Downtown Drama: Obie Awards To Be Handed Out May 15

News   Downtown Drama: Obie Awards To Be Handed Out May 15 Lily Taylor and Eric Bogosian host the 51st annual Village Voice Obie Awards, honoring the 2005-06 season Off-Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway, May 15.

Award presenters at the Jack H. Skirball Center for the Performing Arts at New York University are expected to include Christine Ebersole, S. Epatha Merkerson, Edward Hibbert, Douglas Carter Beane, Phylicia Rashad and Oskar Eustis.

The ceremony runs 8-10:15 PM.

As previously announced, The Lifetime Achievement Award will be presented to Eric Bentley.

Cash grants for artistic excellence and playwriting will also be awarded. There are neither nominations nor categories for the Obie Awards. Judges simply make decisions about distinguished work.

Guests will include Michael Imperioli from "The Sopranos," Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Nilo Cruz and many more. Entertainment will include an excerpt from The Seven, the hip-hop adaptation of Aeschylus' Seven Against Thebes.

Judges for the 2006 Obie Awards (named for the abbreviation "OB," as in Off-Broadway) are Obie-winning playwright Lynn Nottage; Obie-winning actor for sustained excellence, Didi O'Connell; Obie-winning director David Herskovits; playwright and head of Columbia University Graduate Playwriting Program, Eduardo Machado; critic and professor at Yale School of Drama, Marc Robinson; Village Voice chief theatre critic Michael Feingold; Village Voice theatre critic Alexis Soloski; and Village Voice theatre editor and chairman of the 2005-06 Obie Awards Committee, Jorge Morales.

Billed as "Off-Broadway's highest honor" (which the Lucille Lortels and Drama Desks might disagree with), the Obies were created in 1955 by Jerry Tallmer.

The Obies "were created soon after the inception of the weekly paper in order to publicly herald the growing Off-Broadway theatre movement. [The awards] were purposely structured with informal categories to recognize all persons and productions worthy of distinction. The Obies are an important part of the Voice's long history of championing Off and Off-Off-Broadway. More than ever before, the influence of Off-Broadway on the main­stream cannot be overlooked. Yet 'downtown' has retained its original identity as a place for adventurous theatre and artistic ideas. The Village Voice Obies have become a meaningful way of shedding light on a community of artists so creative it defies categorization."

As a young actor, Dustin Hoffman told an audience that his Obie was the biggest thrill of his entire career and one of the most important awards he'd ever received. Many other world-renowned theatre artists, such as Meryl Streep, James Earl Jones, Denzel Washington, Frances Sternhagen, Camryn Manheim, William Macy and Edward Albee, received their first recognition from the Obies.