would try to be fair, but I would also have to be honest – and I didn’t want the parent phone calls that would inevitably follow.

So I recently thought that peer reviews for high school productions would be a great thing for the Acorn. I hope to find a student or two at each high school who’s interested in arts criticism, and I’ll mentor them as they write reviews of shows. A student wouldn’t review a performance at his/her own school, but rather another at another school, so that they’re more comfortable being objective. This would give the student writers some experience and clips, and provide solid coverage of high school theater groups in the area. Win-win, right?

So that’s what’s brewing on this end, folks. Sorry for being a lazy blogger of late, but there’ll be another entry soon. I hope.

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