Tony Awards

Theater notes: TCG and the Tonys

The national theater scene parties down in Portland. Oregonians grab the hardware at the Tonys. The Drammys and PAMTAs are on the way.

The bright-red-lettered lanyards bobbed and weaved and scooted around the lobbies and meeting rooms and stairwells and elevator shafts of the downtown Portland Hilton and Duniway hotels for four days last week, swinging in perpetual motion from hundreds of chests as conventioneers at the Theatre Communications Group‘s annual national conference scurried around the place like cattle on the brink of a stampede. TCG, a sort of think tank and clearing house for the people who run and work in theater companies across the nation (among many other things, it publishes American Theatre magazine, the bible of the nonprofit theater biz), was in town from Wednesday through Saturday, taking in the sights, seeing Portland shows, meeting and greeting and eating and gossiping, and gathering in small and large groups to hash out the issues of the day. Those ranged from matters of equity, diversity, and inclusion – the conference’s major themes – to such crucial behind-the-curtain issues as raising money, adapting to new technologies, producing in small or isolated markets, and how to create or refine a brand.

Regan Linton with Joseph Anthony Foronda in the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s 2015 production of “Secret Love in Peach Blossom Time.” Photo: Jenny Graham

Out of dozens of possibilities on Friday afternoon, I wandered at random into a large room where a breakout session titled “Creative Access: Accommodations for Professional Performers with Disabilities” was going on. It was crowded: a lot of people were interested in the issue. This wasn’t about wheelchair access or seating arrangements for audience members, though those are important matters. It was about, are theater companies creating roles for blind or deaf or limited-mobility actors, and what do those performers need to do their jobs, and what challenges do they face in auditioning, and are there stairs to deal with backstage or bathrooms that aren’t upstairs or downstairs, and if a performer is dyslexic can she get a copy of the script early for auditioning, or if he’s visually impaired can you supply a reader, and is there a dressing room on stage level, and if not, what can you do to create a temporary one? “When I roll into a room,” the veteran actor Regan Linton said, “I’m trying to get across not only that  I’m the best person for the role, but also that I’m a human being who deserves to live.” She laughed to ease the sting, but the point was made.

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Drammy Awards and Janice Scroggins benefit tonight; Oregon at the Tonys

With two major events in Portland, it's a Monday night to step out

No staying home Monday: It’s a big night out.

Drammy host Isaac Lamb, from his "Defending the Caveman" days. Photo: Jenni Girtman

Drammy host Isaac Lamb, from his “Defending the Caveman” days. Photo: Jenni Girtman

The 36th annual Drammy Awards, celebrating the best in Portland’s theater during the past season, take over the Crystal Ballroom (1332 West Burnside Street) starting at 6 o’clock, with the ceremony at 7 p.m. Actor Isaac Lamb will be master of ceremonies, and he promises surprises. This is traditionally the biggest theater bash of the year in Portland, and it’s open to everyone: free at the door, buy your own drinks. This year, for the first time in several years, the Drammy jurists are choosing a single winner in each category from a pre-announced list of finalists (see the nominees on the Drammy link above), making the awards more in the tradition of the Oscars and Tonys.

For a taste of what’s to come, read Marty Hughley’s profile for ArtsWatch of Grant Turner, who’ll be receiving this year’s Special Achievement Award.

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Janice Scroggins: a joyful noise in her memory.

Janice Scroggins: a joyful noise in her memory.

Another big event tonight is For the Love of Janice: An All-Star Benefit for the Family of Janice Scrogginsstarting at 7 p.m.  (doors open at 6) at the Alberta Rose Theatre, 3000 Northeast Alberta Street. The concert’s sold out, demonstrating both the quality of the lineup and the love and respect Portlanders feel for Scroggins, the pianist and keyboardist who’s been a leading figure in the city’s blues, jazz, and other scenes for decades, died in late May of a heart attack. She was 58. You can read ArtsWatch’s remembrance here. Tonight’s benefit will feature a mighty gathering of musical talent, people who were Janice’s friends and colleagues: Curtis Salgado, Norman Sylvester, Julianne Johnson, Mary Flower, Linda Hornbuckle, Thara Memory, Lyndee Mah, Duffy Bishop, Lloyd Jones, Patrick Lamb, Michael Allen Harrison, Peter Damman, Terry Robb, Reggie Houston … the list goes on and on.

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Congratulations, meanwhile, to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival for last night’s Tony Award wins for best play for Robert Schenkkan’s All the Way, and best actor for Bryan Cranston, who stars in All the Way as Lyndon Baines Johnson. Festival actor Jack Willis originated the role when Schenkkan’s play premiered in Ashland as an OSF commission in 2012. David Stabler has the scoop on OregonLive.

Congrats, also, to the Portland producing team of Brisa Trinchero and Corey Brunish, whose shows pulled in 22 Tony nominations and went home with six, scoring with Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, and others. Here’s the complete list of winners and nominees, via The Hollywood Reporter.

 
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