The shadow of the April 4 death of Lucille Lortel, the actress who helped focus international attention on Off-Broadway theatre, did not stop the 1999 Lucille Lortel Awards from being announced April 6.
The winners, chosen by a committee of theatre writers and critics, celebrating the best of the Off-Broadway season, are:
Outstanding Play: Wit
Outstanding Revival: The Mystery of Irma Vep
Outstanding Performances: Mark Ruffalo (This is Our Youth) and Kathleen Chalfant (Wit). Outstanding Director: Derek Anson Jones (Wit).
Outstanding Lighting Design (tie): Kevin Adams (Mineola Twins) and Michael Chybowski (Wit).
Outstanding Set Design: Robert Brill and Scott Pask (Mineola Twins).
Outstanding Costume Design: Jess Goldstein (Mineola Twins)
Special Achievement: Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM).
Body of Work: Classic Stage Company (CSC).
Playwright Harold Pinter, songwriters Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt and actor Jerry Orbach are the previously-announced winners who will receive special honors at the 14th Annual Lucille Lortel Awards May 3.
Pinter will be honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his career writing plays that have had a healthy life Off-Broadway (the current Ashes to Ashes, for example, at the Gramercy Theatre).
Orbach, star of TV's "Law and Order," will be given the Edith Oliver Award for Sustained Excellence. One of Orbach's early career roles was El Gallo in the original staging of The Fantasticks.
Jones and Schmidt, meanwhile, who wrote the long-running (and still running) Fantasticks, will have their names etched on stars imbedded in the Playwrights Sidewalk in front of the Lortel Theatre, 121 Christopher Street.
The annual awards are administered by the League of Off-Broadway Theatres and Producers. Hosts for the May 3 ceremony are Bea Arthur and Ossie Davis.
The announcement of the awards April 6 came the same day at Lortel’s private funeral in Manhattan. She died April 4 after a brief illness. The 98-year-old Lortel had produced some 500 productions over the years and championed new American plays and playwrights and introduced European works to American audiences.
Lortel founded the still-operating White Barn in Westport, CT, in 1947, and was artistic director of Theatre DeLys, renamed the Lortel in 1980.
Among those who spoke at the crowded funeral April 6 were longtime friend Anna Strasberg, Lee Strasberg’s widow; niece Lynn Mayo; Lortel Theatre general manager Ben Sprecher; and friend Hope Alswang. Among those who appeared at the funeral were writers, actors, producers and general managers, including playwright Lanford Wilson and theatre owner Daryl Roth.
Lortel’s ashes will be interred April 8 at the Westchester Hills Cemetery in Hastings-On-Hudson, NY. A public memorial will be held May 24 at the Lortel.
The Lucille Lortel Awards are selected by a committee of New York City area theatre critics and writers. The 1998-99 group includes Clive Barnes, Sherry Eaker, Peter Filichia, John Heilpern, Charles Isherwood, Alvin Klein, Michael Kuchwara, Ken Mandelbaum, Emily Nunn, John Simon, Sam Whitehead, John Willis and Linda Winer. The Edith Oliver Award is named for the late New Yorker theatre writer.
-- By Kenneth Jones