One of the things I’ve always loved about the Merritt Awards is that they aren’t a competition: they are a recognition. They are not about the absolute best design or designer that year: they are to recognize those who do great work, further the art, and collaborate with the director and the rest of the design team for the betterment of the production. You could call it the “Plays Well With Others” award. Check through the list of previous recipients. Chances are, you’ll be saying “well of course! They’re great to work with!”
Another award needing nominations (and personally dear to me), is the Robert Christen Award for Excellence in Technical Collaboration. In essence: a person who excels at translating the artistic desires into the technical reality. As we know, the best technicians are those who understand the art, (and arguably, the best theatrical designers are those who understand the tech). These are your stand-out Master Electricians, Prop Masters, Stage Managers, Programmers, Wardrobe Masters, etc… The people that designers say: “Oh, you’re doing a show at ABC Theatre? You’ll be fine. Sarah Smith is there!”
Related: Similar to the Emerging Designer Award, there is now an Emerging Technical Collaborator Award.
The 23rd Annual Michael Merritt Awards, dialogue with the designers, and design exposition are Monday, May 16, 2016 at Loyola University’s Newhart Family Theatre. In addition to recognizing the importance of the collaborative process, one of the unique things about the Merritt Awards presentation is the dialogue with the awarded designers. It is a moderated discussion, followed by a question and answer session. Personally, this is my favorite part of the Merritt Awards: a discussion of the art with your peers and mentors.