One of my favorite events of the NYC theatre season is the Drama League Awards. The event is chilling as the nominees walk to the dias. Normally a rather long affair, the streaming version was just under an hour.
Since first presented in 1922, and formalized in 1935, The Drama League Awards have been presented by The Drama League, an arts service organization that has provided vital support to the field and its artists for over a century. The organization’s mission provides the nation’s only full-time, lifelong creative home for stage directors and the audiences that enjoy their work across the world. The five traditional competitive categories are Outstanding Production of a Play, Outstanding Production of a Musical, Outstanding Revival of a Play, Outstanding Revival of a Musical,and the highly coveted Distinguished Performance Award. Additionally, each year theater luminaries are selected to receive Special Honors: The Founders Award for Excellence in Directing, the award for Unique Contribution to the Theater, the award forDistinguished Achievement in Musical Theater, and the new Gratitude Award. For a complete list of productions and performers that have won Drama League Awards in the event’s history, as well as all past honorees, click here.
What was different this year was the establishment in five unique categories to honor the extraordinary achievements of artists across the nation who created digital and socially-distanced theatrical productions during this challenging year of suspension for live arts.
The 33 nominated productions premiered between March 12, 2020 – March 15, 2021 and were selected from submissions by 400+ directors and theatre professionals who are the alumni of The Drama League’s support programs for directors.
First up was
First up was Outstanding Digital Concert: Take Me To The World: A Sondheim 90th Birthday Celebration
Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. Produced by Stephen Sondheim, Mary-Mitchell Campbell, Bill Curran, Raúl Esparza, John Gore, and Paul Wontorek. Directed by Paul Wontorek as a benefit for ASTEP (Artists Striving to End Poverty). Presented by Broadway.com https://www.broadway.com/sondheim90/
First up for the 2021 Special Recognition Honorees, was father-daughter duo Richard & Demi Weitz, who were honored with the Distinguished Achievement in Musical Theater Award for their creation of the “Quarantunes” series, which provides a virtual platform for musical theater artists and generated over $20 million in funds for nonprofits across the country.
Iris Smith, who received the inaugural Gratitude Award for her fearless support of the The Drama League and the theater community at large. Gloria, Emilio & Emily Estefan sang a morning tribute to Ms. Smith.
Lesil Tommy, was not in attendance but was awarded the Founders Award for Excellence in Directing for her extraordinary work on stages across the country and commitment to mentorship in the field. The Actors Fund, was the recipient of the Unique Contribution to Theater Award for its emergency relief efforts through COVID-19, the Winter Storms, and Oregon Wildfires this past season and its ongoing commitment to providing resources for artists.
Outstanding Audio Theater Production: Chonburi International Hotel and Butterfly Club. Written by Shakina Nayfack. Directed by Laura Savia at the Williamstown Theatre Festival (Williamstown, MA) and Audible
Outstanding Digital Theater, Individual Production: The Great Work Begins: Scenes from Angels In America. Written by Tony Kushner. Directed by Ellie Heyman and presented by amfAR (The Foundation for AIDS Research) https://www.thegreatworkbegins.org
Outstanding Digital Theater, Collective Or Festival: Theater in Quarantine. Created by founder Joshua William Gelb (New York, NY) and Katie Rose McLaughlin (New York, NY). Collaborators: Ian Axness, Eric Berryman, Chris Bell, Liza Birkenmeier, Heather Christian, Alex Falberg, Madeleine George, Sanaz Ghajar, Afra Hines, Sunny Hitt, Veronica Jiao, Raja Feather Kelly, Jon Levin, Johnny G. Lloyd, Nehemiah Luckett, Josh Luxenberg, Grace McLean, Lee Minora, Karen Olivo, Dan O’Neil, Erin Ortman, Gavin Price, Dito Van Reigersberg, Krit Robinson, Scott R. Sheppard, Matt Stevens, The Westerlies , Alex Weston, Ellen Winter and many others. http://www.youtube.com/theaterinquarantine
Outstanding Interactive Or Socially-Distanced Theater: 7 Deadly Sins. Written by Hilary Bettis, Nilo Cruz, Moisés Kaufman, Rogelio Martinez, Dael Orlandersmith, Carmen Pelaez, and Aurin Squire. Conceived and directed by Michel Hausmann. Greed directed by Moisés Kaufman, Wrath directed by Jade King Carroll and Miami New Drama (Miami Beach, FL) https://www.miaminewdrama.org/7deadlysins
Drama League Membership is an audience support program for the American theatre; members receive access to special members-only events, Broadway, Off-Broadway, and West End tickets, discounts at local businesses, industry insider updates, and more. Membership is tax-deductible, with annual and monthly membership options available. To become a voting member, visit dramaleague.org/membership or call (212) 244-9494, Ext. 101.