In April 1999, the League of Professional Theatre Women received a gift from the Lucille Lortel Estate that allowed for a grant to be awarded every year to "an aspiring woman in any discipline of theatre who shows great creative promise and deserves recognition and encouragement in her efforts." On Dec. 6, the first award will be given.
The League announced that its first Lucille Lortel Award winner (which bears no relation to the annual Lucille Lortel Awards) for 2001 will be Melanie Joseph. As founder and Artistic Director of the Foundry Theatre, Joseph has brought New York City such award-winning productions as The Convention of Cartography and The Race of the Ark Tattoo (she directed both plays) by W. David Hancock and And God Created Great Whales by Rinde Eckert.
The League's Lucille Lortel Committee felt the Foundry Theatre's work commissioning, developing, premiering and touring original works of theatre as well as their community events exemplify the spirit of the award. The selection committee was comprised of Co-Presidents of the League of Professional Theatre Women Isobel Robins and Harriet Slaughter, and members Susan Einhorn, Carol Hall, Barbara Hauptman, Barbara Janowitz, Dorothy Olim and Elsa Rael.
At the ceremony for the Lortel Award, two other League awards will be presented. Tisa Chang, Artistic/Producing Director for Pan Asian Repertory Theatre, will receive the Lee Reynolds Award. The annual award is presented "to a woman or women active in any aspect of theatre whose work for, in, about, or through the medium of theatre has helped to illuminate the possibilities for social, cultural, or political change." Past winners include Ruby Dee, Emily Mann, Lynne Meadow, Phyllis Newman, Estelle Parsons, Marlo Thomas, and Joanne Woodward. Dee will present the award.
Lyricist Betty Comden will also be lauded with the Lifetime Achievement Award. This award, given occasionally, has be awarded to Jean Dalrymple, Lucille Lortel, Janet Hayes Walker, Sylvia Herscher, and Rosetta LeNoire. Kitty Carlisle Hart will present the award. The League of Professional Theatre Women, a non-profit organization, was founded in 1980 to promote "visibility and increasing opportunities for women in the professional theatre." For more information on the organization, visit www.theatrewomen.org.
— by Ernio Hernandez