11:40 a.m., June 26
Theater Critics Circle Awards: Backstage Last Night
It's 7:15. Our annual Craig Noel Award ceremony begins in 15 minutes, and no one's seen Brian Mackey. He'll receive the "Actor of the Year" award - for a truly impressive body of work: Ion Theatre's Bash: The Latter Day Plays; Ion's The Woolgatherer; San Diego Rep's In the Next Room (the vibrator play); and Cygnet's The Glass Menagerie. And he's nowhere to be seen.
I used to be a teacher and one of the thrills of being a theater critic, similar to teaching, is watching actors develop. Brian hasn't just grown, he's sprouted: in depth, versatility, and nuance. His Gentleman Caller in Glass Menagerie was the best I've seen (among umpteen).
Now it's 7:20. Pam Kragen, indefatigable President of the Critics Circle, comes backstage, breathless. Still no Brian.
"He RSVP'd, right?" True, but he never signed in with Fred Tracey and Jessica Padilla at the front desk.
What to do? Find Claudio (Raygoza) or Glenn (Paris) - artistic and producing directors of Ion Theatre - and find out!
Several critics wend their way back through the incoming crowd - of 500 - headed toward their seats at the La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art, in search of Raygoza and Paris.
It's 7:25. Carol Davis, who writes for examiner.com/san_diego and sdjewishworld.com (and who, in a longstanding tradition, helps load me into a tux every year), comes backstage: "Brian's home with the flu."
Oh great! A gaping hole in the centerpiece of the ceremony. Now what?
Have Claudio accept for Brian? And call him on a cell phone?
Well sure, um...(I mean, think about it: we have the most sophisticated theater audience in town, and we're ad libbing???)
Claudio (in an act of untold courage) phoned Brian from the podium. And put him on speaker. When Brian said "hello," the full house roared.
Stunned by the accolade and flogged with the flu, Brian gave an acceptance speech, broadcast through the house, that was humble, thankful, and knocked the socks off everyone.
Claudio Raygoza calling Brian Mackey
And the show - turning a potential glitch into the highlight of the evening - went on.
top photo: sdtheatrescene.com
More like this:
- Jesse will kill herself tonight — Jan. 21, 2015
- Three decades of San Diego theater — Feb. 12, 2014
- Bengal Tiger at the Bagdad Zoo, Ion Theatre (Part two) — May 21, 2013
- Acting in the Moment (of Uncertainty), Part Two — Feb. 15, 2012
- Nominees for Craig Noel Awards, 2011 — Dec. 22, 2011