For more than four decades, the Carbonell Awards have recognized achievements in South Florida regional theater, like the Drama Desk Awards in New York City and Chicago’s Joseph Jefferson Awards.

The Carbonell Awards are named after internationally renowned, Cuban-American sculptor Manuel Carbonell, who designed the original solid bronze and marble award in 1976.  

In recent years, the organization has come under criticism for a lack of diversity and perceived inequities in the judging process across the tri-county region. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the Maltz Jupiter and Wick Theatres, both in Palm Beach County, withdrew from the program.

In direct response to community concerns and following a series of community meetings, the Carbonell Awards developed new judge eligibility criteria and replaced the two-tier system of recommendation panelists and judges with a new county-focused process that still maintains the regional integrity of the awards.

“Over the last year, the Carbonell Awards has revised our entire judging process, changing the way judges are assigned, while maintaining our historic focus on recognizing and celebrating theatrical excellence on a regional basis,” said Board President Jeff Kiltie. “In addition, we have redefined the required qualifications for being a Carbonell judge, while strengthening our commitment to creating diverse judging panels, including diversity in age, gender, race, sexual orientation and ethnicity.”

Kiltie added, “We have an outstanding panel of 30 experienced judges, many of whom have been working with the Carbonell Awards for years, but also eight new volunteer judges, all very highly qualified, who have a passion for and openness to all kinds of theater, including plays, musicals, new works, classics, immersive and multidisciplinary theater. This may be the most impressive and diverse roster of Carbonell judges in our 45-year history.”

New Carbonell judges for the 2021-22 season include Dr. Lhisa Almashy, Allen H. Jones, Deborah Nix, Marj O’Neill-Butler, Jeremy Quinn, Ellen Rusconi, Linda Shorrock and Jan Sjostrom.

Two special committees of experienced Carbonell judges researched similar award programs across the country and made specific recommendations to the Board. In response, the Carbonell Awards revised overall production eligibility requirements and instituted a new scoring rubric in judging on-stage and back-stage achievements from which both the nominations and eventual award recipients will be determined. The scoring rubric is adapted from the highly respected ariZoni Theatre Awards of Excellence, Kiltie said in an announcement.

For each eligible production, the new Carbonell coordinator will assign seven judges, including one professional reviewer, four judges from the home county, and two judges from the other counties.

Based on the accumulated results, the top six scoring productions in each competitive category will be considered the nominees, and the nominee with the highest score will be declared the winner at the Carbonell Awards ceremony, traditionally held at the Broward Center in early April.

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