At a reception prior to the Equity General Meeting at Phoenix Theatre on Monday, November 7, the Phoenix/Tucson Equity Liaison Committee presented the 2011 Arizona Theatre Service Award to Kyle Lawson, former Theatre and Entertainment Reporter and Critic for The Arizona Republic.
For more than 30 years, Kyle Lawson wrote about arts and entertainment in Arizona, first at the Scottsdale Progress, then The Phoenix Gazette, and finally The Arizona Republic. As a passionate theatre advocate, he encouraged, inspired and nurtured local actors, directors and playwrights in a manner that helped create careers and stabilize theatres throughout the state. "Theatre is a constant teacher," said Lawson. "If you commit yourself to it, it will teach you and change you. And it will make demands of you."
Liaison Committee member Charles St. Clair said of Lawson, "He tirelessly discovered and promoted small, unknown performing arts productions of extraordinary artistry that might never have found an audience if not for his enthusiastic coverage. His dedication to the underdogs made it safe for artists, producers and presenters to set up camp in the Valley and to take risks." Equity member and Theater Works Artistic Director Robyn Allen added, "Valley theatre wouldn't be what it is today without Kyle. His amazing support was the key to growth."
Upon his retirement in 2008, Lawson said, "Critic was always the least favorite of my jobs. I believed that a reporter was a conduit between the news and the reader. Only when it was absolutely necessary did he inject himself." Yet, among most theatre artists in Arizona, Lawson was most appreciated for his fair but honest critiques. "I go and I find the best part," he once said. "It could be a single song, a specific costume or sometimes it might only be the comfortable chair I am sitting in. I simply find the best part. I review the whole experience but I go and enjoy the best part." Though now seeing less theatre than in the past, his role as champion for Arizona theatre remains unchanged. "I have seen and been affected by good theatre," he says. "I might have seen more in New York or London or Chicago. But for the great moments, they were just as great here as anywhere."
The Arizona Theatre Service Award is presented annually by Arizona's Actors' Equity members to recognize significant contribution and service to the Arizona theatre community. "Kyle had been at the top of our list for years," said Tony Hodges, Chair of the Phoenix/Tucson Liaison Committee. "But, typical of Kyle, he always felt others were more deserving and was reluctant to accept the award. We were finally able to convince him it was his turn to be recognized."
Past recipients of the Arizona Theatre Service Award include former theatre critic Max McQueen, university professors/actors/directors David Vining (ASU) and Harold Dixon (UA), actor Benjamin Stewart, past Executive Director of the Arizona Commission on the Arts Shelley Cohn and co-founder and former Artistic Director of Actors Theatre of Phoenix Judy Rollings.
L-R, Row 1: Cathy Dresbach, Joan Silberschlag, Patti Davis, Tony Hodges, Maria Amorocho, David Vining, Lisa Fogel, Mary Lou Westerfield; Row 2: Jaime Fox, Maren MacLean (kneeling), Judy Rollongs, Patti Nieman, David Ira Goldstein, Pat lawson, Kyle Lawson, Ben Tyler, Larry Soller, Linda DeArmond, Michele Goldstein; Row 3: Elaine "E.E." Moe, David Dickinson, Rusty Ferracane, Toby Yatso
Photo credit: Laura Durant, Durant Communications