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Technical Theatre Awards the shine light backstage

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It seems fitting that it took a group of volunteering technicians to establish the first expansive set of Technical Theatre awards, and even more so that the production team was comprised almost entirely of stage managers.

The awards – launched with relatively little fanfare much earlier in the year to an unsuspecting, and sometimes apprehensive, industry – had grown by the time of their presentation to a packed event held at PLASA London on October 8.

Winding the clock back, in a display of extreme democracy the first phase of the TTA process involved canvassing opinions online for which categories should even be considered for the awards, followed by a period of nominations. A shortlist was drawn up and online voting opened to coincide with the ABTT Theatre Show in June.

Ramping up the stakes, in August it was announced that the presentations would be made at PLASA London’s new home at ExCeL during the four day show, and voting for winners closed at the end of September. Since then the air of expectation has thickened as the presentation date drew near, with social media abuzz.

[pullquote]Given the nature of the work being recognised, there is hardly a good time of day to have such a ceremony, and some were not available to collect their award, but it was reassuring to know the deserving were employed and busy.[/pullquote]

Come the hour, pre- and post-show drinks were provided courtesy of Philips Entertainment Lighting, and with so many other credibility-boosting, well-known sponsors on board, there was a genuine feeling of nervous excitement before the ceremony began. The great and the good of the industry were sighted amongst the crowd, while the plasma screens and video cameras gave the adrenaline an added push.

Hosted by Olivier and Tony award-winning lighting designer Rick Fisher, his heartfelt introduction heaped praise on all the nominees (and technicians in general – he admitted to wanting to stage manage before realising how hard it was and so became a lighting designer instead) before introducing the individual awards for outstanding achievement in their fields.

All bases were covered, from stage management to wardrobe, automation to receiving house – a true cross section of the people and places that matter backstage. Sponsors of each award came forward to announce the nominations, and the ‘envelope’ moment arrived as the framed award engraved with the winner’s name was unwrapped from some meticulously prepared brown paper.

Technicians can be an unassuming and modest bunch (despite what you recall from the pub) but the venue was just right – the Theatres Trust’s theatres stage at PLASA nestled in amongst the industry associations in the otherwise technology-packed expanse of ExCeL – to attract a large, supportive audience and make the winners feel at home enough to briefly take the limelight.

The sponsors that supported each award added a sincere touch – industry representatives from companies that the nominees work with every day, from Anton Williams at AVW Controls presenting the automation award, to Triple E’s David Edelstein handing over the building and set construction prize.

Given the nature of the work being recognised, there is hardly a good time of day to have such a ceremony, and unfortunately some recipients were not available to collect their award, but in its own way it was reassuring to know that the deserving were employed and busy.

We had the pleasure of presenting an award – for venue sustainability – to Edinburgh’s Bedlam Theatre – and through conversation with their delegate it became clear just how much winning awards can mean to people that don’t even normally have awards to win, never mind win them.

Enormous congratulations are due to the team behind the Technical Theatre Awards – supporters came forward during the post-show drinks to sponsor next year’s prizes. There

is no doubt that, quite rightly, the accolades will be presented again next year – with an even more competitive field, and even tighter voting.

So, keep that in mind over the next few months – who might you nominate next time around? You’ve worked with someone who deserves one, haven’t you?

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