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History of ACT Cincinnati

During the spring and summer of 1955, friends who had an interest in theater in common and were members of several community theaters joined together socially to attend and support professional theater. They attended "Road" shows at the Taft and Schubert Theaters and two of their favorite places to go were the fox and crow dinner theater and Xavier Theatre productions. In meeting together, common problems of their own community groups were discovered and it was decided to combine and form an organized group, to loan and borrow props and costumes and problem solve to improve the quality of their own theater productions. 

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CHARTER MEMBERS: Bellermine Players, Catholic Theater Guild, Clifton Imps, Mariemont Players, Northern Hills Little Theater, Thalian Players, Valley Players, Wyoming Players, Glendale Lyceum Dramatic Club, Stagecrafters, and the Western Hills Drama Workshop. Music Drama Guild joined in the first year. 

Judging was established in 1957. Only one show a year was to be judged and the group would choose which one. Ballots were distributed to audience members and they voted on their choices of best male and female actor for the production that they saw during a time period from January to June of that year. The ballots were collected at the end of each show and remained "secret" until a tabulation time in June. One person from each member group was chosen to be a member of the "ballot counting committee". Following the tabulation, ACT sent a letter of congratulations to the recipient. There was an anniversary party held in January of each year to mark the founding. The awards banquet associated with the southwest regional ACT/OCTAFEST came much later. 

The following year (1958), it was decided that the audience ballots would again be used, however these would now be "color coded" with each production having a different color. This again remain a secret vote with one person from each member group chosen to be a member of the ballot counting committee. 

During the 1960's, (the minutes from these years have been lost, and the exact year is not known) the voting was expanded beyond the audience participation with the 'judges' now seeing other group's productions with the only restriction being that they could not 'judge' their own group. The judges were choices from the academic community and consisted of high school drama teachers and a few college and university drama teachers. Orchid awards were established. The budget was slim and duplication was expensive. A local brewery was having a big advertising campaign utilizing pictures of orchids. These pictures were cut from magazines and newspapers available and pasted on the new 'awards'. 

In April of 1980, OCTA revised their festival rules stating that the term competition was to be eliminated. There would no longer be a first and second place and the recognition would be in the form of an invitation to attend the state conference over Labor Day weekend. At the April meeting of ACT-Cincinnati, it was moved and seconded that four plaques be presented as part of the orchid awards: one for best musical, the best technical for a musical, best play, and best technical for a play. Certificates would be given for the remaining awards. There would still be a minimum of 10 awards, especially in the technical area.

On September 22, 1980, Mary Haas recommended that in order to recognize all outstanding aspects of theater (this was to include the technical end) asked that outstanding work, whether it be for set, or actor, or anything that was exceptional, be recognized with a certificate. This would be in addition, and not in place of the orchid awards. In order to be awarded a certificate, two judges would have to mention that same aspect. 

During 1983-1984 both the quality and quantity of judges was deteriorating, and in 1985 the judging system was drastically changed. The 'point' system was eliminated along with many of the theater group's members who had served as judges. New judges were recruited from the newspaper theater critics, professional directors (from CCM and Playhouse in the Park) and academia. It was felt that these persons could be both knowledgeable and objective. 

In the late 80's, the number of available judges was again decreasing. It was decided to again turn to the member groups for assistance. Here was an untapped resource for judges with many groups having both theater educated members and/or members with extensive theater experience. Each member group of ACT was expected to provide ACT with three 'qualified' judges. New judging forms were established, and orientation program was provided and both of the Award Plaques and "Top Ten" were eliminated. A monitoring committee (now known as the Long Range Judging Committee) was established to ensure the quality of the critiques, serve as a grievance board, and have the power of recommendations for improvements of the judging system as a whole. 

Information supplied by: 

Jeannette Henn

Mary Haas

June Baldwin

F.C. Fracker

ACT files & minutes

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