This Monday night I attended the 26th Annual Elizabeth Sterling Haynes Awards which celebrate professional theatre in Edmonton. I have never gone before, but have known many who do and who have been nominated but I never quite felt that it was something I would feel at home at. Boy, was I wrong! I was delighted to know at least half of the people in the room, if not more, and to regard those people as friends. That was a delightful surprise. So why go this year? I went this year because I have seen so many shows this year that I actually felt invested in them. Doesn't that sound weird? But it's true, having sat in those audiences watching those performances and seeing those effects and production elements, I wanted to celebrate the nominees and the winners.
Everyone looked fabulous. I am not just saying that. Edmonton's theatre community is phenomenally good looking. It is hard to pick a best dressed, but there were some amazingly gorgeous women there. I wish I had pictures (and if I find some I will post), but my favourites for most stunning include Kristi Hansen, Lora Brovold, host Amy Shostak, Melissa Thingelstad, Shannon Blanchet, Erika Noot, Sarah Van Tassel, Jessica Peverett, and Liz Nicholls. There were many, many more, but those ones stand out for me. It was a a beautiful night all around! The men looked good too, but it's harder for me to list those. Not only good looking, this is also a community of truly nice people. I was sitting with my friend, Catherine, and as we would see someone go up or walk by, we would comment on how nice they were. Either she or I would lean in, "She's such a lovely person", or "He's a sweetheart." It shouldn't be surprising to me that these talented people are also so generous of spirit, but it was something I noticed when we were all in the room.
I am not going to list all the nominees and winners. You can find that here. I'd rather talk about the evening as a whole!
I loved the authenticity of the winners in their responses to their wins. Melissa Thingelstad's acceptance speech touched me deeply. She carried this joy about what she does and that poured from her with good humour and honesty. I want to feel the way she does about what I do. I will be striving for that this year. I also loved Ellen Chorley's tickled pink gushing about her wins. It was lovely to see her celebrating with a spirit of immense gratitude and surprise. Kudos to her, the hardest working person I know out there! Matthew Hulshof was a delight and his speech was a wonderful tribute to the joys of TYA. Jesse Gervais was just ridiculously funny. There were jokes about puppies in commercials, Baby Jesse, and fathers who'd disown daughters if they forgot to thank them. We were treated to fantastic musical performances by Julian Arnold, Kendra Connor, Jason Hardwick, Eric Wigston, Garrett Ross, Maddie Knight and John Ullyatt. There were a lot of wonderful authentic moments.
It's interesting, because although I might have voted for different winners in certain categories, it hit home for me the whole 'it's an honour to by nominated' because as I looked at the nominees for all the categories I could see why each one of them was up there on the list. Initially I thought there were some curious omissions (e.g. Michael Peng in An Accident, Lorne Cardinal in Where the Blood Mixes) but then I thought, "But who would they replace?" The lists overall were strong and it is a testament to the depth of Edmonton's theatre community that we have this kind of playing field. So I could celebrate those who won, knowing that there was a level of excellence and while I might have chosen differently, comparing theatre is always going to be apples to oranges so it's best to let the accountants do their work and leave it at that.
That said, I was overjoyed at Theatre Network's Let The Light of Day Through winning Best Play and best New Work. How wonderful to have a New Alberta Work win best play. As those of you who read my blog know, this was the show that blew me away this season, so it was my emotional favourite. It was also the winner of the APC last year so we at APN are extremely proud of how well it's done. It's nice to have something you champion do so well! A wonderful end to a wonderful evening!
I hope to see as much theatre this season so that I can go as informed next year!