December 24, 1996
Dear Fellow RIP Awards Committee Members:
Changing a tradition is always hard. The Rip Van Winkle Awards, named for the best-known role of 19th-century Chicago actor Joseph Jefferson, have always been bestowed on one winner in each category for Actors' Equity productions while allowing for multiple winners among non-Equity shows. But this year several of the larger theaters suggested we make all the categories noncompetitive--and threatened to withdraw from the awards if we didn't. At first I wondered "What good is an award if everyone wins one?" and "How many plaques are we going to have to order up anyway?"
But after all, what's wrong with making theaters feel better about themselves? The past few seasons have proved that union actors, directors, and designers who work full-time at their crafts can be just as good as struggling nonunion artists with day jobs as secretaries and Starbucks baristas--if they try really, really hard. Besides, in this time of shrinking financial resources, a Rip Award can be a valuable seal of approval for a grant proposal or a subscription flyer, even if it doesn't mean anything.
In fact, I think we should take things a step further. In addition to giving out multiple awards in every category, why not increase the number of categories--so everyone can win! Here are some suggestions:
Let us know what you think about these suggestions--just drop a note in the mail along with your 1997 dues (we had to raise them this year, but they're still cheaper than buying theater tickets). See you in the new year!
And remember--the show must go on.