You could tell Erin Reilly wasn’t prepared for the overwhelmingly good news: The Theatre Philadelphia president’s company, Theatre Horizon, received the most 2015 Barrymore nominations, a total of 19, beating out seasoned companies such as the Arden and the Wilma.
“This is a career highlight,” she told me, just moments after learning the news. “Obviously, I believe so deeply in this community.”
I know what you’re thinking: She’s the president of the company that doles out Barrymore awards and she has the most nominations? Before you think there’s any funny business going on, rest assured the process to be nominated for the Barrymores is not only transparent, but also pretty complex: An all-volunteer team that includes theatre artists, Barrymore nominators, critics, scholars, and judges must consider over 100 professional productions in the region, and there’s a nomination system that is foolproof.
But all of that is a minor detail for Reilly, who had to play double duty during yesterday’s Barrymore nominations conference, serving as both Theatre Horizon guru and leader of the dozens of professional theatre troupes on hand at the Suzanne Roberts Theatre to hear the nominations. What’s that like?
“It’s a privilege and a joy,” she said. “You get to see the depth of the community. As we find common ground, we’re working toward addressing challenges as a team.”
That team effort is unique to Philadelphia theater, Reilly claims: She cites her own company as an example. “We are a little bit of a newcomer,” she stated. “We’ve been mentored by the larger companies. Other people from around the country tell us that the spirit of mentorship from established companies to emerging companies sets the Philadelphia theater community apart.”
And there’s new initiatives that Reilly sees in the region’s theater companies, everything from the growth of the musicals as a genre to digital technologies integrated into productions. “It’s also exciting to see the community better reflect the growing diversity of our country on our stages,” she added.
It was clearly a hallmark day for Reilly and many other loyal Philadelphia-area artists: The lobby of the Suzanne Roberts was abuzz with folks reviewing the full list of Barrymore nominees. The energy was palpable: Perhaps best summarized by Reilly, “I’m thrilled to be part of a community that so loves theater, and where we can recognize and honor great work.”