For those outside the region, the Gene Kelly awards are the "Oscars" of high school musicals in the Pittsburgh region. Around thirty districts agree to have their shows judged, scored, and compared with others in the area. The result is a series of nominations (released yesterday) and awards (presented in late May) honoring Best Actor, Director, Crew, Orchestra, Musical, etc. Yesterday our school found out they got quite a few nominations and the cast was naturally excited. And while happiness is a good thing...I couldn't help but be a little troubled by it.
Perhaps it's just my own experience in high school musicals, but I've found that the true sense of pride and accomplishment has to come from the cast itself. It's great to hear your family and friends enjoyed the show, and it's always fun if strangers congratulate you afterwards...but at the end of the day, you either were pleased with your performance or not. I was in several shows that the audience didn't care for, but I felt they were some of our best work...and I've been in productions that received solid praise even though I knew they were short of our standards. Regardless, when the musical/play would close, we all were left with our memories and free to felt content (or dissatisfied) with our experience for the rest of our lives. We had control over our reactions.
The Kelly Awards (or any similar award program) may have some positive attributes, but I find it odd that it causes people to surrender their barometer of success to others. If you're happy because you received a particular set of awards or nominations, by contrast you're going to be disappointed and low when the awards don't come. By participating in this program (a program which doesn't even include the 5 biggest and most affluent districts in the region), the 30+ musical programs in the region cede control of the success of their show to group of judges. I remember seeing several productions over the past few years and having students run up to me afterwards and say "So do you think we'll win the Gene Kelly Award!?" I remember saying "were you happy with your performance? Because that's all that matters" and walking away. If you accept the thrill of victory that comes with winning a Kelly Award, you must therefore accept the pain of losing. You've allowed someone else to tell you if you've succeeded or failed. While this might be the whole point in a football game, it's damaging and counter-productive in an arts program. Especially with non-professional students.
Am I angry or annoyed Baldwin received 11 Gene Kelly Awards? No...but maybe I'm irritated to see so much credence being given to something which should be secondary to the cast's opinion. I thought the students did an excellent job with their production, the parents and other teachers were equally impressed, and the students had an unforgettable time putting on the show. To me, that's all the "pride" and "amazement" we need. If I'm "even more impressed" now that they've been given these artificial honors, maybe I'm detracting from their actual performance or production. As Edward Bloom suggested, if you want to "be the hero of your story"...you don't wait to be validated by anyone.