If you go

WHAT: Theatre Charleston Awards Gala

WHEN: 6 p.m. Aug. 25 (ceremony begins at 7:30 p.m.)

WHERE: Woolfe Street Playhouse, 34 Woolfe St.

COST: $65

MORE INFO: Evening begins with open bar, heavy hors d’oeuvres and final voting. Formal attire (black tie optional) requested. For tickets and more information, visit www. theatrecharleston.com/awards.

It’s hard not to notice all the theaters in town.

There is a theater for every 46,000 residents of the Charleston metropolitan area, more than a dozen companies in all.

Most are members of The League of Charleston Theatres, otherwise known as Theatre Charleston, an alliance created to support and promote the area’s companies locally and nationally.

In its effort to shine a spotlight on the good work of local theater professionals and volunteers, the League started a new peer-judged award program last year, modeled after the Los Angeles Stage Alliance’s Ovation Awards.

Fifty reviewers — League members and local patrons — were deployed during the 2012-13 season to scrutinize productions by affiliated theater companies. The nominees were announced last week.

Winners in each category, and from each participating company, will be acknowledged at the first Theatre Charleston Awards Gala and Ceremony, scheduled for the evening of Aug. 25 at the Woolfe Street Playhouse. Tickets for the gala went on sale Aug. 1. Proceeds will go to support the efforts and operation of the League.

Emily Wilhoit, League executive director, said the awards initiative is the result of “long conversations over several years” about how to get the word out about good local theater in the face of declining media coverage.

When she and her colleagues noted that Bill Murray had been selected by City Paper readers as the best local actor in 2011, 2012 and 2013, coughs and moans ensued, not because Murray is not a fine actor, but because he does not act locally.

So the research began.

The League is part of a national coalition called the Alliance of Performing Arts Service Organizations, which provided information about award programs.

“We were trying to find a way to do this that would really make it a celebration of excellence in theater in the community,” Wilhoit said. “We didn’t want it to be competition.”

The League developed a 20-page rule book, put a pool of 50 voters together and found an independent tabulator.

Voters had to attend at least eight shows at five different theaters and rank all aspects of the productions on a scale of 1-10 (with clear definitions for each grade). Voters had to sign a code of conduct, pledging they would be unbiased, she said.

The long list of nominees represents top scorers at each member theater. In many cases, theaters compete with themselves, Wilhoit said.

Already a new pool of voters — 60 this time — has been assembled for the 2013-14 season, which gets started this month.

Henry Clay Middleton is among the nominees for Outstanding Director of a Musical. Middleton directed Footlight Players’ production of “Porgy and Bess.”

He said he was honored, and happy that the work of theater professionals and volunteers was being validated in Charleston.

“For me personally, it’s more important for the cast, for the work, the very, very, very hard work we did to put this together,” he said. “It means a lot to the Footlight Theatre. ‘Porgy and Bess’ is kind of a show that some people wondered whether it could even be done with local talent. ... Footlight believed in this community. I was just a small part of it, just blessed enough to have the opportunity.”

Richard Heffner, Footlight Players’ executive producing director and a league board member, said the trick was creating an award program that avoided destructive competition but provided a meaningful and fun way to pay tribute to good theater.

“We had long discussions about ways to make it as equitable as possible,” he said.

Now he and his colleagues hope that creating a bit of buzz will result in momentum that can lead to future award ceremonies and more ticket sales.

“There are those who are really looking forward to that,” he said. “Others see it as way to recognize the work the community does.”

The trophy, designed by Simeon Warren, a staffer at the School of the Building Arts, is based on the grand drape of the theater and incorporates Charleston imagery such as wrought iron, sea shells, pine architecture and sweetgrass baskets, Heffner said.

The essence of the awards idea is to leverage what Heffner called the city’s second artistic renaissance, a current period of intense creative energy, and reinforce it — first from within, then by engaging more and more of the theater-going public.

Wilhoit, calling the initiative “an experiment,” said it could bolster theater companies’ fundraising and marketing efforts, as well as help them gauge talent within the community.

“People are so excited,” she said. “It makes me so happy.”

Reach Adam Parker at 937-5902.