The not-for-profit Clive Barnes Foundation, named after the late theatre and dance critic who died in 2008 at the age of 81, announced the finalists on Nov. 9. Barnes' work appeared in the New York Times, the New York Post and many other publications.
Ashford and Rodriguez play Maureen and Angel, respectively, in the current Off-Broadway revival of Rent; Grisetti got love-letter reviews for his work in the musical comedy Enter Laughing at the York Theatre Company's home and later at Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor, NY; and Damiano is the Tony Award nominee of Next to Normal who created the role of Mary Jane Watson in the musical Spider-Man. She has since left the show.
Barnes' widow, Valerie Taylor Barnes, oversees the awards. This is the second year of the honor. Two top winners (one representing theatre, one from dance) will be picked from the finalists and revealed at the awards ceremony 3 PM Dec. 5 at the Walter Reade Theatre at Lincoln Center. Nonagenarian dance legend Fredric Franklin will announce the dance winner and 2010 Barnes awardee Nina Arianda of Venus in Fur will announce the theatre winner.
In addition to the finalists in theatre named above, the four dance finalists are Isabella Boylston of American Ballet Theatre; Barrington Hinds of Stephen Petronio Company; Natalie Mackessy of Stephen Petronio Company; and Michael Novak of Paul Taylor Dance Company.
"[Clive] was very keen on young would-be performers and dancers," Valerie Taylor Barnes previously told Playbill.com. "I decided that's what we should do…honor and continue helping young people." The awards address fall-to-spring seasons.