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Empty Space to celebrate past season with Schmempties

If The Empty Space's board has its way, this will be the last Schmempties awards for the theater. That's because Saturday's celebration, the second of its kind, is in recognition of a hybrid performance year affected by the pandemic.

"We are hoping with all our might this is the last one," the theater's financial director Kristina Saldaña wrote in an email. "Our actors and volunteers miss our traditional Empty Space Awards tremendously but completely understand our decision to have alternative events."

The event will be held out in the theater's parking lot in large tents with seating and heaters for guests to be able to enjoy a taco bar, margaritas, dancing, raffles and a ceremony. 

Since the previous season was far from conventional — with three in-person shows and four virtual or socially distanced ones — the recognition ceremony will consist of each production's director or producer selecting an MVP from their cast and crew to honor their "above and beyond work" with the shows.

Saldaña said the past year presented a variety of challenges for the varying productions.

"Online was difficult getting viewers due to screen burnout going into year two of the pandemic," she wrote. "The first shows back in person struggled to retain the volume of audience members from the past as people were still wary to venture out.

"As we got further into December through today, struggling to keep individuals safe in their personal lives among the continuing pandemic as surges occur was a tough one."

She credits her fellow board members with making safety matters a top priority while also finding ways to stay creative and produce shows.

The show will also be livestreamed for those who can't attend in person. They can also purchase raffle tickets for one of 10 baskets, themed for upcoming productions, starting Saturday morning until 6 p.m.

Visit esonline.org/empties for more on the event.

Stefani Dias can be reached at 661-395-7488. Follow her on Twitter: @realstefanidias.