Barrymore Awards - 2019 Community Forums Recap | Theatre Philadelphia
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Barrymore Awards - 2019 Community Forums Recap

Mar 12, 2019

Quick Takeaways:

-Theatre Philadelphia put out a call to the theatre community to help provide feedback on the Barrymore Awards adjudication process and brainstorm potential paths forward

-The Board of Directors and the Barrymore Oversight Committee (BOC) were presented an Executive Summary with results about where there was agreement and what adjustments could be made

-The BOC is currently working on proposals based on community feedback which could be implemented as soon as next season with smaller adjustments to be voted on the Board in the coming month and more dedicated time for larger structural changes

For more detailed info, please keep reading:

Following the 2018 Barrymore Awards Ceremony, our Barrymore Oversight Committee assembled a survey for our community to elicit feedback on next steps for our program. Coming into the 25th year of the Barrymores, we seek to remain ever reflective and responsive program to our region’s theatrical community. This survey, and ensuing conversations, will help guide changes to the Barrymores over the next year and years to come. 

So what did we learn? 

We had 164 people take our survey, and some key takeaways included:
80% of respondents said YES there ways that the Barrymore program could more effectively celebrate what makes Philadelphia unique. 

Primary barriers to entry for participation in the Barrymore program include: 
-required minimum of 12 performances
-payment minimums for performers and creative team
-genre of of theatre-making that defies standard categorization

We also heard from the survey that we share values in our community such as: 
Community, Diversity, Livable wages, Inclusion, Innovation, Collaboration, and Excellence

To dig into these ideas further, we hosted two Barrymore Community Forums at Neighborhood House in Old City on Monday February 18 and Friday, February 25. Our aim was to engage theatre artists, administrators, and adjudicators in discussion of next steps for the our Barrymore Oversight Committee to consider. We worked with Emily Wyner, founding partner of Humblebee, to design and facilitated these forums. 

We kicked off each day with a presentation from our staff on a brief history of the Barrymores, an explanation of how the current process works, changes to the Barrymores since 2014, our continued committment to diversifying the adjudication pool, and some more details of our survey results. Lastly, we identified three potential paths forward for the awards program. 

1. Retain with current program format, continuing to make adjustments to eligibility and
adjudication process.
2. Adopt an entirely new system of awards recognition, eliminating comparative evaluation.
3. Focus only on cash awards, redirecting resources from adjudication process elsewhere.

You can read many more details in the Executive Summary of the Barrymore Community Forums here.

We then gathered our Barrymore Oversight Committee, Board of Directors, and staff with Emily Wyner to review the Executive Summary at a meeting on Wednesday, February 27. 

From the survey data and forums, there is agreement in the following as next steps and changes for the Barrymores: 
● Reduce the burden on judges
● Reduce the number of performances required for eligibility
● Specialize the judging pools/teams, e.g. a musical team or a new work team
● Provide training and education – both what to look for and anti-bias – for all adjudicators
● Offer more transparency on how the Barrymores work
● Broaden awardees, both in types of work and scope of contributors/creatives
● Continue using the two-tiered system of nominators and judges
● Design an equitable structure that honors behind payment minimums while ensuring that young, growing, and/or marginalized theater companies can be eligible

The Barrymore Oversight Committee is a year-round working group of theatre community members who address these questions, both on a case-by-case basis, as well as by reviewing and proposing overall changes to the program. While many of these questions had been on the table for the committee  in the season (and seasons past), it was reassuring to know there is support in the community for these changes. To that end, the initial next steps for the Barrymore Oversight Committee are: 

  1. Changing the judging structure to reduce the burden on these volunteers, while increasing expertise and diversity of judges. A proposal will be made to the board with the goal to implement an adjusted system for 2019/20
  2. Revising eligibility requirements to be more inclusive of theatre companies, particularly those led by marginalized folks, while still honoring the value of fair pay. The aim is to craft a proposal to the board to adopt new eligibility requirements for the 2019/20 season.
  3. Continuing to recruit and select a broad, representative, diverse, and qualified pool of adjudicators in tandem with the Diversity & Inclusion committee.

We have many ongoing questions to be addressed which include, but are certainly not limited to:

  • Furthering our commitment to transparency in the program
  • Self-defining the Barrymore Awards to be uniquely Philadelphia
  • Investing in bringing more recognition to work that does not fit into the system as it stands
  • Unpacking the inherently competitive nature of awards, especially in a community that values collaboration.

Stay tuned for more from us and the Barrymore Oversight Committee!

We are also happy to announce the launch of our 2019-20 adjudicator applications!

CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION ON BECOMING A BARRYMORE VOTER