The Drama League Awards, first presented in 1922, and formalized in 1935, have the distinction of being the oldest national theatrical honors, in addition to being the only major awards chosen by the entire theater community of League members. This year’s 87th annual awards continue the longstanding tradition of recognizing outstanding accomplishments in theater, in an online ceremony scheduled for Friday, May 21, at 7 pm.
The five traditional awards categories are Outstanding Production of a Play, Outstanding Production of a Musical, Outstanding Revival of a Play, Outstanding Revival of a Musical, and the Distinguished Performance Award. What is different this year, as a result of the pandemic hiatus of live theater since March 2020, is the establishment of five unique categories – Outstanding Digital Theater, Individual Production; Outstanding Digital Theater, Collection or Festival; Outstanding Interactive or Socially-Distanced Theater; Outstanding Audio Theater Production; and Outstanding Digital Concert – designed to honor the extraordinary achievements of artists nationwide who created digital and socially-distanced theatrical pieces that “exemplify inspiration, innovation, and imagination.”
Eligible productions for the current awards season premiered between March 12, 2020-March 15, 2021. The 33 nominated productions were selected from submissions by more than 400 directors and theater professionals who are the alumni of The Drama League’s support programs for directors. In addition to the competitive categories, Special Honors are also presented each year: The Founders Award for Excellence in Directing; the award for Unique Contribution to the Theater; and the award for Distinguished Achievement in Musical Theater. Added to those is the new Gratitude Award.
And the nominees are:
OUTSTANDING DIGITAL THEATER, INDIVIDUAL PRODUCTION:
Belly of the Beast, directed by Lisa Rothe, written by Margaret Vandenburg, Daniel Dae Kim/3AD, in partnership with TodayTix and New York Theatre Workshop (New York, NY);
Circle Jerk, conceived and written by Michael Breslin and Patrick Foley, in collaboration with Cat Rodriguez and Ariel Sibert, directed by Rory Pelsue, produced by Caroline Gart, Fake Friends (New York, NY);
Disclaimer, written by Tara Ahmadinejad, directed by Jeff Wood and Tara Ahmadinejad, created by Piehole, The Public Theater (New York, NY);
Don’t Stay Safe, book and lyrics by Cheryl L. Davis, music by Douglas J. Cohen, directed by Christina Franklin, Prospect Theater Company (New York, NY);
Duchess! Duchess! Duchess!, written by Vivian J.O. Barnes, directed by Weyni Mengesha, Steppenwolf Theatre Company (Chicago, IL);
The Great Work Begins: Scenes from Angels In America, written by Tony Kushner, directed by Ellie Heyman, presented by amfAR (The Foundation for AIDS Research);
GRIMMZ Fairy Tales, written by Christopher Parks, Rahsheem Shabazz, and Ron Lee McGill, directed by Christopher Parks, Children’s Theatre of Charlotte (Charlotte, NC);
Heroes of the Fourth Turning, written by Will Arbery, directed by Blanka Zizka, Wilma Theater (Philadelphia, PA);
Last Gasp, written by Lois Weaver and Peggy Shaw, directed by Lois Weaver, Split Britches (New York, NY);
The Last 5 Years, written and composed by Jason Robert Brown, directed by Jason Michael Webb, Out Of The Box Theatrics (New York, NY);
What Do They Call Us, created and directed by Qween Jean, Ars Nova (New York, NY);
Where Did We Sit on the Bus?, written by Brian Quijada, directed by Matt Dickson, a digital creation by Satya Chávez and Matt Dickson, Actors Theatre of Louisville (Louisville, KY).
OUTSTANDING DIGITAL THEATER, COLLECTION OR FESTIVAL:
1MOVE: DES19NED BY . . ., created by Alan C. Edwards, Brittany Bland, Christopher Darbassie, Dominique Fawn Hill, Kameron Neal, Mika Eubanks, Nehprii Amenii, nicHi douglas, Nikiya Mathis, Qween Jean, Ramaj Jamar, Taylor Lilly, Teniece Divya Johnson, Teresa L. Williams, Twi McCallum, Ao Li, Chen-Wei Liao, Dina El-Aziz, Edurne Fernandez, Kimie Nishikawa, María Feuereisen, Megumi Katayama, Ntokozo Fuzunina Kunene, Omar Madkour, Reza Behjat, Riw Rakkulchon, Rodrigo Muñoz, Stefania Bulbarella, Wenzheng (Wen) Zhang, and Yee Eun Nam, co-curated by Dede Ayite, Stacey Derosier, Clint Ramos, Cha See, and Paul Tazewell, The Movement Theatre Company (New York, NY);
AFO Solo Shorts (Round 1 and 2), written, created, and directed by Veronica Barron, Beaudau Karel Banks, Eliza Bent, Ellarose Chary, Jody Christopherson, Jasmine Eileen Coles, Kendra Cui, Darian Dauchan, Toni Ann DeNoble, Tayna Everett, Gina Femia, Nela Fortunato, Raz Golden, Nathan Gebhard, Charles Gershman, Kathryn Grody, Brandon James Gwinn, Katie Melby, Matthew Paul Olmos, Erika Sheffer, Casey Alexander Smith, William Steinberger, Melissa Tien, Rhys Tivey, Emily Waters, Sybil Wigglesworth, Zonia, Tsang Lok Sze, All For One Theater (New York, NY);
The Manic Monologues, originally created by Zachary Burton and Elisa Hofmeister, virtual experience conceived and directed by Elena Araoz, McCarter Theater Center in collaboration with Princeton University Health Services, The 24 Hour Plays, and Innovations in Socially Distant Performance at the Lewis Center for the Arts (Princeton, NJ);
The Work of Adrienne Kennedy: Inspiration and Influence, written by Adrienne Kennedy (Sleep Deprivation Chamber by Adam P. Kennedy and Adrienne Kennedy), directed by Raymond O. Caldwell, Timothy Douglas, Valerie Curtis-Newton, and Nicole A. Watson, Round House Theatre (Bethesda, MD) in association with McCarter Theater Center (Princeton, NJ) conceived by Nicole A. Watson;
Theater in Quarantine, created by founder Joshua William Gelb (New York, NY) and Katie Rose McLaughlin (New York, NY).
OUTSTANDING INTERACTIVE OR SOCIALLY-DISTANCED THEATER:
American Dreams, written by Leila Buck, directed by Tamilla Woodard, created and developed by Leila Buck and Tamilla Woodard with Jens Rasmussen, in collaboration with Osh Ghanimah, Imran Sheikh, and the company, Working Theater (New York, NY);
Carla’s Quince, created by The Voting Project (Ashley Alvarez, Galia Backal, Yadira De La Riva, Jorge Donoso, Estefanía Fadul, Michael León, María Peyramaure, Camila Pérez Santiago, and Christina Watanabe), directed by Estefanía Fadul, with guest artists Jason Aguirre (tech facilitator), Jamie Salinger (stage manager), Haydee Zelideth (costume consultant), and Sebastian Zuniga (performer);
Fort Worth Lynching Tour: Honoring the Memory of Mr. Fred Rouse, concept and choreography Adam W. McKinney, director Daniel Banks, app design Digital Ant Media, music by: Third Wind Productions/Maritri Garrett and David Winder, graphic design Troy Lambert, tintype photography Will Wilson, guest artists Edykah Chilome, Julienne Greer, Sedrick Huckaby, Jordan Jones, Opal Lee, Pastor Kyev P. Tatum, Sr., associate producer Jiles King, production associate NaTasha Thompson, production manager Jamelyn Ebelacker, production assistant Lauren Huynh, sound engineering Michael Billow and Gregg Powers, A DNAWORKS Production (Fort Worth, TX);
Package Play, created and performed by Katie Farmin, Tricklock Company (Albuquerque, NM);
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, Miami New Drama (Miami Beach, FL);
A Thousand Ways (Part One), created by 600 HIGHWAYMEN | Abigail Browde & Michael Silverstone (Brooklyn, NY), ArKtype/Thomas O. Kriegsmann executive producer;
Wild Thyme, written by Liz Duffy Adams, produced by West Hyler and Shelley Butler, Artistic Stamp (New York, NY).
BEST AUDIO THEATER PRODUCTION:
G.O.A.T., written by Ngozi Anyanwu, directed by Whitney White, Playing On Air (Hillsdale, NY);
OUTTAKES, written by Qui Nguyen, directed by May Adrales, Playwrights Horizons (New York, NY);
The Chonburi International Hotel and Butterfly Club, written by Shakina Nayfack, directed by Laura Savia, Williamstown Theatre Festival (Williamstown, MA) and Audible;
Prime: A Practical Breviary, written, composed, and performed by Heather Christian, Playwrights Horizons (New York, NY);
Tiger Style!, written by Mike Lew, directed by Moritz von Stuelpnagel, Huntington Theatre Company and WGBH Radio (Boston, MA).
OUTSTANDING DIGITAL CONCERT PRODUCTION:
BREATHING FREE, a visual album, featuring excerpts from Beethoven’s Fidelio, Negro Spirituals, and songs by Harry T. Burleigh, Florence Price, Langston Hughes, Anthony Davis, and Thulani Davis, Heartbeat Opera, NYC;
Myths and Hymns (Chapters 1 and 2), music and lyrics by Adam Guettel, conceived and supervised by Ted Sperling, directed by Greg Anderson, Sammi Cannold, Anthony Roth Costanzo, Lear deBessonet, Khristian Dentley, Doug Fitch, Anne Kauffman, and Ted Sperling, presented by Mastervoices;
Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical, conceived by The #RatatouilleMusical Community, featuring work by Danny Bernstein, Gabbi Bolt, Kevin Chamberlin, RJ Christian, Nathan Fosbinder, Emily Jacobsen, Sophia James, Katie Johantgen, Daniel Mertzlufft, Alec Powell, Blake Rouse and Jessica Siswick, adapted for the stage by Michael Breslin and Patrick Foley, directed by Lucy Moss, presented by Seaview;
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, benefit for ASTEP (Artists Striving to End Poverty), presented by Broadway.com.
The 2021 SPECIAL RECOGNITION DRAMA LEAGUE AWARDS honorees are:
Gratitude Award: Iris Smith, for her fearless support of the The Drama League and the theater community at large;
The Founders Award for Excellence in Directing: Liesl Tommy, for her extraordinary work on stages across the country and commitment to mentorship in the field;
Distinguished Achievement in Musical Theater: Richard & Demi Weitz, 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;
Unique Contribution to Theater Award: The Actors Fund, 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.
Congratulations to all of the nominees and honorees. The 87th Annual Drama League Awards will be streamed on Friday, May 21, 2021, at 7:00 pm. For tickets (starting at $15 for non-members), go online.