Detroit, Grimly Handsome, Eisa Davis, John Rando, Shuler Hensley and More Are Obie Winners

By Andrew Gans
May 20, 2013

The 58th Annual Village Voice Obie Awards, celebrating achievement in Off-Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway theatre, were given out at a ceremony May 20 at Webster Hall hosted by The Assembled Parties co-stars Jessica Hecht and Jeremy Shamos.



Presenters included Bobby Cannavale, Tracee Chimo, Cyndi Lauper, Judith Light, Krysta Rodriguez, Duncan Sheik, Courtney B. Vance and Meryl Streep; the latter presented the 2013 Obie Awards for Lifetime Achievement to Lois Smith and Frances Sternhagen.

A medley from the acclaimed new Off-Broadway musical Here Lies Love was performed by the cast. The Brazilian jazz-pop group Banda Magda also entertained.

The awards presentation, which is presided over by the Village Voice's Chief Theater Critic Michael Feingold, comes just days following an announcement that the veteran writer was let go from the paper after over 20 years.

"We plan for the Obie Awards to continue as an annual event to serve Off-Broadway and the downtown theatre community. We will continue to bestow grants and prize money to the outstanding work that our guest judges and the Obie panel select," said Village Voice publisher Josh Fromson in a statement. "It is my sincere hope that Michael Feingold, named a two-time Pulitzer finalist for criticism, who has been invited to continue his association with the Voice by serving as Chairman of the Obie Awards will accept this offer. We also hope that he will continue to contribute to the Village Voice."

The Obies were judged by a committee that included Feingold as chairman, Voice critic Alexis Soloski as secretary and guest judges Obie Award-winning playwright Erin Courtney; director-performer Mia Katigbak, co-founder of NAATCO; critic and magazine editor Tom Sellar; and Obie Award-winning director Leigh Silverman.

In a tie vote, the judges accorded the award for Best New American Play to Lisa d'Amour’s Detroit (Playwrights Horizons) and Julia Jarcho’s Grimly Handsome (Incubator Arts Project), with each playwright receiving a $500 cash prize.

A complete list of the award winners follows:

Performance
Eisa Davis
Sustained Excellence

Brandon J. Dirden
The Piano Lesson (Signature Theatre)

Shuler Hensley
The Whale (Playwrights Horizons)

Matthew Maher
Sustained Excellence

Paul Thureen
Blood Play (The Debate Society/Bushwick Starr)

Playwriting
Ayad Akhtar
Disgraced (LCT3)

Annie Baker
The Flick (Playwrights Horizons)

Direction
Lear deBessonet
The Good Person Of Szechuan (Foundry Theatre/La MaMa)

John Rando
All In The Timing (Primary Stages)

Ruben Santiago-Hudson
The Piano Lesson (Signature Theatre)

Eric Ting
We Are Proud To Present A Presentation... (Soho Rep)

Design
Laura Jellinek
Sustained excellence of Set Design

Clint Ramos
Sustained excellence of Costume Design

Special Citations
David Levine and Marsha Ginsberg
Habit (Crossing the Line Festival/FIAF & PS122)

Dave Malloy and Rachel Chavkin
Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812  (Ars Nova)

Nature Theater of Oklahoma
Life and Times: Episodes 1-4 (Public Theater/SoRep)

Music/Lyrics
David Byrne & Fatboy Slim
Here Lies Love (Public Theater)

The Ross Wetzsteon Award (with check for $1,000)
Clubbed Thumb

Grants
Fulcrum Theater ($1,000)
Half Straddle ($1,000)

Best New American Play (tie With $500 to each playwright)
Lisa D’Amour, Detroit
Julia Jarcho, Grimly Handsome

Lifetime Achievement
Lois Smith
Frances Sternhagen

Founded in 1955 by Voice cultural editor Jerry Tallmer, The Village Voice Obie Awards annually honor the best of Off-Broadway and Off-Off Broadway. Unlike most theatre awards, the Obies do not publicize nominations or employ rigid categories. In the "conviction that creativity is not competitive, the judges select outstanding artists and productions and may even invent new categories to reward artistic merit," according to press notes.