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PERFORMANCE: The Actors' Roundtable: Awards Meat Parade

Actors Roundtable
Actors' Roundtable

For 12 weeks, Paden Fallis posed one question each week to a group of professional working actors from a variety of backgrounds in an effort to dig a bit deeper into their artistic working processes.

In this second series, an expanded group of actors explores where their art fits into the larger cultural context.


“Demeaning” and “a two-hour meat parade” was how George C. Scott described The Oscars upon being nominated for his role in the movie Patton. He won, but did not attend. He was also nominated for his work in The Hustler, but did not attend.

George C. Scott was, without a doubt, tightly wound. And yet I don’t think any of us would deny that the myriad of awards shows that seem to crop up year after year, have nothing to do with the work of an actor. However, does this need to designate winners and losers do a disservice to our work?

Do we all lose something by playing into the “two-hour meat parade?”

- Paden Fallis, Performing Arts Contributing Editor




This reminds me of the speech Sean Penn gave when he won the Oscar for Mystic River. He said, and I paraphrase, “All actors know that there is no such thing as a Best Actor.” 

We live in a world that quantifies everything. We can buy and sell, it seems, everything. Art has become a commodity. If we use this logic, then it makes sense that we have these awards to create a yardstick on which to measure the worth of our art. Does this make us as artists strive to create art that will in some way be “rewarded”? Maybe yes. Is this art the best? It is of course subjective. Yet I think that if something as seemingly shallow and self-congratulatory as an award show can inspire people to create great art then I think the “two-hour meat parade” is a necessary evil. Hell, any actor who says they went into acting not for awards or recognition is, in my opinion, lying to themselves. Art cannot be created in a vacuum, especially the performing arts. Deeming actors “winners” or “losers” creates competition that I think is necessary for great art to be created. So as much as Mr. Penn believes there is no such thing as a “best” actor he still accepted his “best actor” Oscar and didn’t refuse his second for his work in Milk. I think I would do the same.




I don’t think award shows and acting awards do a disservice to an actor’s work. It’s simply entertainment and this is the business of entertaining after all. I think if an actor decides to take the award shows too seriously then they are doing a disservice to their work. I have been given awards in the past, but this says nothing about my whole body of work or even possibly my work in that particular show. It’s simply a group of people that are attracted to my work more than someone else’s for their own reasoning. Most of that reasoning has to do with getting a good script, director, or many other factors that have nothing to do with me as an individual artist. Of course it’s wonderful to be recognized for work you feel good about and it’s nice to have something physical to remind you of that achievement, but that doesn’t make another actor a “loser.” I think those terms are what should be retired, not the shows. 




I should recuse myself since I won a Helen Hayes Award last year. I’m not so cool that I can pretend I’m not proud of it. I’m totally proud of it. And I would NEVER have stayed at home and boycotted my “two-hour meat parade.” Maybe if I got to George C. Scott’s level I’d feel differently, but no way would I have ignored that honor. I was nominated with some of the most talented and respected women in Washington, D.C. Every single one of them was the real deal. Many were my friends. Many were my mentors (even though they never knew it) and none of them were losers.

When I look at my award (when it’s not in a box), I think about all the phone calls, emails, and messages I received the day I won and for days after. I kept saying, “It would be nice if everyone in our community could be reminded of just how much they mean to us.” That’s the award, people taking the time to tell you why you’re an important part of a community. That’s the only thing that matters to me, because an award doesn’t make you better than anyone. My award didn’t make me better at auditioning. It hasn’t secured me jobs. It’s the same business with the same obstacles.

You can’t be too precious about winning, losing, or not being nominated for an award. The same goes for reviews. It is demeaning that we whore ourselves for The New York Times or salivate, waiting for press to come out to see if there are quotes we can use. I mean, I’d like to get mentioned by The Times one day, but if I don’t, I’m not a loser and I also don’t need to do that thing where I discredit The Times and say, “It’s all political anyway,” to make myself feel better. A review in The New York Times, and Art Awards across the country, are not the be-all end-all. They don’t define any of us. They can be useful tools, but ultimately, I think they mean what you want them to mean. They can be meat parades, an expression of the respect your theatre community has for you, a nice addition to your resume, or the worst idea ever. Or you can just ignore them all and do your work. The community, your work and your dedication to it, is all that really matters.




I don’t do it for the awards. I want all of the awards. I daydream about accepting all of the awards, but I claim to not do it for the awards. That makes me wonder, uncomfortably, what would change if there were no awards. Then what do I daydream about when I’m in high school and figure out that I want to be an actor? Let’s stay with high school. I competed in state forensics competitions. I loved doing it. I liked being told I was better than other people. I accepted the trophies proudly. I won’t go into what and how many I won because that would be garish, but let’s just say there are a few plaques with my name on them. In 1993, the Tennessee High School Speech and Drama League didn’t know what hit it. (It was me.)

But I don’t do it for the awards.

I don’t watch the award shows, but it’s not because of any artistic stand. It’s because I despise acceptance speeches. I hate them. I don’t like the funny ones, the political ones, the “oh gee I can’t believe this is happening” ones, any of them. The last award show I watched substantially was The Tony’s the year Rent won. I don’t know why that is. I’d be lying if I said it was for any reason involving integrity. Also, the older I get, the more I opt for watching sports on any given night.

So my reasons for disdaining the award shows aren’t as noble as Mr. Scott’s. Mine is envy. Pure and simple. It’s a gnawing fear that if I don’t win a trophy, then no one will know what I did. So with that said, I’ll give the awards a pass for being a dog and pony show… because the last thing I want to be, should the unthinkable happen, is a hypocrite. And I’ll give George a pass for being wound up so tight.




Siho Ellsmore is an actor, writer, and graphic designer currently residing in New York City. A native of Melbourne, Australia, she has appeared in Off-Broadway, Off-Off-Broadway, and recently co-wrote, produced, and performed in YBW: Yellow Brick Wall Angry White Men played by Two Happy Asian Girls at the NY International Fringe Festival. Siho’s only claim to fame is that she appeared in Neighbours, Australia’s longest-running soap as the “bad girl Cara” in what she now fondly remembers as the “hot tub” episode. (Trust her, it’s not as sordid as it sounds).

Manon Halliburton is a regional theater actress who has worked all over the country. She has also appeared in television shows such as Law and Order and The Sopranos, and recently shot her first film this past year and closed August Osage County at Kansas City Rep to rave reviews. She lives in Kansas City with actor Bob Elliott.

Erika Rose is a Helen Hayes Award-winning actress living New York City. Regionally, she’s best known from her eight years of work on Washington, D.C. stages.

Thomas Ward is an actor and playwright based in Minneapolis. He appeared in the Off-Broadway premiere of Craig Wright’s The Unseen at the Cherry Lane Theatre. He has performed regionally with Actors Theatre of Louisville, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Georgia Shakespeare, WaterTower Theatre (Dallas), and the ZACH Scott Theatre (Austin), among others. He was previously profiled by stated.

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