Theater Info for the Washington DC region

An Analysis of the 2010 WATCH Awards

By • Mar 14th, 2011 • Category: News

The WATCH (Washington Area Theatre Community Honors) Awards were announced a week ago. Since then I’ve looked through the nominations and awards for any obvious trends. I’ve compiled three charts that are a slightly different way to look at the WATCH Awards process.

Black areas represent a WATCH Award (and obviously a nomination as well), gray squares represent a nomination, and colors don’t have any meaning. You can click on each chart to see a larger version which will be easier to read.

Chart 1: Breakdown of Awards, Nominations and Number of Performances

This chart shows the number of nominations and awards an individual production earned, contrasted with the number of scheduled performances. Note that the records for 2010 include the various snowstorms last winter, so the number of performances may be off due to canceled and rescheduled performances.

For example, the chart shows that Bowie Community Theatre performed four productions, each with eight scheduled performances. One production (The Glass Menagerie) received one nomination.

Chart 1

Chart 2: Breakdown of Awards, Nominations and Total Number of Performances

This chart shows the total number of performances that were adjudicated by WATCH in 2010, combined with the number of nominations and awards the company received. For example, the Chevy Chase Players and Hard Bargain Players each had 18 performances in 2010, whereas the Little Theatre of Alexandria has 112 performances. Note that the Capital City Players only produced one production in 2010, for six performances.

Chart 2: Breakdown of Awards, Nominations and Total Number of Performances

Apparently this chart shows that if a company has the resources to dedicate to longer runs, or more productions per year, their productions will generally be of a higher quality, and thus they will receive more recognition from WATCH judges. This chart would suggest that programming 55 or more annual performances will signify a higher quality.

Chart 3: Breakdown of Awards, Nominations and Number of Productions

So, the previous chart may be biased against groups that only do a few shows for a really high number of performances. So let’s just see the number of productions that were adjudicated by WATCH.

Again, note that the Capital City Players only had one production. Fifteen companies produced three shows, four companies produced four shows, and ten companies produced five or more shows.

Chart 3: Breakdown of Awards, Nominations and Number of Productions

Based on the number of awards in each group, it seems that there are two different tiers of companies involved in the WATCH process. Companies that are able to produce five or more shows per year, and shows that produce four or less. It is important to note that some companies produce shows that are not adjudicated by WATCH. These shows may be children’s shows, holiday shows, or partnerships with other companies. The groups that are able to do this tend to be the ones that have five or more WATCH-adjudicated shows per year.


It seems obvious from looking at these charts that groups which are able to produce more different productions per year, and are able to produce longer runs of their productions, are able to produce higher quality productions overall. One reason for this could be that WATCH judges may be attending a production near the end of its run. A performer or technician at group with ten performances has had more opportunities to perfect their performance than someone at a show with only six performances.

Is the data from one year of productions by 31 theater companies too small a sample to draw any definitive conclusions? Probably. But by simply eyeballing the lists of past winners, the same company names continue to appear. (View the lists for earlier years at 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, and 2005.)

I would guess that WATCH does not want to break their awards program into tiers, such as “large company” versus “small company.” But I would also guess that the smaller theater companies are growing weary of the feeling that they can’t compete with the large companies who seem to win a majority of the awards season after season. Should WATCH do more than just their annual Awards? How could the “larger” theaters help the “smaller” theaters? Is the competitiveness of an awards system the best way for local community theaters to help each other? We’re very open to your suggestions on how WATCH should change in the future. Or is the system not broken at all, and an analysis of this sort is just sour grapes? Either way, let us know your thoughts, by email or a comment here, and we’ll send them to WATCH, anonymously if you prefer.

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4 Responses »

  1. That data is interesting. Obviously, the more tickets a company can sell, the bigger the budget, and the better the production–in certain areas. A big budget helps with costumes, props, and the set, but you don’t need much money for great sound or lights (once you have a good board and instruments). And certainly a good director and actors aren’t dependent upon a big budget.

    Reputation is the unmeasurable factor. In community theater, the quality of a production is a function of the quality of the volunteers. A theater with a good reputation will attract and retain good volunteers. It can be difficult to gain reputation, but one great production can get people to take notice. Dedicated, hard-working volunteers always trump a big budget.

  2. Dan is absolutely on target, and I’m a bit shocked that the human element didn’t make into your data analysis. A theater with a good reputation (show audiences often outnumber the actors, the schedule is reliable week to week, theater governance features more than one outsized ago, or one incestuous clique, etc.) – will attract the more capable directors. Those directors, in turn, attract more volunteers willing to work on their shows, and can therefore select those of higher quality and reliability.

    It’s an ecosystem, not a closed equation (more shows = more awards!). Until we consider the human element, population centers and proximity to theaters, etc., we are likely premature to recommend solutions.

  3. I am affiliated primarily with the Vienna Theatre Company and this interesting analysis confirms what I have perceived for years. Theatres with smaller budgets, less sophisticated venues, fewer shows or shorter runs of shows and other similar factors that could qualify them as “smaller” are disadvantaged in the WATCH system. While it may be challenging to create a tiered system, I think it would foster more support for WATCH and more cooperation among the theatres in the area. If WATCH can come up with the complex algorithm that assigns what shows are to be reviewed by which judges, it should be able to come up with reasonable criteria for having two tiers of award categories. Thanks for the opportunity to comment.

  4. I didn’t read the other comments before I sent mine and I have to disagree with the quality of the people associated with a production being a factor in the success of a show. Of course it is in the sense that a production with dedicated, talented people should result in a quality theatre experience. With the Vienna Theatre Company, I have worked with people who have been nominated for and won awards in other theatres, including myself. These and others who work with VTC have all of the attributes cited in the previous comments. And the shows have been audience successes. However, the company receives few nominations and fewer awards. So, IMHO, the differing factors primarily seem to be the financial assets that are available for a production and the technical abilities of the venue.