The 1997-98 Village Voice OBIE Awards, which recognize excellence in Off-Broadway and Off-Off Broadway theatre, will be given May 18 at Webster Hall in NY.
Writer and actor Eric Bogosian (subUrbia, Talk Radio) will co-host with Kristen Johnson ("Third Rock From The Sun;" NYSF's upcoming The Skin of Our Teeth). Performing at the event will be The Klezmatics (from A Dybbuk), Marc Salem (of Mindgames), and John Cameron Mitchell and band (as Hedwig and the Angry Inch).
Presenters will include Danny Hoch (Jails, Hospitals & Hip-Hop), director Woodie King Jr.(founder of the New Federal Theatre), playwright Mac Wellman (Murder of Crows), Mary Louise Wilson, Lea DeLaria (On The Town), Ellie Covan (founder of Dixon Place), Tsai Chin, Greg Germann and Liz Diamond (director, The America Play).
Co-chairing the 43rd annual awards will be Voice critics, Michael Feingold and Alisa Solomon. Adjudicating the awards will be Feingold and fellow Voice critic, James Hannaham. The two will be flanked by Guest Judges: Suzan Lori Parks (playwright, Venus), Polly Pen (composer, Bed And Sofa), Steven Samuels (of Theatre Communications Group) and Marian Seldes (actress). Charles McNulty will serve as assistant to the committee.
The OBIE Awards were created soon after the inception of the Village Voice in 1955 "to publicly acknowledge and encourage the growing Off Broadway theatre movement." The number of OBIE awards and categories change every year, but usually range 25-31.
Unlike many other awards, the OBIES don't publicize nominations. OBIE spokesperson Gail Parenteau quoted late chairman Ross Wetzsteon as saying the organization doesn't believe in nominations because "they don't like awarding one person at the others' expense." Also unlike other honors, multiple productions or artists can win in a single category -- and some OBIES come with a cash grant.
Because the award ceremony is still rather small-scaled, attendance is by invitation only. Also, the past season's awards were not be broadcast on public or cable television (though portions were taped for segments on news and public affairs shows). Asked about the decision not to go with NY-1 (where, for example, the Drama Desk Awards were shown), Parenteau said, "We don't want to be contained to a certain length, like an hour and a half or two hours. Also, this is really for insiders who need to feel free to say things and let their hair down."
Previous Obie winners have included Dustin Hoffman, Christopher Walken, Zero Mostel, Mary McDonnell, Jill Eikenberry, Samuel Beckett, F. Murray Abraham, Jules Feiffer, Hume Cronyn, Ming Cho Lee, George C. Scott, Rip Torn and Nathan Lane.
For more information, check the OBIES website at http://www.villagevoice.com/obies.