By David Ertischek ’01
Every EVVYs show is like no other. But EVVYs 39 will take the prize for being the most unique, as the event is a prerecorded virtual show with appearances by an amazing cast of famous Emerson alums.
The show is being streamed on Friday, May 29, at 8:00 pm, at www.evvyawards.org/live-stream.
Along with a packed roster of famous alumni, this year’s show is very different than others, as it also is a fundraiser for the Emerson College Student & Family Crisis Relief Fund. The fund supports students to continue their Emerson education and provide financial relief to those impacted by COVID-19.
EVVYs advisor Diana Barton, who knows a thing or two about awards shows from working on more than 300 live and taped television events, said that she and the four student executive producers knew they had to announce the awards in some way.
“Moving to the virtual show, all of the producers had to brainstorm what shape the show would now be,” said Aesthetic Executive Producer Liz Bradford ’21. “We wanted to keep our core value of honoring students at the heart of show, so we tried to choose the best format for that. We still have every name being read with a presenter announcing the winner.”
Once it became clear that, due to COVID-19, the students could no longer produce a live show, let alone be together to create the show, Barton conceptualized ways to make the show special.
“I started thinking about our wonderful alum and wouldn’t it be cool to have Denis Leary read your winning name… or Jay Leno, Jennifer Coolidge, Henry Winkler, and so on?” said Barton. “And I also thought that if we all have to stay home, well, they [do] too… so let’s reach out to them. Luckily, the [four student executive producers] were on board with that and a rundown with a brand-new show was created.”
From there the executive producers, advisor and trustee Kevin Bright ’76, and Eric Fox, production manager for MTP and advisor to the EVVYs, worked with Alumni Engagement to get contact info and they went to work.
Fox said this year’s show is “a true testament to the strength of the Emerson community. The executive producers, hosts, writers, and post-production teams have done a phenomenal job essentially rebuilding the show from scratch.”
“Everybody on the celebrity front shares my passion for Emerson. When the call went out everyone responded within a day,” said Bright, who has been an advisor to the EVVYs for more than a decade. ” This situation was unique and needed everyone to come together.”
Barton said Denis Leary ‘79 was first on board, signing on within about 13 minutes of receiving the email. Then Steven Wright ’78 and Jay Leno ’73 said yes, and it snowballed from there.
In addition to Leary, Wright, and Leno the list of alumni participating in this year’s show includes:
Max Mutchnik ‘87
Maria Menounos ‘00
Bobbi Brown ‘79
Dan Finnerty ‘92
Henry Winkler ‘67
Bill Burr ‘93
Norman Lear ‘44
Justin Willman ‘02
Miguel Cervantes ‘99
Adele Lim ‘96
Kevin Bright ‘76
Vin Di Bona ‘66
Jennifer Coolidge ‘85
Trustee and EVVYs advisor Kevin Bright ‘76 said no one would’ve faulted the students if they chose to walk away from doing the show. But walking away is not the spirit of Emerson.
“They could not let a year go by without acknowledging the work. There would have been no other opportunity to [do so],” said Bright.
He added that supporting the fund is extremely important.
“When students started Emerson a year ago, or are about to enter, they made plans about what they could afford and what their parents could afford to do,” Bright said. “Those plans have taken a real dagger to the heart, and what we have to do is respond as a community to say, ‘This is the most important thing on our table, keeping our students in the college.’
“I think it’s resonant to every alum to ask what would’ve happened if all of a sudden their education was pulled up short and they hadn’t been able to finish,” he said.
Had that been the case for Bright, he never would’ve met his mentor and professor Dan Lounsbury, who after graduation took Bright under his wing in Los Angeles and helped him get his foot in the door.
As a mentor to this year’s EVVYs group, Bright emphasized that despite the restrictions placed on them due to the pandemic, they’re still producing an entertainment program.
“No one wants to hear a laundry list of awards being read. They want to be entertained,” said Bright.
That call for entertainment meant scrapping months of planning for the show. But their work will not go unnoticed. In the playbill, which will be on the EVVYs streaming page, there will be samples of work that couldn’t make it into the show. Things like what the hosts were going to wear, and bits by the writers.
“Changing the format of our show so drastically just weeks before the show is a challenge we never expected to encounter,” said Logistics Executive Producer Rhegan Graham ‘21. “We’ve been working hard to make sure the show adequately recognizes our incredible nominees and winners, and we hope that people see that.”
That hard work meant rebuilding the show from start to finish. Awards shows always feature a big opening performance — so what’s in store to kick-off the show?
“There’s not much I can say without spoiling it so tune in on the 29th! It will be a great show!” said Creative Content Executive Producer Rachel Westra ’21.
The following students created this year’s EVVY Awards: