Last night it was announced that Isaac Wade has been honored with a “Featured Actor In A Musical” Ovation award nomination for his portrayal of Dr. Allen in Group. It’s hard to put into words just what a big deal that is and just how proud I am… but I’ll try.
You know how actors love receiving SAG award nominations not only because we are all narcissistic award hoarders who constantly crave attention and recognition, but also because the SAG awards are voted on by fellow actors. Well, the Ovation Awards are voted on by the Los Angeles theatre community. It consists of the movers and shakers of LA theatre: theatregoers, producers, directors, actors, designers, playwrights…
Ovation voters are required to see and vote on tons of shows throughout the year. Now, anyone who has experience putting up a show in LA knows that it can be extremely difficult to get enough Ovation voters to see your show and even more difficult for the ones that see it to rate it high enough for recognition. Just about all of the Ovation voters who honored us by seeing Group saw an early preview version of it… but I’ll get to that later.
The back-story on Isaac & “Dr. Allen”
Isaac and I had been performing together in radio plays for a few months but had never done a musical. I had just begun thinking about and reworking an idea my brother (Scott D. Southard) and I had years prior about group therapy when I hard Isaac sing. The role of Dr. Allen, which I had thought I was writing for myself, immediately became a role I wanted him to play. From then on, Isaac was the Dr. Allen in my head. It isn’t based on him at all, but it is tailor made for his remarkable ability and numerous gifts.
Isaac got my play and music into the hands of Tom Burmester and Danika Sudik of the Los Angeles Theatre Ensemble. They honored me with the chance to perform the show as a script reading with music in front of their company members and anyone else I wanted to invite. Isaac played Dr. Allen, many of my closest actor friends and family performed the other roles and Josh Allan Dykstra and I played all the instruments.
One of the first things Tom asked me afterwards was exactly WHO I wanted the show to be about. It was, and continues to be, an ensemble piece but Tom wanted me to focus on one driving story. This inspired me to first add monologues by Dr. Allen that would weave the play together and then add Dr. Allen’s back story which is the heart of the show.
The Los Angeles Theatre Ensemble honored Josh and I by giving us six workshop performances. We brought in the great Richard Tatum to direct it and began casting. Now, we did not precast any of the roles, so I was a little nervous that Richard might want someone else to play the role I created for Isaac. Thank God he saw in him what I did and the call back was for all of the other roles.
During the rehearsal process, Tom & Danika offered us the opportunity to turn the workshop performances into previews and to officially open in January. Despite the fact that I was still making extensive rewrites on a weekly basis and the show was still evolving, we decided to invite every Ovation voter and reviewer we knew to one of our early previews.
It should be noted that I’m proud of our previews and the positive responses we received. It needs to be said, however, that I did 18 pages of rewrites between the previews and our opening and ALL of our critical acclaim and surprising recognition was based on that early version. Now that I know we were on the Ovation map, so to speak, I feel like an idiot for sharing the preview version.
Of course the LA Stage Alliance didn’t recognize us for book or music, the shows that were nominated were amazing and our show was supposed to just be a workshop! I’m not saying that we would have received more recognition had we only invited critics and Ovation voters to see the actual run of the show, I’m just trying to point out how pleasantly surprised and floored I am by the recognition. Then again, something that didn’t change from those early performances was Isaac’s brilliant portrayal of Dr. Allen.
He was freaking amazing during our staged reading, killed it during the previews, nailed it during the run and took it to a whole other level when we did encore performances in the Hollywood Fringe Festival. (I did another ten pages of rewrites for those performances).
As the show continues to grow and change, one thing remains: I will always hear and see Isaac Wade playing the lead. I could not be more pleased that he has been recognized for his remarkable performance.
Here is the complete list of Ovation nominees including the five other nominations for the Los Angeles Theatre Ensemble’s Gospel According to First Squad (including nominations for the producers of Group, Tom & Danika): http://www.lastagealliance.com/ovation_nominees.htm