Groff, Nottage, Sondheim, Cromer, Pisoni, Korins Among 2009 OBIE Award Winners

By Kenneth Jones
May 18, 2009

Lynn Nottage's Ruined, director David Cromer (Our Town), composer-lyricist Stephen Sondheim (Road Show) and actor Jonathan Groff (The Singing Forest) were among recipients of the 54th annual Village Voice OBIE Awards, celebrating excellence in the 2008-09 Off-Broadway season. The awards were presented May 18 at Webster Hall in Manhattan.

"Informally structured, with no strict categories, The Village Voice OBIE Awards honor artists and productions of excellence in every aspect of theatre," according to the organizers. "Unlike most theatre awards, The Village Voice OBIE Awards publish no nominations. In the conviction that creativity is not competitive, the judges may give multiple OBIEs in any category, or even invent new categories, to reward exceptional artistic merit."

The ceremony was co-hosted by former OBIE winners Martha Plimpton and Daniel Breaker. The name OBIE is borrowed from the abbreviation for Off-Broadway O.B.

2008-09 OBIE AWARD WINNERS

Lifetime Achievement Award
Earle Hyman

Best New American Play (includes a cash prize of $1000)
Ruined by Lynn Nottage (Manhattan Theater Club)

Performance

Francois Battiste, The Good Negro (Public Theater)

Quincy Tyler Bernstine, Ruined (Manhattan Theater Club)

Kevin T. Carroll, sustained excellence of performance

Saidah Arrika Ekulona, Ruined (Manhattan Theater Club)

Jonathan Groff, Prayer for My Enemy (Playwrights Horizons) and The Singing Forest (Public Theater)

Birgit Huppuch, Telephones (Foundry Theatre)

Russell Gebert Jones, Ruined (Manhattan Theater Club)

Aaron Monaghan, The Cripple of Inishmaan (Atlantic Theater Co.)

Sahr Ngaujah, Fela! (37 Arts)

Lorenzo Pisoni, Humor Abuse (Manhattan Theater Club)

James Sugg, Chekhov Lizardbrain (Pig Iron Theatre Company)

John Douglas Thompson, Othello (Theatre for a New Audience)

Music and Lyrics
Stephen Sondheim, Road Show (Public Theater)

Directing

David Cromer, Our Town (Barrow Street Theatre)

Katie Mitchell, The Waves (National Theatre of Great Britain/Lincoln Center Great Performances "New Visions" Series)

Ken Rus Schmoll, Telephone (Foundry Theatre)

Design

Toni-Leslie James, sustained excellence of costume design (with special reference to Wig Out, Vineyard Theatre)

David Korins, sustained excellence of set design (with special reference to Why Torture Is Wrong, Public Theater)

Special Citations

Sarah Benson (director) and Louisa Thompson (set designer), Blasted (Soho Rep)

David Esbjornson (director) and Christian Camargo (actor), Hamlet (Theatre for a New Audience)

The Ross Wetzsteon Award (includes a cash prize of $2,000)
HERE Arts Center

OBIE Grants ($10,000 divided equally among three theatres)

The Classical Theatre of Harlem

The Chocolate Factory

Lark Play Development Center

*

The awards were presented by Anne Hathaway, Brian d'Arcy James, Gavin Creel, John Shea, Karen Olivo, Kate Mulgrew, Marc Kudisch and Nilaja Sun.

The Voice's chief theatre critic, Michael Feingold, chaired this year's OBIE Awards committee. His fellow judges included Voice critic Alexis Soloski and six guest judges: freelance writer and Voice contributor Eric Grode; critic Andy Propst of Americantheaterweb.com, also a Voice contributor; actress-playwright Eisa Davis, an OBIE Award winner for her performance in Passing Strange and author of the recent Angela's Mixtape; actor-playwright Ty Jones, 2003 OBIE Award winner for his performance in The Blacks; playwright-director Moises Kaufman, 2004 OBIE Award winner for his direction of I Am My Own Wife, currently represented on Broadway by 33 Variations; and playwright-director Chay Yew, 2007 OBIE Award winner for his direction of Durango.

For more information about the Obie Awards, visit Obies.villagevoice.com