The Future of Theatre Awards

Theatre awards have long been a way to recognize the outstanding achievements of individuals and groups in the theatrical world. However, as the industry continues to evolve, so do the attitudes towards these awards. In Southeast Queensland, there has been a growing movement towards acknowledging the bias and subjectivity inherent in awards, and the need for greater diversity in the judging panels.

The Problem with “Best”

One of the biggest issues with theatre awards is the use of the word “best.” This word implies that there is only one winner, and that this winner is objectively better than all the others.

While the word “best” is often used in both sports and the arts to describe outstanding performances, it is arguably more applicable in sports due to the objective nature of performance evaluation. In sports, there are clear and measurable criteria that determine the best such as the fastest time or highest score.

In the arts, the selection of a winner is often subjective and influenced by personal biases. As such, it is important to consider alternatives to the word “best” such as “favourite” or “outstanding.” These alternatives better reflect the nature of personal preference and allow for a more open dialogue about winning.

Acknowledging Bias and Subjectivity

Another important aspect of theatre awards is acknowledging the inherent bias and subjectivity in the selection process. Judges bring their own experiences, preferences, and backgrounds to the table, and these can greatly influence their decisions. It is important to recognize and address these biases, and to strive for greater diversity in the judging panels. By including individuals with different backgrounds and experiences, the selection process becomes more reflective of the broader theatrical community. This includes diversity in terms of race, age, gender, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic background.

Southeast Queensland Context

Southeast Queensland has several theatre award offerings that cover the various sectors of the local industry. The Gold Palm Theatre Awards, for example, have been acknowledging the contributions of community theatre groups and high schools in the area since 2009. The Matilda Awards, on the other hand, have been recognizing the outstanding achievements of the professional theatre industry since 1987. Finally, the newest kid on the block is Theatre Haus’ Wall of Faves which, since 2019, has celebrated the immense and diverse talent of the local arts and entertainment industry.

The future of theatre awards in Southeast Queensland and beyond will likely see a greater emphasis on acknowledging bias and subjectivity, promoting diversity in the judging panels, and using considered language that better reflects the nature of personal preference. As the industry continues to evolve, it is important that theatre awards keep up with changing attitudes, in order to best recognize the outstanding achievements of individuals and groups in the theatrical world.

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