After four years in office, Drama Desk President Peter Filichia resigned his position in a letter to the membership dated Oct. 1. The Board Of Directors then elected David Sheward, Managing Editor of Back Stage magazine, as the new president of the New York critics organization.
In his resignation letter, Filichia cited his demanding schedule at the Newark Star Ledger and Theatre Week magazine as the reason for his decision to step down. He elaborated for Playbill On-Line: "It's a lot of hard work, and I've been getting tired. I turned 50 this year, and sometimes I've just been running out of gas. I felt I had to start uncomplicating my life. Things have gotten tougher at the Star Ledger; we've got a new editor, so he has to be a go-getter and more demanding. The paper just got a snazzier new look, but they also want more and more copy." (Filichia covers theatre for the paper, as well as the occasional baseball story.)
Filichia points to getting the Drama Desk Awards broadcast on cable-TV's New York News 1 as one of his proudest achievements, but he does say he won't miss the organization's workload. "I used to come home from the theatre and write," admits Filichia, who doesn't know whether he'll stay involved with the Drama Desk in another capacity. "Now a lot of times I watch TV or sleep."
The resignation comes around the time for new Drama Desk elections anyway, Filichia noted, "so I'm not leaving in mid-stream. Besides, it's been four years, and people have been very kind about wanting me to stay. I'd rather ile I'm on top than have people say, "Oh, there's that Filichia, he's been running this . . . thing forever, what a dictator!"
In announcing the appointment of Sheward, Filichia wrote, "As someone who once worked at Back Stage...I can tell you that he -- not James Brown -- is the hardest working man in show business. David has a masterful way of getting things done without ever losing his head, no matter who else misplaces his or hers... You're very fortunate to have him." . Reached by phone at his Back Stage office, David Sheward said he's pretty certain the Drama Desk Awards will again be broadcast on New York New 1 in late May. He's also hoping to organize a pre-awards reception for the nominees, "much like the Tonys."
Sheward spoke proudly of the organization, reminding me that "the Drama Desk is the only major award that doesn't distinguish between Broadway and Off-Broadway achievements in multiple categories. I'm not saying we're better than other awards," he added slyly, "but Julie Andrews DID accept her Drama Desk."
The author of "It's A Hit," about long-running Broadway musicals, David Sheward is currently working on another book about show business awards, to be published in 1997. Aside from the Drama Desk, Sheward is a member of the New York Drama Critics Circle, the Outer Critics Circle, and the American Theatre Critics Association.
-- By David Lefkowitz