ST. BONAVENTURE, N.Y., Sept. 5, 2006 - Dr. Ed. Simone, chair of the Department of Visual and Performing Arts and director of the Theater Program at SBU, won the 2005 Wilde Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Comedy.
Simone was given the award for his work as Shylock in Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice" in the 2005 season of the Michigan Shakespeare Festival. Simone learned of his nomination shortly before beginning rehearsals for the 2006 season of the Shakespeare festival in June.
"The managing director and the artistic producer both phoned me to tell me I'd been nominated. It was quite a surprise, "said Simone.
Simone's performance as Shylock (which he played in repertory with Sir Toby Belch in "Twelfth Night") was hailed by critics as "brilliant" and "moving."
"It was a fabulous performance," said John Neville-Andrews, Michigan Shakespeare Festival's artistic producer and Simone's director for "Merchant." "Ed.'s award is so well deserved," he added.
"It's a wonderful thing for Ed. And for the Festival," said Mary K. Matthews, the festival's managing director. "I was so happy when they announced he'd won."
The Wilde Awards are given annually by Between the Lines magazine, a Detroit Metro paper and online weekly that focuses on gay and lesbian issues and the arts. Readers nominate performances and winners in each category are then chosen by theater critics and arts editors.
Simone couldn't attend the gala ceremony on Aug. 30 and had recorded an video acceptance speech ahead of time at the awards' committee's request.
"That was a little odd," Simone said. "I had to thank people for an award I might not actually win. I couldn't attend the ceremony, though, because I was auditioning students here at SBU that night!" Simone's video acceptance speech was played on screen at the historic Gem Theater in Detroit when his win was announced.
What does the award mean to Simone? "There's a tremendous sense of relief when one's work is appreciated by people who live by the theater and the arts," Simone said. "It's good for the festival, too: some good PR, audience development."
Simone spent this past summer playing Claudius in "Hamlet" and Peter Quince in "A Midsummer Night's Dream" at the Michigan Shakespeare Festival, and again received excellent critical responses.
"Good reviews and awards are great, but it's really about the work, the opportunity to do Shakespeare with strong casts and strong directors and designers. That's what matters," he said.