I’d like to thank …

It was the 1st of April in 1973 that I spent one night in a French jail.

On the 31st of March 2014 I flew to West Palm Beach and drove to The Broward Center for the Performing Arts to attend the 38th Carbonell Award Ceremony. That is the South Florida theatre awards jamboree, and a Carbonell, as you see below, looks a bit like something Henry Moore would have made if he’d worked with miniatures. It’s a golden ovoid with a hole in the middle.

300_carbonellI went because I was up for an award. There were five nominees in each category.

How one perceives an award ceremony in which one is nominated depends upon many things. A few spring to mind:

The state of your Buddhist practice
How many Vodkas you had beforehand
Whether you trip over your frock as you go to make your speech

I had a speech prepared, but as the ceremony got going and I watched acceptances, I began editing in my head. You get about 90 seconds to thank everyone from your agent to your mother, the various directors, designers, producers … and let’s not forget that these days it’s etiquette to mention your fellow nominees and say how amazing they are … it’s a lot to cram in, especially if you are nervous and/or want to be witty/cool/humble …

As I watched, my indifference as to whether I won or not, gave way to the weakest part of the actor’s psyche. It’s the part that, when you’re offered a job (any job), responds “They want me? Me, they want me!”

photo by Claire Brownell

Photo by Claire Brownell

And then there’s the whole concept of awards and can something as intangible as quality in stage work be treated in the same way as a 100 yard sprint? And does it make sense to be competitive about theatrical endeavor? And what about celebrity obsession, and what about the function of art? And many such ands … Internally I re-wrote my speech and gave it a new beginning. “I’d like to thank all sentient beings in the known universe …”

And all the time I knew the date would turn at midnight and it would be the April 1st.

The 1st of April always tickles me. Here’s how that night in jail happened: Jean was my girlfriend back then and we set off hitch-hiking from Calais, and the first lift we got took us to Beaune. About half way to the French Riviera, a fantastic place to get to on day one of an adventure that lasted six months. We arrived at about 9pm. The town was closed.

BeauneTown4We thought there would be a youth hostel or a cheap auberge, one within our close to zero budget, but no. After a couple of hours traipsing around we went to the police station to ask advice. The sergeant on duty said, ‘Well, you could stay here if you like.’ We accepted gratefully. Two beds with firm mattresses, complete with a pillow, a rough blanket and an en suite bathroom. But the jail toilet had no seat, just like the ones you see in the movies.

I slept well. At 6am a new sergeant unlocked the cell, we were up and awake and pleased to have the door opened. The sergeant thought it was about the funniest thing he’d ever seen.

And we went for coffee and a brioche and to look at the town.

burgundy_wine_tours_hospices_beaune

April Fool’s Day has connections to many festivals, the Roman hilaria, and the day of The Lord of Misrule. It’s the day when tradesmen send apprentices to get left-handed sky-hooks.

The Fool and The Actor have connections.

the-fool

That’s Pamela Coleman Smith’s rendering. She was a set designer and her painting above, one of 78 she made, is featured in the world’s most popular Tarot deck. Sadly she got no royalties. Actors wander too, and as with The Fool, life works best when they are able to trust that the shale escarpment will rise to meet their feet as they step forward.

Maybe how you view award ceremonies depends upon whether you win or not. I can’t comment. I didn’t win. I never got to deliver my speech. The one that thanked everyone, said how nice it was to be connected to the South Florida theatre community, to see old friends, be an actor …

That’s me and Todd Allen Durkin, he’s a lovely actor. We were both nominated and he got the golden ovoid.

Photo by George Shiavone

Photo by George Shiavone

I admit to a momentary pang, a small twinge of strictly professional jealousy, but that passed as soon as I got myself outside the contents of a single bottle of Stella Artois, and soon after that it was April 1st once again.

19 thoughts on “I’d like to thank …

  1. Beth

    I thought perhaps that you were equating the awards ceremony with a night in jail….which isn’t too far off. But I enjoyed your blog as always and your vision of life. Miss you!!

    Reply
  2. JOE BLY

    My Dear FellowActor (you, pro–me, no),  I wanted so much for you to win an Ovoid…as your reviews, which were incredible, pointed out, you won where it counts most…across the footlights.  My twelve years on the convention circuit (there really isn’t a circuit) provided a ton of “inside” experience with, literally, the very best journeyman speakers “on the circuit.”  An example of celebrity speaker (to draw attendees) would be Colin Powell, then, recently retired, from head soldier, advisor to presidents–his banquet fee was $60,000.  Most of the 4,000 members of the National Speakers Association were journeyman speakers, many of the top one hundred, commanded fees of around ten thousand==my top was $975 for forty minutes, and I didn’t get it often.  My point is that awards are more about the awarders than the awardees.  It would have been nice…and April Fools Day working in there, helped, I’m sure,  My very best regards, you are a big winner to me,  Brother Joseph

    ________________________________

    Reply
  3. Theda

    I did not see Todd’s performance but I was privileged to see your performance in ‘Exit the King’ quite a bit! You were the winner in my heart and everyone’s here at Palm Beach Dramaworks my friend! xo

    Reply
  4. David Conolly

    Magical, dear Colin. I’ll email you Michael Leunig’s take on awards and competition. You and he are very much on the street where each other lives, thank God. You already have the gong for Top Bloke anyway. Or did I forget to mail it? Typical me. Love, David

    Reply
  5. David Conolly

    Dear Colin,

    As promised in my brief comment on your blog, here’s an excerpt from a wonderful article by Michael Leunig in The Age 07.12.02 headed: “How to be a cartoonist.” Great stuff.

    ” … a word of warning: there’s one thing you must never, never accept or abide or submit to under any circumstances – and this is very serious: no matter how bad things get, or lonely or sad or frightening, don’t ever, ever, ever – please, for crying out loud – don’t ever be tempted to nominate yourself and enter your work in the Walkley Awards or any such sucky and disgusting ‘excellence’ awards.

    This is disastrous. Not only might it be a self-abusively vain and desperate conceit to do so but, more seriously, it is an attempt to win the approval of your peers. Indeed, it is the most soul destroying and tragic manoeuvre a cartoonist may attempt because it is an irreversible abandonment of your sacred stupidity and your lowly outcast loser jerk perspective. Any cartoon that can be liked by a committee is really not worth drawing; in fact, must not be drawn at all! Better to become a stockbroker.

    Stay clear of these hollow monkey-suited power-trip gatherings of crawling self-congratulating winners and all the excellence they espouse. Stay away from excellence at all costs; it stinks. Stay out of the loop, the club, the inner circle.

    Stay home and stare at a blank piece of paper or read your hate mail or go for a walk in the moonlight and stop trying to be attractive. It’s a disgusting and futile pursuit. Stare at the blank piece of paper and consider the fox terriers of the field; neither do they reap nor do they spin, yet the award-winning cartoonist in all his glory was never arrayed like one of these.”

    Great stuff, eh? It had me cheering when I first read it because it meshed exactly with my lifetime concern about the corroding possibilities of competition, an odious activity which was at least in part, probably mostly, responsible for my miserable twelve years in Cranbrook School. It was an activity which dogged my footsteps for decades afterwards, however hard I tried to shake it off. Now, one might think that the church would be the last environment where competition should thrive but oh no – the very reverse is often true. And it wasn’t until, in my forties, I was arrested for drunk driving one sad Saturday night, thus forfeiting forever any chance of ‘preferment’ in the church, that I was finally set free from the dark and malign company of that whispering fiend, competition. At last I could live my life just as I am, highs and lows, successes and stumbles, without one eye cocked over my shoulder. What a relief! I was able to settle down and begin to enjoy the richness of life as a parish priest, what you might call an ecclesiastical GP. Best thing that ever happened to me.

    Oh dear, I suddenly realise I’m on one of my hobby-horses. A very precarious mount, if ever there was one. But it was you who got me started. I’m sure life on the stage presents a whole bag of issues which differ markedly from my (and Leunig’s) experiences. But I figured you might enjoy a peek into them. I’ve always thought that there was some mystic connection between the callings of actor, cartoonist and priest – the role of fool chiefly.

    Much love, David

    Reply

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