TULSA — Tim Blake Nelson's first exposure to live theater performance came as an 8-year-old boy in his native Tulsa, when his grandmother treated him to evenings at the Tulsa Opera.
It was a wondrous thing for the young boy, Nelson remembers — a bonding experience with his grandmother and a chance to experience the grandeur of live performers on stage.
“I can't promise that I always stayed awake,” Nelson said in a telephone interview, “but it certainly left a powerful impression on me.”
Those memories seem particularly relevant this weekend as the actor, director, writer and producer returns to his hometown for the 2012 Tulsa Awards for Theatre Excellence, where he will receive the Distinguished Artist Award for his body of work thus far.
At the 6 p.m. Sunday gala, Nelson — known for his work in films such as “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” and directing his own screenplays for “Eye of God” and “Leaves of Grass” — will become the fourth artist to receive the award (after playwright Joe Sears and native Tulsa actresses Mary Kay Place and Kristen Chenoweth).
The TATE awards, underwritten by the George Kaiser Family Foundation, will also present $20,000 in grants to the outstanding play productions from local theater companies.
Nelson said his first exposure to theater as a performer also came at age 8, when his mother enrolled him in child acting classes at Harwelden.
He took a backstage tour of a Theatre Tulsa production and was fascinated by the scurrying around of stage technicians.
“But it really wasn't until high school at Holland Hall that I took acting seriously at all,” he said. “I had a teacher named Karen Clark who recruited me to be in a production of ‘A Midsummer Night's Dream,' which I really enjoyed.”
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If you go
The Tulsa Awards for Theatre Excellence event is at the Roxana Rozsa and Robert Eugene Lorton Performance Center at the University of Tulsa. Doors will open at 6 p.m.; remarks and an audience Q&A with Nelson will be held at 6:30 p.m. and the ceremony begins at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased by going to tateawards.