Friday's vote came three weeks after the board announced, via a press release, that it was putting the 33-year-old awards program into a year-long reassessment limbo. Translated, that meant that some in the theater community had complained about the way shows were being evaluated, and the board felt it didn't have time for a Carbonell makeover before the new judging season begins Jan. 1.
Thus began a frenzied period of debate, work and coming together. Actors, directors, producers, playwrights, designers, Carbonell nominators and judges began trading E-mails and phone calls. The Theatre League of South Florida held an open meeting, and the consensus was that if these valuable awards -- the equivalent of the Helen Hayes Awards, the Barrymore Awards, the Joseph Jefferson Awards or any other significant regional awards program you could name -- went away for a year, they might not ever come back. And despite very real concerns and complaints about how the Carbonells work (something that has been going on throughout the program's existence, trust me), almost no one thought getting rid of them was a good idea.
Meredith Lasher, the League's president and one of those who worked countless hours over the past three weeks to try to save the Carbonells for 2009, said Friday, "Sometimes, it takes thinking you'll lose something entirely before you appreciate it."
There will, no doubt, be countless complaints, discussions, arguments and the like as those who care about the Carbonells try to make them better. But the point is, South Florida's theater community does care. The board got that and did the right thing.