Celebrating the 25th Annual Barrymore Awards at the Bok Building

-Brenda Hillegas

Twenty-five years is a long time to celebrate something. It’s a number worthy of recognition. When it comes to Philadelphia theatre’s scene, though, and everything Theatre Philadelphia has done to help our city’s arts culture strive, every year is deserving of a celebration. That’s why we have the Barrymore Awards. The awards and ceremony, nationally recognized, honors the local artists and theatre companies in the greater Philadelphia region. I attended last night’s event- my first time at the Barrymore Awards- and witnessed such talent and enthusiasm for the arts. I’m looking forward to making this night an annual “must-do”!

The 25th Annual Barrymore Awards took place in South Philly’s Bok Building (once the Edward W. Bok Technical High School). Inside, you’ll find mixed use spaces, a restaurant, a bar, creative workshops, and so much more. It’s the perfect place to celebrate Philadelphia’s theatres. The audience sat down, knowing that there was a good chance they were about to see some future Oscar winners, Tony winners, Emmy winners. For theatre and movie buffs, the Barrymore Awards definitely get you hyped for the upcoming awards season.

This year, shows like The Color Purple (Theatre Horizon) and August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean (Arden Theatre Company) took home many awards. There were also tons of shows created and written here in Philadelphia. Paging through the program booklet, I was blown away at everything I missed out on this past year. After being in the Bok Building and watching so many people thank their cast, crews, their audiences, I wish I could have seen way more shows this past season. I couldn’t believe how many original stories and songs I missed out on right here in our city! Of everything I did catch recently, I was extremely happy to see Boycott Esther (Azuka Theatre) take home the award for Outstanding New Play.

I especially loved how much everyone supported one another last night. The constant cheering, applause, screams of joy, hugs, jumping up and down…it’s so clear that the theatre community and companies lift each other up. I’ve never seen so much respect and admiration for one another in one room. We could all use much, much more of that daily.

During performance company Lightning Rod Special’s acceptance speech for the June and Steve Wolfson Award for Evolving Theatre Company, they noted the importance of evolving when it comes to the arts. The landscape of theatre is always changing and they, along with everyone else nominated last night, stay on top of that change.

After the show, we were all treated to popcorn and champagne before making our way up to the building’s rooftop bar for more celebrations. The weather was cool, but not too cold. Everyone looked radiant in their awards attire, dancing and having a great time. There was wine, delicious food, happy music, and beautiful views of the Philadelphia skyline.

The Barrymore Awards increase the awareness of Philly’s theatre scene, showcasing the community and the diverse content that our wonderfully creative Philadelphians work so hard to produce each season. If you have a chance to attend the awards one year, do it. Even if you haven’t seen many of the shows nominated; do it to root for the local arts and to encourage more pieces of work from our great city.

Visit http://www.theatrephiladelphia.org for this year’s winners. The website also has a complete list of theatres and shows to pick from. The Barrymore Awards and Theatre Philadelphia help remind us that there are so many theatres, theatre groups, adaptations, original content, and creative people in our city.  You’ll never run out of something to do here. Go see a show this weekend if you can. Or this season! And tell your friends.

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