Transcripts

Honoring the Audience: The Gary Lee Maker Audience Award

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

13:40:26
Welcome back to "Metro Connection." I'm Rebecca Sheir and today we're looking at ways Washingtonians are thinking outside the box and coming up with some rather unconventional and often unexpected ideas. We'll kick off this part of the show with an idea that's unconventional and unexpected in a rather dramatic way, I guess you could say.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN 2

13:40:44
Good evening, everyone and welcome to the 27th Annual Helen Hayes Awards.

SHEIR

13:40:51
Each April, the Helen Hayes Award recognizes excellence in professional theater throughout the Washington area. But next Saturday the Washington theater community is presenting an entirely different kind of award, not to an outstanding professional on the stage but to an outstanding person in the audience.

MS. LORRAINE TREANOR

13:41:10
Because without an audience a play is a rehearsal, you know.

SHEIR

13:41:13
Lorraine Treanor publishes the website dctheatrescene.

TREANOR

13:41:16
A play is such an ephemeral thing, you know. It's not a painting you can go and see again. It's not a movie you can go to see again. But really, it resides in the memory and in the passion of the people who receive that.

SHEIR

13:41:28
And so she created the Gary Lee Maker Audience Award to honor these very people. It's named for Gary Lee Maker, the consummate Washington theater fan who, in February, died of cancer at age 68.

TREANOR

13:41:40
Gary was a close friend and I always knew him as someone who grabs somebody's hand and takes them to the theater. And I just thought, I don't want his joy and his wisdom to pass.

SHEIR

13:41:53
And just to give an example of what she means...

TREANOR

13:41:55
This is a little hard to say, but we were talking and we knew that this was probably the last time. And out of the blue, he said I wish I bought tickets to Follies and I said why? And he said, so I can leave them for someone.

SHEIR

13:42:10
Stephen Sondheim's classic musical is playing now at the Kennedy Center. It's a star-studded production with Bernadette Peters, Elaine Paige, Jan Maxwell, and Ron Raines.

MR. DAVID TANNOUS

13:42:20
It is magical and I can understand why Gary wanted to see it. In fact, I've seen it twice already and I'm going to see it again.

SHEIR

13:42:29
Which shouldn't come as a surprise given the voracious theatrical appetite of this fellow. His name is David Tannous.

TANNOUS

13:42:36
And I am the very surprised recipient of this award. When Lorraine called me up, I said, what? What? What? But I've been going to theater here, well, maybe for 30 years and I have to think back how long it's been.

SHEIR

13:42:53
But whatever the number, David has been hopping around the ever-growing Washington theater scene for quite a while. And with an average of 30 shows opening each month, that's a lot of hopping. Just take a look at his Rockports.

TANNOUS

13:43:06
The soles are almost completely gone and the fronts are very badly scuffed beyond any attention of shoe polish. And so I wore these deliberately today because these are my D.C. theater shoes and I wear them out in all senses of the phrase.

SHEIR

13:43:23
He sure does. He says his previous D.C. theater shoes were held together by duct tape.

TANNOUS

13:43:28
And I do have a new pair of shoes so this is not an on-air solicitation for a new pair of shoes for baby here.

SHEIR

13:43:38
But it is proof that David Tannous is one committed theatergoer. Yet members of the nominating committee like Washington Shakespeare Company's Jay Hardee...

MR. JAY HARDEE

13:43:47
It just seemed completely obvious to me that it would be David Tannous. Like, how could it be somebody other than David Tannous?

SHEIR

13:43:53
...didn't choose David for his quantity of theater going, they chose him for his quality and the unbridled zeal he radiates from his usual front row center seat.

HARDEE

13:44:02
I remember we did a production of "Dangerous Liaisons" which I think David saw five times. And each time, you could hear him reacting like it was the first time he had seen it. And, like, you know she was going to say that. But there would be this very honest-like intake of air that you could hear from the front row center. And you just know that he's engaged in this way that actors just appreciate so much.

SHEIR

13:44:27
As does the rest of the audience or so says Christopher Henley, WSC's artistic director and another member of the Gary Lee Maker Audience Award Committee.

MR. CHRISTOPHER HENLEY

13:44:35
Every audience is different and has its own character, show to show and David being in the audience always makes that show one of the most engaging and engaged. And the entire audience kind of feels freed to enjoy the show more.

SHEIR

13:44:50
And it's the same infectious quality that made Gary Lee Maker such a beloved audience member says Susan Abjure (sp?) , his long-time friend, especially she says when it came to his laugh.

MS. SUSAN ABJURE

13:45:01
And he wasn't shy about using it and you know, as he would do that you would see other audience members starting to respond to it.

SHEIR

13:45:09
Susan says Gary also used to write up reviews of the plays he saw and email them to his massive list of friends.

ABJURE

13:45:16
And before email was common, Gary would write all these reviews out by hand and snail mail them to everyone. He was that big a supporter and had that much enthusiasm for the theater.

SHEIR

13:45:29
Not unlike the first recipient of the award that bears his name. Now David Tannous doesn't mass email personal reviews, but he has been known to stuff his pockets with local theater brochures and distribute them to fellow theater goers before the show.

TANNOUS

13:45:44
And this is my semi-joke, but the theater has become my religion. I proselytize and I carry tracks.

SHEIR

13:45:52
And of course, he takes the opportunity to talk up Washington theater whenever and wherever he can, including, yes, during public radio interviews.

TANNOUS

13:46:02
I want to say to everybody listening to this you have a treasure in so many different theater groups in the D.C. area and it is worth you making a little effort to find this treasure and to enjoy it.

SHEIR

13:46:16
Because after all, like D.C. theater scenes, Lorraine Treanor says a play needs an audience...

TREANOR

13:46:23
You are the last beat of the play when that play is over. Theater is being written for you. You need to be there.

SHEIR

13:46:30
...whether you're in the upper mezzanine, the side orchestra box or, yes, front row center, wearing your D.C. theater shoes. The Gary Lee Maker Audience Award will be presented June 11th at Artisphere in Rosslyn, Va. For more information on the award and for a ton of resources on the latest and greatest in D.C. area theater, visit our website, metroconnection.org
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