The Village Voice Obie Awards, which have honored Off-Broadway theatre for the past 47 years, were given out May 20 at Webster Hall in the East Village. Martha Plimpton, Elaine Stritch, Raul Esparza and Jeffrey Wright were some of the more high profile winners. Karen Kandel and Ruben Santiago-Hudson acted as hosts.
Among the shows which culled multiple awards were Topdog/Underdog (for director George C. Wolfe, actor Wright and playwright Parks); Soho Rep's [sic] (for playwright Melissa James Gibson, director Daniel Aukin and set designer Louisa Thompson) and Homebody/Kabul (for playwright Tony Kushner, and actors Linda Emond and Bill Camp).
The Ma-Yi Theater Company and the Salt Theatre Company received grants of $5,000 each, and Mark Russell, the longtime director of P.S. 122, won the Ross Wetzsteon Award.
This year's recipients are:
Yvette Ganier, Breath, Boom
Jeffrey Wright, Topdog/Underdog
Raul Esparza, tick, tick...BOOM1
Martha Plimpton, Hobson's Choice
Christopher Donahue, Monster
Linda Emond, Homebody/Kabul
Bill Camp, Homebody/Kabul
Juliana Francis, Maria del Bosco
Peter Frechette, The Dazzle
Reg Rogers, The Dazzle
The acting ensemble of Talk: Reg E. Cathey, Karen Kandel, John Seitz, James Himelsbach, Anthony Mackie, Maria Tucci Direction :
George C. Wolfe, Topdog/Underdog
Mary Zimmerman, Metamorphoses
Kevin Adams, Sustained Excellence in Lighting Design
Whit MacLaughlin for sound design, The Fab 4 Reach the Pearly Gates
Angela Moore for set design, Drummer Wanted
Michael Schmelling for lighting design, Drummer Wanted
Special Citation :
The Wooster Group, To You, the Birdie!
Daniel Aukin for direction, and Louisa Thompson for set design of [sic]
Ingmar Bergman and the Royal Dramatic Theatre of Sweden, The Ghost Sonata
Elaine Stritch, Elaine Stritch at Liberty
Danile MacIvor, In on It
Charles L. Mee for playwriting and Les Waters for direction of Big Love
A.R.T./New York for support of Off-Broadway theatre
Marilys Ernst for video design, Talk
Melissa James Gibson, [sic]
Tony Kushner, Homebody/Kabul
Sustain Achievement :
Caryl Churchill ($1,000)
Ma-Yi Theater Company ($5,000)
Salt Theater Company ($5,000)
Ross Wetzsteon Award :
Mark Russell of P.S. 122 ($2,000)
Among the presenters who took part were actors Elizabeth Franz and Mary Louise Parker; actor-playwrights Ellen McLaughlin and Rinde Eckert; playwrights Richard Maxwell and Parks; and director George C. Wolfe.
The evening also featured performances by The Builders Association and Antony and the Johnsons.
The Obies were created in 1956 by former Voice critic Jerry Talmer. They have always honored New York theatre beyond Broadway exclusively and, unlike most award organizations, which go in for competitive categories, the Obies bestow prizes to artists outright. Furthermore, any number of actors, playwrights, directors and designers may be recognized, depending on the wishes of the Obie Award panel of judges. Often, the Obies are the only form of recognition many experimental and emerging Off-Off Broadway talents can hope to win in the early stages of their careers.
This year's Obie Award judges were: Brian Parks (Village Voice theatre editor and Obie chairman); the Voice critics Charles McNulty and Alisa Solomon; performer Darius de Haas; director Michael Grief; New York Observer theatre critic John Heilpern; and Foundry Theatre artistic director Melanie Joseph. Alexis Soloski served as assistant to the committee. (The Voice's chief theatre critic took a vacation from the panel this year.)
Eileen Phelan produced and directed the ceremony.
—By Robert Simonson