Over the course of the last 20-odd years, the Actor Boy Awards has positioned itself as a sort of benchmark by which Jamaican theatre practitioners measure the quality of productions and acting performances emerging from the fast-growing industry. But as with any awards of its kind, the ABA is not without serious shortcomings that – now more than ever – alert us that after two decades it’s time for some real evaluation. TALLAWAH opens the floor to a pair of significant players in the contemporary setup:
KEIRAN KING, director, producer, writer, actor
# of Actor Boy Awards won: 1
Even though I started Eight Seven Six, the company doesn’t always reflect my personal opinions. As a company, we are happy for the publicity of Actor Boy nominations, and also happy for any team members who enjoy being nominated. As an artist, my feelings towards the awards are different. Each of us is open to bias and folly. That’s why voting is so great. Voting allows us to have individual faults and prejudices, and yet make fair and binding collective decisions, whether you’re selecting performances or electing politicians.
The Actor Boy Awards are not voted on, not in any real sense. Five judges of varied (and varying) experience and training, appointed by two people, have total control over the nominations and awards. (The nominations are in truth unnecessary, since the judges already know the winners.) With only five voices, the spectres of bias and folly necessarily loom large.
These twin problems can be banished by instituting a secure industry-wide vote. Until we can have confidence in the process, we should not find providence in the awards. As in years past, I will neither attend nor support the awards, not out of prejudice, but out of principle.
We are a tremendously creative and vibrant people. To achieve excellence, we must continually challenge ourselves. While the Actor Boy Awards, restructured, may one day provide the right incentives, they currently foster an exaggerated sense of achievement, which always breeds complacency. As artists, our time should be spent absorbing and reflecting the society, not unduly seeking its adulation. There is so much to learn and say, and only a short and unknown life in which to do so. The greatest award is to create and contribute as much as we can.
DAHLIA HARRIS, director, producer, writer, actor
# of Actor Boy Awards won: 2
I think that everyone, including past and present judges, will agree that the system isn't perfect. I have voiced my issues and so have other practitioners, and I have seen effort being made to address some of the challenges. More still needs to be done, and I don't think anyone including ITI has disputed this. What really, really irks me is you cannot make declarations of non-support and
then use the same ABA to market and promote yourself and your productions. The forms are an indication of participation in the process. If the stance is to have any credibility, refusal to submit and by extension to participate would get far more respect from me. Anything else is hypocrisy.
I'm also very peeved at persons who only attend when nominated. Is that to suggest that only when the judges recognize you they get it right? That is just arrogant and stupid. These cries for change only happen post-nomination announcement then they die for a whole year. I got involved with the PR aspect because I had issues with specific elements. I'm encouraging everyone who has issues why not do the same? Get involved! Not just when its showtime. This will only serve to derail the awards and what then? No recognition of [our] work? What will we put on our résumés then?