Arts For Life’s fifth annual Theatre Mask Awards will now take place in cyberspace on Saturday, July 18, rather than during a brunch at The Atrium banquet center at Christian Hospital.

This year’s event has been cancelled and reimagined because of the current coronavirus public health situation and gathering restrictions in St. Louis County.

The 2020 Theatre Mask Awards, honoring excellence in community theatre productions of dramas and comedies during 2019, will premiere at 11 a.m. as a live interactive viewing event on the AFL Facebook page, but the awards show will have been pre-recorded.

In addition to the TMA Facebook Watch Party, the video will be on the AFL YouTube channel as a live event and then will remain for later viewings. Please subscribe so you can get a reminder of the event.

TMA will announce winners in 18 non-musical play categories. Eleven community theater companies participate in the TMAs.

Since mid-March, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the entire St. Louis Metropolitan region. With the need to maintain social distancing and to wear face coverings to lessen community spread, as well as the fact that all AFL performance venues remain closed at this time, the TMA Steering Committee made the difficult decision to cancel the annual TMA gathering and transition to a streamed format .

AFL had previously announced the switch to virtual for the Best Performance Awards, which honors musical theater and youth productions. That ceremony will be streamed Sunday, June 14, at 2 p.m. on the AFL YouTube channel. The TMAs, originally set for April 4, had been moved earlier to July 18.

Uncertainty about when large groups can safely gather in St. Louis County is another factor.

AFL President Mary McCreight emphasizes that the AFL board will continue to base their decisions upon the best information currently available in this rapidly evolving situation and will continue to share information promptly and transparently, mindful of the need for our community to receive timely updates.

“While we are disappointed that we cannot produce the regular in-person ceremony that so many people look forward to attending, we hope that moving to a stream-based format will still provide an opportunity for our local arts community to come together online and celebrate the many outstanding achievements of the previous year,” McCreight said.

The Theatre Guild of Webster Groves led all St. Louis- southwest Illinois metropolitan area community theaters with 27 nominations.

The TGWG produces five plays a season and received nominations for five of its shows during the 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 seasons: “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” (10), “The Bad Seed” (5), “Over the Tavern” (5), “The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940” (4) and “Dial ‘M’ for Murder” (3).

Clayton Community Theatre notched 24 nominations — “Biloxi Blues” (13), “A Soldier’s Play” (10) and “Eurydice” (1). CCT also broke a record for having the most acting nominations from a single show – 8 for “Biloxi Blues.”

To see a complete list of the nominees, visit the website: www.artsforlife.org

McCreight had previously suspended all public activities of the AFL organization, effective March 16 until at least May 1, and then the board extended suspension of the Theatre Recognition Guild judging activities, for the BPA branch (musicals), through July 31.

However, some TMA-eligible productions may open earlier if conditions permit. TMA branch judges and participating groups should be alert for announcements regarding future developments.

“As our world, our nation and our region face a major health threat, it falls upon us as a community to adopt measures that will both foster the protection of those who work and ‘play’ in Metro St. Louis community theatre and ultimately allow AFL to continue our charitable mission of service and recognition once the threat passes,” the president added.

For those who have purchased TMA tickets, AFL will contact you about refund options and how your money can be returned. Instead of receiving a refund you might also consider treating the purchase amount as a tax-deductible donation to AFL.

Any company that wins can pick up their trophies on July 19 at 1 p.m. in the parking lot of Clayton Community Theatre.

“We’d like them to send one representative to collect everything and then disperse to the winners,” said TMA/AFL board member Melissa Boyer.

McCreight said AFL appreciates the support shown during these difficult times.

“I am incredibly grateful to all of our constituencies – the board, judges, participating groups, audience members and donors – for their commitment to AFL and their engagement and unwavering support of our local theatre community during these uncertain times,” McCreight said.

AFL was founded in 1994 by Lucinda Guyrci as a local non-profit organization dedicated to the healing power of the arts through its work with youth, the under-served and the community. The BPAs have honored musical theater since 1999 and the TMAs have honored plays since 2015.

“We hope that you and your loved ones stay safe during this difficult time,” McCreight said. “Because of your commitment to our community and belief in our mission, my optimism is not diminished about AFL being able to move forward once this unprecedented time passes.” 

For more information, contact AFL TRG Secretary Kim Klick at [email protected]

Be sure to subscribe/like to our social media: https://www.facebook.com/artsforlifestlouis, https://twitter.com/arts_for_life and YouTube channel.

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