by Richard Johnson
ACTOR Boy Awards (ABA), the annual event which recognises excellence in Jamaican theatre, rescheduled for Monday, April 2 at the Chasers Café in St Andrew, has come under sharp criticism from one of its nominees.
Keiran King, writer and director of the musical Last Call, is contending the process of selecting nominees for the award is flawed.
Incidentally, King’s Last Call is one of the front-runners in this year’s staging with 11 nods including Best Musical, Best Production, Best Lighting Design, Best Set Design and Best Choreography.
“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,” King said via a post on his website.
“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,” he said.
Nicole Brown, co-chair of the ABA committee, said that no system is without its concerns. However, she has every confidence in her panel of judges.
“I have all confidence in the reputation and experience of our panel. Even the industrywide vote that Mr King calls for will always be subjective,” she said.
Brown said that some amount of revamping work has taken place since January with a view to better streamline the process.
“This year, based on discussions, we revamped our judging panel and requested that producers send in an information sheet, and even Mr King, who is being critical, sent in his sheet,” Brown said.
In addition, she said the ABA is looking to develop software which will see all recommendations from the judges being available to be voted on by judges, as well as the industry.
King’s Last Call and Father Richard Holung’s musical Acts Of the Apostles both share the highest number of nominations in this year’s staging.
King, who last year won the Actor Boy for his acting in the White Witch, said he will again be a no-show at this year’s ceremony set.
“As in years past, I will neither attend nor support the awards, not out of prejudice, but out of principle,” he said.
For three decades, the ABA has honoured several local productions and actors including Leonie Forbes, Oliver Samuels and the late Christine Bell.
This year, the awards show will honour the School of Drama at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts.