Editorial: The Harvey Syndrome and the annual Earl awards

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Editor's note: The opinions expressed below do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Beacon editorial staff as a whole or individuals.  Every year, the theatre department celebrates its students’ accomplishments with an awards show reminiscent of the Tony Awards. The Earl Awards, named for Earl “Doc” Reimer, are given out in many different categories, including Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Technician, Best Stage Manager, Best Comic Relief and even Best Kiss. I’ve been a member of the theatre department my entire time at Bethel. I’ve attended three Earl Awards ceremonies, and I’m about to attend my fourth this Saturday. As far as I can remember, the show has always gone exactly as planned. No mishaps to be seen. But this year, I hope the Earls are immune to an odd epidemic that seems to be going around major award show staffs nationwide. I’m dubbing it Harvey Syndrome, named for Steve Harvey, who first made this blunder famous. I’m sure you’ve heard the story. At the 2015 Miss Universe pageant, Harvey announced Miss Columbia, Ariadna Gutierrez, as the winner. However, unbeknownst to Gutierrez and the audience, the winner was actually Miss Philippines Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach. Harvey had read the wrong name on the card. Harvey’s mistake has spawned a torrent of memes, parodies and catchphrases since that fateful day. But most of us thought it was a one-off event…that is, until the 2017 Academy Awards. I, for one, was completely expecting “La La Land” to win Best Picture. But there were a ton of other worthy movies on the nominee list. So, when Faye Dunaway announced that “La La Land” had indeed won the prestigious award, there was no surprise. However, the real surprise came a few seconds later when Jordan Horowitz, producer of “La La Land” stepped forward, saying “this is not a joke,” and announced “Moonlight” as the actual winner. The Harvey Syndrome had struck again. The fact that the exact same mistake happened at two major awards shows, and subsequently took the Internet by storm, makes me wonder if our own theatre department could be susceptible to such a blunder. Could the wrong person be announced, only to climb the stage to accept their award and be told “oh wait…sorry, my bad”? Could we take Bethel’s social media network by storm as the next victim of the Harvey Syndrome? As someone with several nominations for awards this year, I like to think I have a stake in this. Perhaps we have a proofreader who checks each card before handing it to the presenter? Maybe we could change the way we print the cards so there is no way anyone could misunderstand what’s being conveyed? Maybe we could skip the card entirely and rely on teleprompter. But what about hackers? Is there a foolproof way to guarantee we won’t suffer in the same way the Oscars and Steve Harvey have? I’m being pedantic, of course. There’s no such thing as foolproof anything. We’re only human after all. In fact, the Harvey Syndrome is a wonderful example of our humanness. It proves that everyone, even high-and-mighty celebrities, can fall every once in a while. It’s a message to those of us a little further down on the popularity scale.  Everyone’s human, and, in that sense, we’re all equal. And it’s a message to those higher up that they’re not immune and that they shouldn't take themselves so seriously all the time. Steve Harvey learned that lesson, and he owned up to it. In short, what I’m trying to say is simple. I hope no Harvey Syndrome affects any of our presenters this year. But if it does, that can be part of the magic. As I’ve said over and over again, the magic of live theatre is the fact that things can go wrong. And not only can they, they probably will. As artists, we embrace it. It’s become part of the culture. It’s what brings us together. Who knows, maybe an Earls gaffe might just give us that same kind of bonding. But one thing’s for sure.  If we ever have a Miss Bethel pageant and if Shawn Holtgren is hosting and reads the wrong name, then I want to be around for the Bethel meme flood that will most assuredly happen.
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