[Drum roll. No drums appear anywhere else in this production, but they appear here. One camera pans the audience. Another camera settles on the face of Albert Camus. Yet another on the twitching, nervous mug of Pirandello.]

BEERS: . . . South Coast Repertory!

[Cymbal crash! Orchestral music rising up and over the stage! Applause!]

BEERS: Sure, SCR gets loads of money, and the bulk of its audience—and donor base—sums up why R. Crumb once called this county a "vortex of evil." But the theater has done a wonderful job dancing with its private devils for so long. It has, generally speaking, the best plays, the best people and the best facility. Add it up, and that equals the best work.

Here to accept the award is legendary Scrooge performer Hal Landon Jr.

[Applause.]

HAL LANDON JR.: On behalf of South Coast Repertory, I want to thank OC Weekly and its readers for honoring this theater that I and so many others have given our blood, sweat and tears to during the past 37 seasons. Well, to be honest, some gave more blood than others. Some seem to have given only sweat. And there was one person who cried all the time. But generally, it has been a pretty good mix of the three bodily fluids. I won't turn this into the kind of self-serving opportunity I fear other theaters might, but I felt it was important to take a moment during a recent performance of Joe Orton's Entertaining Mr. Sloane—which runs through Oct. 22 on SCR's Second Stage—to accept this shiny tribute, so that each of you readers —whether you voted for SCR or have never heard of SCR—will know that we're here for you.

[Audience breaks out in blood, sweat and tears as Landon exits the stage.]

BEERS: Now, the nominees for Best Stage Performer. To be eligible for this role, the performer must work on local stages and live in the county. The nominees, in reverse-alphabetical order, are: Linda Gehringer. This Laguna Beach actress has performed at the Laguna Playhouse, Grove Theater Center and South Coast Repertory, in addition to her frequent TV and film work—she was Jack Nicholson's shrink in As Good as It Gets. But it's on the stage where she's most at home, whether playing a character bandaged from head to foot in Peter Hedges' Good as New or Tricky Dick's unfortunate congressional opponent, Helen Gahagan Douglas, in Keith Reddin's But Not for Me.

[Applause.]

BEERS: Jay Michael Fraley. The versatile Mr. Fraley has performed on stages from San Clemente to Santa Ana. Equally at home playing a bloodthirsty scoundrel in John Ford's 'Tis Pity She's a Whore or a Christ-like prophet in Corpus Christi, Fraley brings honesty and commitment to every role.

[Applause.]

BEERS: Richard Doyle. One of the original founding members of South Coast Repertory, Doyle makes his home in Irvine. He's done much of his work at South Coast Repertory—his performance as a British officer in The Interrogation of Nathan Hale in 1995 still elicits shivers—and was a frequent fixture on Cheers as well as in films like Air Force One.

[Applause.]

BEERS:.Mark Coyan. A longtime fixture with the Hunger Artists in Santa Ana (where he rocked as Gregor Samsa in an adaptation of Kafka's Metamorphosis), Coyan has recently made inroads at South Coast Repertory, where he performed in Howard Korder's Hollow Lands. He brings an intensity and sense of physicality to his roles that are always fascinating to watch.

And the winner is . . . Linda Gehringer!

[Swelling music. Heads turn, all looking for Gehringer. Several attractive women rise tentatively and then sit down again.]

BEERS: First off, she has the best legs of the bunch. Second, she's just a very, very good actress. She's magnetic, personable and very talented. Thumb through the program before the curtain rises, and if you see Gehringer's name, you know you're guaranteed to enjoy something about the evening.

Linda Gehringer couldn't be with us tonight, so I'll accept this award for her and take it home, and when she calls me asking for it, I'll pretend I don't know what she's talking about. Good night!

[BONCA and BEERS leave the stage, hoisting the trophies above their heads to thunderous applause. The applause dies. After several moments, Infante, in the manner of a beaten pet, approaches the podium.]

INFANTE: Um, if it's okay with everyone . . . I mean, I don't want to bring anyone down or step on any toes, but I thought, if it wasn't too much trouble . . .

VOICE OFFSTAGE: Get on with it, tool!

INFANTE: Right! The nominees for Best Street/Coffeehouse/Small-Press/Slam Poet are . . . Derrick Brown. Brown has led an industrious career in the Orange County arts scene. From humble beginnings performing stage-magic tricks and reading silly rhyming poetry for kids at Christian youth summer camps, Brown has developed into one of the county's most renowned and impressive poets. Among his recent accomplishments: he was ranked the No. 2 performance poet in the country at the 1998 National Poetry Slam, a feat not besmirched by the fact that this year's Laguna Beach team came in somewhere just ahead of Alaska, Cape Cod and, I don't know, Narnia. Which is okay, y'know? It's good that the Anaheim Angels had a better year than the local poetry-slam team. I mean, it was getting pathetic. Mo Vaughn down at the Laguna Beach Brewing Company, trying to bust a rhyme—ended up busting an ankle. Sad, really. Among Brown's other accomplishments this year was his ongoing variety show with poet/multimedia artist Buzzy Enniss, Drop Dead Theatre, the only theatrical production daring enough to include poetry, video clips of sock monkeys and a heartwarming tale of a dog dying at Disneyland. Furthermore, his band, John Wilkes Kissing Booth, kicks ass. He lives on a boat.

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