Pundits underwhelmed by the 1998-99 theatre season might prefer to take the long view and remember that even slow years have moments of greatness, and terrific years don't always seem so wonderful when you're in them day-to-day. After doing that for, say, fifty years, a theatregoer can no doubt settle back and recall a lifetime of stars, magic and memories.
Certainly that's what the Drama Desk will be doing Feb. 17, when the organization officially celebrates its 50th anniversary. Past Drama Desk Award winners, as well as current Broadway and Off-Broadway stars have been invited to a cocktail party at the Broadway Grill, 5-8 PM. The party is open to members and their guests only.
The Drama Desk Awards recognize excellence in Broadway and Off- Broadway theatre. Last year's winners included The Beauty Queen of Leenane (play), Ragtime (musical), A View From The Bridge (revival play) and Cabaret (revival musical).
Expected to attend the Feb. 17 party are Gerard Alessandrini (Forbidden Broadway), Kevin Anderson (Death of a Salesman), Brent Barrett (Chicago), Douglas Carter Beane (As Bees in Honey Drown), Jed Bernstein (Executive director of the League of American Theatres & Producers), Kate Burton (The Beauty Queen of Leenane), Zoe Caldwell, Kathleen Chalfant (Wit), Barbara Cook, Quentin Crisp, Lindsay Duncan (Ashes to Ashes), Lisa Emery (Far East), Stephen Flaherty (composer of Ragtime), librettist George Furth, Daniel Gerroll, Adolph Green and Phyllis Newman, Judd Hirsch (Art), Barnard Hughes, Judy Kaye, Swoosie Kurtz (Mineola Twins), LaChanze (Ragtime), Warren Leight (playwright of Side Man), Tsidii Le Loka (The Lion King), Anna Manahan (Beauty Queen), Joe Mantello, Stanley Wayne Mathis and Ilana Levine (both in You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown), Michael Mayer, Donna McKechnie, Judy Parfitt (Night Must Fall), Michele Pawk (Cabaret), John Rubinstein, Douglas Sills (The Scarlet Pimpernel), Stephen Spinella (Electra), Meshach Taylor (Beauty and the Beast), Susan Stroman & Michael Ockrent, Paula Vogel, Ruth Williamson (Little Me), producer Robert Whitehead, Rachel York, Karen Ziemba (Chicago).
Drama Desk president David Sheward told Playbill On-Line he attributed the organization's longevity to its regular meetings, panels and gatherings. "It's the only group that really allows for people who write about theatre to get together on a regular basis and exchange ideas, information and thoughts about the profession. There's no organization like it. Also, the Awards have continued for all these years. They're the most inclusive and comprehensive theatre awards in New York. We include everybody, on and Off-Broadway, on an equal basis in all our categories. Nothing is excluded." The Drama Desk Awards nominations will be announced the morning of April 26 at the Friar's Club. The awards ceremony, hosted by Bernadette Peters, will take place May 16 at a venue to be announced at the anniversary party. As in past years, the awards and nominations are to be broadcast live on NY-1.
The nominating committee this season consists of Drama Desk president David Sheward (Back Stage), Alexis Greene (InTheater), Barbara Siegel (Drama-Logue), committee chairman Frank Scheck (The Hollywood Reporter,), Sam Whitehead (Time Out-NY), Harry Haun (Playbill) and David Kaufman (Daily News). Sheward, Greene, Siegel, Scheck and Whitehead are returnees from the previous season.
-- By David Lefkowitz