Thomas Holzman and Alison Drucker have been married for many years. They have shared many aspects of their lives. They have raised two children, now grown, and they are both attorneys.
Now, one of their favorite shared activities has brought them together again, this time for a unique honor. They are the 2012 recipients of the Gary Maker Audience Award. This is the second time the award has been given, and the second time Tom and Alison have been nominated. They were finalists for the first annual award, named for enthusiastic and supportive audience member Gary Lee Maker, who died in 2011.
The Gary Lee Maker Award goes to members of the audience whose love for theatre is an inspiration to others.
Tom and Alison inspire each other in their full-time hobby of patronizing the gamut of Washington, D.C. theatre.
By day, they each work as attorneys for separate government agencies. Tom is a counsel for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. Alison is a senior litigation counsel for the Office of Immigration Litigation in the Civil Division of the Department of Justice.
But throughout the week and on the weekends, they are likely to be seen at the theatre together.
“The theatre is the major shared activity for us,” said Tom. “I think that’s why it’s so important. We share something that enriches our married life.”
Alison added, “Theatre adds excitement to our lives and gives us lots of material to discuss.”
Now the couple has their own theatre award to discuss.
“This is the only theatre award we could ever win,” said Tom.
He jokingly said Alison might qualify for one other award. “She could be nominated for choreography for getting all the performances into our calendar.”
All joking aside, Alison said they were very flattered to hear they had won this year’s award. The thought of an audience award helps to demonstrate the community aspect of live theatre.
“What makes this experience work is the relationship and bond that forms with the audience,” she said.
Lorraine Treanor, publisher of DC Theatre Scene, summed up the Gary Maker Audience Award: “We recognize Tom and Alison who, like Gary, are passionate, involved, informed and grounded in their love for theatre and lend their time and personal support to see that theatre in the Washington area not only survives, but thrives.”
Alison and Tom fit the criteria to a “t,” according to Mark Krikstan, artistic director of 1st Stage. He nominated the couple for this year’s honor.
Each season, they see nearly every show in the area, Krikstan said. “I run into them again and again at shows throughout the area, not just at 1st Stage.”
When Krikstan first got to know the couple, he realized how supportive they were. Tom and Alison found 1st Stage in McLean during the theatre’s first season, 2008. “We’re kind of tucked away, so people have to really seek us out to find us. They did and that was impressive.”
The avid theatregoers also lend their financial support. “Tom and Alison have not only been financial supporters of 1st Stage but their names show up on donor lists in just about every other playbill in the area,” said Krikstan.
Tom said they give some donation to almost everybody. “We wish we could do more,” said Alison.
Their real support comes when Alison and Tom do more than just occupy a pair of seats.
“The most vital part of what we do is to show up and see the work of these artists and theatres,” said Alison. “We interact with them and demonstrate that we’re engaged by their work.”
Krikstan described their special kind of generosity. “What you look for in actors, artists and designers is a generosity of spirit – you are hoping for that. There is so much pressure with deadlines and lines to learn, you’re hoping the people involved in a play have that spirit.”
As audience members, “you certainly get that generous spirit from Tom and Alison. They look for every reason to enjoy themselves at a show.”
Krikstan said the manner in which they share feedback is what sets Alison and Tom apart from others. “They are as astute and knowledgeable as any theatregoer in the audience but entirely humble and gracious in their comments.”
“The people who are involved are very appreciative of your interest,” explained Alison.
Alison and Tom like to thank the actors or the director after a show, but they might also offer other feedback. “We feel they all function on a pretty high level, but the script may have needed more work,” said Alison.
Tom said his classic comment is “this needs to be workshopped. That’s for those shows that might need more work in order to be great.”
But these theatre lovers are not usually picking nits. Tom explained they like to talk to theatre artists and see what they are doing next. “We do that after nearly every play, and a lot of times the actors will say they are going to be in something that we had not planned to see. That may sway us.”
“We can usually gather two things, they’ll be good, and the show won’t likely be a dud.”
According to the couple, they prefer straight plays to musicals, and they would choose to attend a new play over a production of an existing work. And their tastes lean toward edgier fare.
Tom remembered when one of the large theatre companies put on an all male production of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. “We heard it was remarkable, but we didn’t see that one. We went to Taffety Punk Theatre Company’s all female Romeo and Juliet. That was something that seemed really, really interesting.”
“One of the things we love about theatre is the immediacy,” said Alison. “Some of the larger houses have money to spend and they do fantastic things. But there is excitement and immediacy in being in a smaller space.”
Their love affair with Washington theatres began when Thomas Holzman and Alison Drucker moved to the area 1978. They were already married at the time, and Tom had accepted a new job.
Attending theatre had always been a part of their lives. While growing up in a variety of places, including France, Tom’s parents would take him to theatre. Alison said she had always been interested in it. Their appreciation continued as they settled in and started their family.
In their early years, while raising two children, they did not attend as much theatre as they do now, but once their children were more independent, they could get out more often. “Once the older one could watch the younger child, it all mushroomed from there,” Alison said.
Now they see as much as they can, but it’s not always just a performance. “We go out three to four times a week, on average. Some of it is seeing actual shows, but we also count attending readings, design presentations, and fundraisers.”
Tom estimates they have more than a dozen theatre subscriptions, some full and some partial. They still have to prioritize, since there is so much to see. As they decide what to see, they look at who might be involved, said Alison. “If we know the cast, the director or maybe even the playwright that helps. The subject matter might help us decide also.”
No matter what, she said, they are fortunate the level of artistry offered by Washington theatres is of such high quality.
They are also motivated by their personal connection to the many venues and artists. She said, “This is a close-knit community and it is thrilling to be involved with these people” as audience members. “In our small way we are part of this large and vibrant community. We identify with it.”
Tom added, “We feel like we’re down in the trenches with them, and we like it that way.”
For Alison Drucker and Tom Holzman, sharing the theatre experience seems to be a mission for themselves and others, according to Krikstan. “They are very apt to engage other patrons in the audience. They provide that spark that gets conversation moving. It’s a great night when folks want to stick around and talk about a story. Alison and Tom make this happen.”
Rest assured, where theatre happens in the Washington-area, there will be one couple who savor the experience and are happy to share their enthusiasm with others, onstage or off.
The 2012 Gary Maker Audience Award presentation, Friday, September 14, 2012
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