After taking flak for its largely white cast of winners in 2017, Theatre Philadelphia’s Barrymore Awards — the local Tony Awards equivalent — has soul-searched for ways to diversify.
They started making inroads in June when the Barrymores eliminated “best actor" and “best actress” distinctions. The 2018 nominations and awards in acting categories went to two performers — two “outstanding leading performance in a musical” awards, two for “outstanding leading performance in a play,” two for “outstanding supporting performance” — and so on, with gender removed from the equation.
Now, the organizers are partnering with the national Parent Artist Advocacy League for the Performing Arts, based in Philadelphia, to cover babysitting for some awards nominators in hopes of diversifying their ranks and also diversifying the plays and the artists who get nominated.
Fund-raising is underway for the Barrymore Awards Childcare Fund, a pool of money that individuals can apply for to help cover child care while they are out scouting theatrical performances for Barrymore prospects.
Theatre Philadelphia executive director Leigh Goldenberg said the thought was that some untapped groups of would-be Barrymore nominators and judges — women, single parents, and people of color, among others — might be “self-selecting themselves out” of participating “because it costs them money.”
With babysitting covered, “they can still volunteer their time but not have to pay out of pocket,” she said.
A broader pool of nominators should then broaden the sorts of performances that get nominated, she said. “By diversifying among the folks who are adjudicating the work, I expect that we’ll also diversify the work that gets recognized.”
For the 2019-20 theater season, about 75 nominators will see 12 to 15 plays apiece and evaluate the various elements in those shows (acting, lighting, set design, costumes, directing, best play, musical, etc.) that might be Barrymore-worthy.
Their evaluations will then filter up to 28 judges, who will see 25 to 60 plays apiece, consult the nominators’ reports, and make the choices for who gets nominated.
Donations for the child care fund are being accepted online at fundraising.fracturedatlas.org. The goal is to raise $1,500 for the coming season and to have money available for showgoers by the start of the season, beginning July 1.