AND THE WINNERS ARE... Between Jay Craven, John O’Brien, Nora Jacobson and David Giancola, Vermonters produce at most a half-dozen films a year—not enough to generate a whole lot of award envelopes. That’s why the Bessies are an occasional, as opposed to an annual, production of Burlington City Arts. Approximately every other year, the film and theater communities converge to celebrate their accomplishments in a civil union of Oscar and Tony. Although this year’s event was shorter, friendlier and more casual at St. Michael’s College — and the bar definitely closed too early — even the “Logger” put on a clean shirt last Friday night to recognize movies and plays made in Vermont since the last hash in 1998. Actor Rusty Dewees swapped his toque for a tux to emcee the event, replacing Burlington City Arts director Doreen Kraftin the Billy Crystal role. He got extra exposure from a short put together by Giancola, entitled “How to Kill Rusty Dewees,” which showed all the ways in which the agile actor has been bumped off on celluloid. But Dewees also took a direct hit Friday night. Despite his own wildly popular stage show and major roles in the movies Mud Season, Ice Breaker and My Mother’s Early Lovers, he failed to get nominated for a single Bessie. The hardest-working actor in Vermont should have been in the running for at least three of the 10— after all, The Logger got more Vermonters out to the theater than any other stage show in centuries. Was presiding over the prizes, as a volunteer, meant to be honor enough? Equally perplexing is how Vermont-made movies like Wedding Band, Spin the Bottle, Mud Season, In Jest, In Claire’s Classroom and Outside Out just got ignored, or maybe forgotten. “We pretty much leave it to chance that people are going to let us know about their stuff,” says Paul Ugalde, who organized the event. Could be time to rethink that.
Competition was plenty fierce in the theater department. In fact the “theater academy” was unable to pick a single winner in the category of “Outstanding Male Performance.” Awards went to Gus Kaikkonen for his portrayal in Lost Nation’s Richard III, and to Dan Jessie, who played the Cowardly Lion in the Lyric Theater production of The Wizard of Oz. Jessie’s wife, Betsy Jamison-Jessie, took “Outstanding Female Performance” for her role in the Stowe Theater Guild production of Man of La Mancha. “Outstanding Theater Production” went to Vermont Stage Company for Mad River Rising, penned by Middlebury playwright Dina Yeaton. Burlington Free Press readers awarded the “People’s Choice Award” to A Christmas Carol, as staged by the Essex Alliance Church.
On the cinema side, it was almost a clean sweep for Nora Jacobson, director and producer of My Mother’s Early Lovers, which will soon be available on video. The Norwich filmmaker took home “Outstanding Film Production” and “People’s Choice” awards, while her leading man, George Woodard, walked off with one for “Outstanding Performance in Film.” “It was Nora’s night, and it was nice to see George get his due,” says Ken Peck, a film professor at Burlington College. The two remaining film awards went to creators at opposite ends of the age spectrum. Seasoned animator John Douglas, demonstrated “Outstanding Creative Vision” with his computer-generated short, “The Whitehouse.” Gen X-er Seth Neary cleaned up with “Outstanding New Voice in Film” for “Beerlington,” a high-energy, skateboarder’s study of the Queen City.
The scenes from the street were edgy enough to get the attention of Mayor Peter Clavelle, who joked from the podium, “I want to know where the Burlington police were when that was being made.” He got even more laughs for directing attention to the sculpture installation suspended from the skylights overhead — six gauzy cocoons that look exactly liked used rubbers. “At least we know you have six big men on campus,” he said in a rib meant for St. Mike’s prez Marc vanderHeyden. Later in the night, the Belgium-born culture czar defended the condom creation with an equally entertaining anecdote about his long-standing commitment to public art. Hang in there.
NOTES FROM THE UNDERGROUND: Posters are popping up all over Montpelier in deference to a local “underground” music writer with a national profile. Camden Joy caught the attention of Spin five years ago for the rock ‘n’ roll rantings he plastered all over New York City. “Posted on telephone poles and garbage bags, Joy’s tracts displayed a hyperventilating, loose-gasket appreciation of popular culture,” the music mag noted. Comparing him to the late Lester Bangs, writer Richard Gehr went on to suggest Joy “may define a new critical beast: the rock critic as stalker.” In that same obsessive spirit, Joy’s local fans — or disciples? — are expressing their appreciation via manifestos in downtown Montpelier. Signed by the “Sporadic Essay Association,” the posters started appearing about a month ago, bearing cryptic messages like “Where are you, Joy Dimaggio?” and “Monsieur Joyeux, Black Francis draws girth from D. Boon.” The imitators even got the technique right, Xeroxing their messages out of a notebook, the way Joy did. “It is very flattering,” Joy concedes, although he fails to derive any deeper meaning from the random references. “The people at work are worried about me. But I’m like, ‘It’s okay. I used to do this. I’m fine.’”