DCMetroTheaterArts’ beloved NYC critic and columnist Richard Seff has an award named after him: The Richard Seff (Seffie) Award, and yesterday the 2016 recipients were honored: Lois Smith and Bill Camp.
Richard Seff takes us into the ceremony:
As I sat among the members of Actors Equity’s Council, an audience that included the winners of this season’s Best of the distinguished featured and supporting players on and off Broadway, I was reminded once again that the word “community” is heard in almost every acceptance speech, for very good reason. Never have I felt a part of that family more than I did as merely a member of the audience that afternoon of May 26th. I was so delighted by the Selection Committee’s choice of the two winners — Lois Smith for her lovely work in two off Broadway plays: John at Signature Theatre Company and Marjorie Prime at Playwrights Horizons, and Bill Camp for his dynamic performance as Reverend Hale in The Crucible.
A row or two off to the side sat Kristin Griffith and husband Peter Maloney, friends of Lois Smith. I spent many happy moments sharing a backstage suite of dressing rooms with Kristin in The Countess at the Lamb’s Theatre. I’ve admired and reviewed Mr. Maloney’s work many times. Nick Wyman, the ex-president of Equity, was there too. I had seen him early in the season in Sarasota playing President Johnson in a marvelous production of All the Way. In earlier years I enjoyed playing with him in The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940 at Circle Repertory Company and on Broadway at the Longacre Theatre.
Lois Smith’s agent introduced her, and I had known him when I was active as an actor. He represented her until he retired, and has remained her close friend and mentor. Elizabeth Marvel, a fine actress who had first attracted my attention in a startling production of The Little Foxes under the direction of Ivo van Hove, was there to present the award to Bill Camp. I’d longed to meet her ever since she took the stage as Regina Giddens.
The afternoon gave a new meaning to family, for in theatre when you are involved as an actor with others on a project, you are together six days a week, and the work you do binds and bonds you much as it affects soldiers and their buddies in the trenches. Greeting someone, as I did last week, whom I might not have seen in years, brought memories flooding back and was enormously satisfying. A career in live theatre (with dips into television and film, but always returning to the roots) is rewarding in ways that I haven’t run across elsewhere. I may be wrong but I don’t think an oral surgeon feels familial with a teacher or nurse or assistant with whom he may have once worked closely.
Of course I can’t speak for others, but I do know that listening to the likes of Lois Smith and Bill Camp (as well as the gifted youngsters Ben Platt and Alana Arenas, winners of the Clarence Derwent Award for new talent) speak of the joys of creating live theatre, made me grateful once again that I’ve been allowed and able to live my working life as actor, playwright, librettist, agent and critic. I’ve worked both sides of the footlights, and have found rewards everywhere. I’ve taken time in the other media as well, but nothing is as exciting or involving as a new project on stage.
Next month will mark my 70th anniversary as a member of Actors’ Equity, and that esteemed organization, founded in 1919, has been in so many ways at my back ever since I joined it in 1946 as an apprentice in summer stock in Newport, Rhode Island.
In 2003 the Actors’ Equity Foundation established the Richard Seff Award, an annual award to be given to a male and female character actor who is 50 years old or older and who has been a member of the Actors’ Equity for 25 years or longer, for the best performance in a featured or unfeatured supporting role in a Broadway or Off Broadway production.
Read Richard Seff’s NYC reviews and interviews on DCMetroTheaterArts.
Richard Seff’s website.