The year 1992 marked the tenth year of the enterprise. To mark the occasion, two special awards were added: a Lifetime Achievement Award to actor Jason Robards, and a Tenth Anniversary Award to dancer/director Tommy Tune. The Medal went to A.R.T. resident director David Wheeler, the Cushman Prize to the late Frances West, and the Skinner Prize to A.R.T. senior actor Jeremy Geidt. A new permanent recognition of directing also began that year, named for Henry Jewett (1861-1930), and bestowed on Tina Packer.
The 1993 gala ceremony and banquet doubled as a celebration of Elliot Norton's 90th birthday. His longtime dear friend Kitty Carlisle was Guest of Honor. A Creative Achievement Award went to playwright Terrence McNally, and a Lifetime Achievement Award to actress Claire Bloom. The Medal went to actress Lynn Redgrave in recognition of Shakespeare for My Father, which she performed in Symphony Hall (and which later brought her a Tony nomination). The Cushman Prize went to M. Lynda Robinson, the Skinner Prize to Munson Hicks, and the Jewett Prize to Joann Green. A new honor, named for Robert Edmond Jones (1887-1954), was introduced for outstanding design; the first recipients were the team of Helen Pond and Herbert Senn.
A crisis arose early in 1994 when Elliot Norton stated, "I feel we should close the event down. The Awards helped the theater in Boston considerably. But my illness and that of my wife make me feel that now is the time to call it all off." The other members of the committee were stunned, and soon agreed that they were willing to carry on without Norton's personal participation. Norton reconsidered, and expressed his hope that "you will not let the whole thing drop." Norton and the other legal officers of the corporation all resigned, and turned their places over to the selection committee, which was reconstituted as the Boston Theater Critics Association (with myself as president), under whose aegis the Norton Awards would continue.
We introduced several important changes at that time. We decided to supplement the awards in acting, directing, and design with three new awards for overall productions--by a visiting troupe, by a large resident company, and by a small resident company. It was obvious that the increasing local activity by modest organizations with limited finances could yield excellence without having to be judged on the scale of the Huntington and the A.R.T. with their multimillion-dollar budgets. In addition, we agreed that all the awards would be based on achievements made during a 12-month period extending from April 1 through March 31.
With the increase in the number of awards, it was clear that a non-profit organization like ours could no longer afford to give out silver medallions and sizeable checks, which therefore bowed to nicely framed certificates. Furthermore, having restricted the eligibility period, we decided to do just the opposite with the Norton Medal: It would now become the Norton Prize for Sustained Excellence. At the same time, I was outvoted in my desire to continue naming awards for historical giants (Cushman, Skinner, Jewett, Jones). So we adopted the practice simply of designating the achievements in the several categories as "outstanding." Unlike some other award-giving bodies, we have always--because many factors go into evaluating achievements--scrupulously avoided using the word "best."
Under the revised 1994 guidelines, the first award for a visiting production went to the Royal National Theatre's mounting of Alan Bennett's The Madness of George III. Winning for a large resident company was the A.R.T.'s double-barreled staging of Shakespeare's Henry IV. The small-resident honor went to the Nora Theatre Company's production of Miller's Death of a Salesman, which also won for its director, Eric Engel. The Outstanding Actress was Sandra Shipley (her second win) for roles at the Merrimack Repertory Theatre and the Gloucester Stage Company. The Outstanding Actor was Diego Arciniegas, for two roles at the Merrimack.