Each award carries a cash prize of $2,000. The ceremony is free and open to the public. The honors are given out in conjunction with the Publishing Triangle Awards, which honor the best lesbian and gay fiction, non-fiction, and poetry published in 2006.
Bentley is cited in recognition of his plays, essays and songs that have championed the right to live an openly gay life. The scholar, teacher, critic, performer and playwright was born in England in 1916 and became an American citizen in 1948. He has written many commentaries on playwriting, and specifically on Brecht, Pirandello and Shaw, and has translated plays by Pirandello and Brecht. His translations, productions and commentaries on Brecht's plays helped shape Brecht's reputation in America and throughout the world.
Among Bentley's many plays, Are You Now or Have You Ever Been is his best-known. Lord Alfred's Lover is about Oscar Wilde and Lord Alfred Douglas, and Round Two is a gay response to Arthur Schnitzler's La Ronde. Bentley was honored with a 2006 Village Voice Obie Awards Lifetime Achievement Award and was inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame in 1998.
Weikel's play The Way-Weary, about T.E. Lawrence, was a recent finalist for the Kennedy Center Fund for New American Plays. His play Penny Penniworth was produced in the 2003 FringeNYC Festival, and his Dansport was featured in the Samuel French Festival of New American Plays in 2002. He is a founding member of the gay and lesbian theatre company TOSOS II and was a member of Emerging Artists Theatre Company (EAT), both of which have produced his plays. He has acted at Paper Mill Playhouse and many other regional venues.
Chesley — the writer of Night Sweat, about the AIDS crisis, along with Jerker, or the Helping Hand, The Dog Plays, Stray Dog Story and Private Theatricals — died of complications from AIDS in 1990. Each year, the Robert Chesley Foundation honors the work of an emerging gay or lesbian playwright, and in many years also honors a writer who has produced a significant body of work. The foundation — established in 1993 by the late playwright's friend Victor Bumbalo — "seeks to advance gay and lesbian theatre by honoring playwrights who have put lesbian or gay characters at the center of their plays, have rejected stereotypes or turned them to new uses, and have made or are making a significant contribution to our culture," according to press notes.
Previous honorees include Doric Wilson, Lisa Kron, Megan Terry, Christopher Shinn and Maria Irene Fornes.
For further info on the Publishing Triangle Awards, visit www.publishingtriangle.org. Tishman Auditorium of The New School is located at 66 West 12th Street in Manhattan.