Experimental theatre icon Richard Foreman had two plays Off-Broadway this year, Pearls For Pigs and Benita Canova, and together they won a tandem Best Play Award at the 1997-98 Village Voice OBIE Awards, held May 18 at Webster Hall in NYC. The Awards honor excellence in Off-Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway theatre.
This is the second time two of Foreman's plays have received a joint Best Play Obie, his plays The Cure and Film Is Evil, Radio Is Good received the honor in the 1986-87 season. This year's award gives Foreman a total of seven OBIEs, including one for "Sustained Achievement" in 1988.
Foreman recently announced that his new play, Hotel Fuck, will open Off-Broadway in January 1999 at the Ontological-Hysteric Theatre.
Perhaps year's the biggest surprise is the strong showing for New York Theatre Workshop's deconstructionist More Stately Mansions. The show was trashed by most critics but here took honors for two of its performers and director Ivo van Hove.
As of this writing, writer and actor Eric Bogosian (subUrbia, Talk Radio) was set to co-host the Obies with Kristen Johnson ("Third Rock From The Sun;" NYSF's upcoming The Skin of Our Teeth). Scheduled to perform at the event were The Klezmatics (from A Dybbuk), Marc Salem (of Mindgames), and John Cameron Mitchell and band (as Hedwig and the Angry Inch). Presenters were to 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).
There are no nominees for Obies, and there are often multiple winners in categories. Here's the full list of Village Voice Obie winners:
Richard Foreman (Pearls For Pigs; Benita Canova)
Lea DeLaria (On The Town)
Mary Testa (On The Town; From Above)
Tim Hopper (More Stately Mansions)
David Patrick Kelly (sustained excellence)
Joseph Wiseman (I Can't Remember Anything)
Heather Gillespie (Mamba's Daughters)
Kate Valk (sustained excellence)
Marie Mullen (The Beauty Queen of Leenane)
Matthew Maguire (I Don't Know Who He Was...)
Yvette Freeman (Dinah Was)
Adriane Lenox (Dinah Was)
Elizabeth Marvel (Therese Raquin, Misalliance)
J. Smith Cameron (As Bees In Honey Drown)
Brian Murray (sustained excellence)
Joan Macintosh (More Stately Mansions)
Ivo van Hove (More Stately Mansions)
David Esbjornson (Therese Raquin)
Jo Bonney (sustained excellence)
Target Margin Theatre (Mamba's Daughters)
John Cameron Mitchell (Hedwig and the Angry Inch)
Stephen Trask (composer, Hedwig and the Angry Inch)
Mark Bennett (sustained excellence - sound design)
Alan Johnson (sustained excellence - music direction & pianism[sic])
Karen Finley (The American Chestnut)
The creators of 70 Hill Lane
Buzz Cohen (stage management)
Darron L. West (soundscape for Bob)
Mimi Jordan Sherin (lighting for Bob)
ROSS WETZSTEON AWARD
Doug Aibel & The Vineyard Theatre for supporting artists & creativity.
Housing Works Theatre Project ($5,000 grant)
Threshold Theatre Co.'s Caught In The Act one-act festival ($5,000 grant)
Co-chairing the 43rd annual awards were Voice critics, Michael Feingold and Alisa Solomon. Adjudicating the awards were Feingold and fellow Voice critic, James Hannaham. The two were 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 served 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.