Don’t get me wrong — I love that Atlanta’s arts scene has the Suzi Bass Awards, and that they’re now in their fourth year. For far too long local actors have been toiling without any kind of recognition, seeing the quality and quantity of theater coverage in local press dwindle to next to nothing.
The awards, modeled loosely after Chicago’s prestigious Joseph Jefferson Awards, seem to nominate from a very small pool of theaters, and an even smaller portion of shows. Year after year, Atlanta’s big-budget house Alliance Theatre makes a crazy sweep of the awards. The theater produced at Horizon, 7 Stages, Theatre in the Square, Georgia Shakespeare and Synchronicity regularly makes end of the year critics list picks with more frequency (and they employ far more local talent) — so how come they never make out big at the Suzi’s?
And how is it possible that Theater of the Stars — Atlanta’s oldest professional theater, and one that’s done more to support Atlanta’s talent pool than any other in its 50+ years of existence — doesn’t get one nod for any of its productions from the Suzi committee? That’s kind of an embarrassing oversight for a committee that’s been organized to recognize Atlanta’s professional theater.
I think the Suzi organizers should take a look at the “Jeff” awards and consider a little re-organization. They have Equity and non-Equity awards. In Atlanta, where most of the theater is produced by Non-Equity houses, the Suzi Award restrictions may have limited their talent pool a little too sharply. And if they’re ignoring theaters like TOTS, maybe it’s time to re-examine what qualifies for the awards.