Posted June 25, 2009
Richard Seff, Clarence Derwent Awards Presented
The Equity Council Room was filled to overflowing on Tuesday, June 9, 2009 when the annual Clarence Derwent and Richard Seff Awards were presented at the Eastern Regional Board meeting.
The Actor's Equity Foundation administers the awards and Foundation President Arne Gundersen introduced the event, describing the Foundation and its work.
First up were the Seff Awards, created in 2003 by Equity member Richard Seff, who was in the audience, to honor veteran female and male character actors for the best performance in a supporting role in a Broadway or Off-Broadway show. The female award went to Lynn Cohen for her performance with Jane Alexander in CHASING MANET at Primary Stages. Ms. Alexander made the presentation, calling Ms. Cohen "my new buddy for the rest of our lives," and "a sprite, because her spirit is lighter than air. She lifts everyone around her." "I love this woman," she added. "Lynn is a beautiful actress who acts from the deepest part of her soul."
Ms. Cohen, in turn, said she was "the luckiest woman in the world" to have Jane Alexander as her friend. She said it was special to be here, that "acting is a calling" and "it is an honor to do this." She was "blessed," she said, with the people she has worked with. "To be an actor is one of the bravest things in the world. It is not for wusses."
Richard Seff, Lynn Cohen, Roger Robinson
Roger Robinson, who had received a Tony Award two days earlier, was honored again with the Seff Award, for his performance in August Wilson's JOE TURNER'S COME AND GONE, directed by Bartlett Sher. Mr. Sher made the presentation, saying that as a director, he was always looking for the "perfect actor," one who had "an extraordinary combination of enormous skill, intuition and accumulated experience mixed with an amazing amount of intelligence to analyze the work in front of them and to challenge and question and keep pushing the work ahead." Mr. Robinson, he said, possessed all of these skills. Mr. Sher went on to say that he had once seen a definition of genius, which said it was "perfection of technique plus something else." Roger Robinson, he said, had the technique, plus "that something else."
Mr. Robinson made a moving and emotional speech, saying he loved being an actor, and calling his 46-year career "a miracle." He also told some funny anecdotes, concluding that based on his own experience, he would advise young actors "to go out to the regionals and learn."
Lynn Nottage, Quincy Tyler Bernstine
Quincy Tyler Bernstine received a Clarence Derwent Award, given to the most promising female and male performers on the New York metropolitan scene. She was recognized for her performance in Manhattan Theatre Club's production of Lynn Nottage's Pulitzer Prize-winning play, RUINED.
Ms. Nottage made the presentation, praising Ms. Bernstine for being a "true and pure artist," making "everything seem effortless and easy. She's a marvel at her craft and is one of the finest actors I've ever worked with."
Ms. Bernstine said that performing in RUINED was "the greatest experience of my career." She thanked the cast and crew of the show, saying it was "a privilege to share the stage with them." She noted hat she had come to acting by a happy accident, "but couldn't do anything else. I would probably die if I wasn't able to act."
The other Derwent Award went to Aaron Tveit for his performance in NEXT TO NORMAL. Mr. Tveit was unable to be present since he was working out-of-town in CATCH ME IF YOU CAN, due to come to Broadway next season. His manager, Elin Flack, accepted on his behalf, thanking everyone and saying that friends had told Mr. Tveit that the Derwent Award was "the best of the best."