Following two postponements of its annual presentation, in May and June, in light of the coronavirus crisis and in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, the 65th annual Obie Awards for the 2019-20 season, celebrating the achievements of Off- and Off-Off-Broadway theater, were announced tonight in a pre-recorded stream on YouTube, presented by The American Theatre Wing and The Village Voice. A pre-show fundraiser to benefit the theater community during the coronavirus pandemic featured a show-tune sing-along with Adam Michael Tilford and Kenney M. Green, and special appearances by Saycon Sengbloh, N’Kenge, LaChanze, and Celia Rose Gooding.
The awards celebration, hosted by the hilarious Cole Escola, included a star-studded and dedicated line-up of presenters (including Cynthia Erivo, LaTanya Richardson Jackson, Heidi Schreck, Katrina Lenk, Dominique Morisseau, Rachel Chavkin, Liesl Tommy, Emilio Sosa, Clint Ramos, Eisa Davis, Sam Pinkleton, Rachel Hauck, and Heather Hitchens), interspersed with rousing performances from past and present Obie-winning hits (Fela!, Merrily We Roll Along, and A Strange Loop) and an “In Memoriam” segment with Shaina Taub, honoring those lost in the past year.
Recipients were named for excellence in writing, directing, choreography, performance, and design, in addition to those receiving special citations and awards. The honorees are:
PLAYWRITING: Will Arbery, Heroes of the Fourth Turning; Haruna Lee, Suicide Forest; Michael R. Jackson, A Strange Loop;
DIRECTING: Kenny Leon, Much Ado About Nothing; JoAnne Akalaitis, MUD/Drowning; Whitney White, Our Dear Dead Drug Lord; Les Waters, Sustained Excellence in Direction;
CHOREOGRAPHY: Camille A. Brown, Sustained Excellence in Choreography;
PERFORMANCE: Liza Colón-Zayas and Elizabeth Rodriguez, Halfway Bitches Go Straight to Heaven; Emily Davis, Is This A Room; Edmund Donovan, Greater Clements; April Matthis, Toni Stone; Joe Ngo, Cambodian Rock Band; Deirdre O’Connell, Dana H.;
COSTUME DESIGN: Andrea Hood, Public Works;
LIGHTING DESIGN: Jen Schriever, Sustained Excellence in Lighting Design;
SOUND DESIGN: Mikhail Fiksel, Dana H. and Cambodian Rock Band;
SET DESIGN: Yu-Hsuan Chen, Our Dear Dead Drug Lord; Arnulfo Maldonado, Sustained Excellence in Set Design;
SPECIAL CITATIONS: Michael Feingold, Extraordinary Service to the Theater, with an annual Special Citation Award to be named in his honor; Creative Team and Ensemble, A Strange Loop; Creative Team and Ensemble, Heroes of the Fourth Turning; Creation and Performance, David Neumann and Marcella Murray, Distances Smaller Than This Are Not Confined; Writing and Performance, David Cale, We’re Only Alive for a Short Amount of Time; Collaboration on Music and Sound, Dave Malloy, Or Matias, and Hidenori Nakajo, Octet; Conception and Direction, Tina Satter, Is This A Room; Sustained Excellence as an Artist and Advocate, Alexandria Wailes; Advocacy in the Field of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, Asian American Performers Action Coalition (AAPAC);
INSTITUTIONAL RECOGNITION: Sustained Excellence in Production and Advocacy for Black Artists, National Black Theatre; Providing Extraordinary Support for Early Career Playwrights, Page 73; Providing Extraordinary Support for Emerging Artists, The Tank;
LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD: Vinie Burrows; Tim Sanford.
Congratulations to the honorees and thanks to the Obies for an entertaining celebration of excellence in the NYC theater community beyond Broadway.