THE NSW government will support the newly revamped CAT Awards with grants of $25,000 a year over four years ($100,00 in total), it was announced last night (February 27) at a private function for sponsors and well-wishers.
While NSW Deputy Premier and Member for Monaro John Barilaro was absent in Sydney, the sweet message had been passed on from him, with special emphasis on the way the awards supported performers in the regions.
“I had no idea,” CATs founder Coralie Wood said on hearing the news, although she has been hinting for some time that sponsorship would be forthcoming.
Entertainment was provided by Leisa Keen on the keyboard and Louise Gaspari, who sang the “Climb Every Mountain,” which she will perform in Queanbeyan Player’s coming production of “ The Sound Of Music,” but more serious business was on the agenda.
Theatre director and long-time CATs member, Stephen Pike, speaking on Wood’s behalf, noted that after 26 years of recognising talent in both Canberra in the region it was fitting that the CATs had convened on what would have been the awards presentation day of the previous awards.
Pike outlined a new vision for the CATs , saying: “With no inclination towards slowing down, Coralie has encouraged an organic change which now sees a new format for the awards.”
In the future, he told those present, there would be “three branches for the CATs to scratch on”: the Combined Area Theatre Awards; the CAT Awards, recognising achievement in Canberra amateur theatre productions; and a new section – Cats Kids – recognising schools, dance schools and children’s theatre.
Pike also said that the awards program would no longer be charging participating companies membership fees.
The announcement creates further confusion in the Canberra arts community over awards.
When the previous CAT board decided to wind up operations as a registered company under the Corporations Act 2001 on June 30 last year, the board wrote to 25 Canberra theatre companies, asking them to discuss whether to continue with an awards program and in what way.
This eventually resulted in the formation of a working committee, which eventually established the “Ovations” awards, intended to be Canberra-specific and targeted to adult productions, and which recently released an impressive list of heavyweight judges.
It was well-known that the CATs Canberra membership had declined in recent years because of an increasing focus on schools and the wider region, and it was believed that Wood had acquiesced in the board’s decision to wind up, but the “CATs” name reverted to her and she quickly moved to form a new company so that the CATs could continue.
Now the scope of the revamped CATs has been announced, but the question arises as to just how many amateur theatre awards Canberra can sustain.
The ground seems ready for division and strife.