On March 16, The League of Professional Theatre Women celebrated the 2018 Theatre Women Awards at The TimesCenter in New York City, hosted by Florencia Lozano.
This year's awards honored actor and director Phylicia Rashad with a Lifetime Achievement Award, drama critic Linda Winer, sound designer Cricket S. Myers, playwright Rohina Malik, director and artistic director Adrienne Campbell-Holt, and artistic director Emily Joy Weiner.
Playbill was at the ceremony to chat with some of the honorees. Get to know them, what drives them to make theatre in this day and age, and which artists are on their radars right now:
Who: Critic Linda Winer
Award and what it is: The LPTW Special Award, bestowed to a remarkable woman in the theatre for her service to the League and to the field.
What it means to be honored: “It's a shock, because arts groups don’t usually put their arms around critics and say thank you. We don’t expect the thanks, but when it comes, it’s really very special.”
A female-driven show that she’ll ever forget: “When I first saw Wendy Wasserstein’s Uncommon Women and Others, and I realized that it was the first time that I had ever been in the theatre and seen women who could have been my friends in a play.”
Who: Director Adrienne Campbell-Holt, Founding Artistic Director of Colt Coeur
Award and what it is: The LPTW Lucille Lortel Visionary Award. Campbell-Holt’s Off-Broadway company Colt Coeur will receive a grant from LPTW.
What it means to be honored: “I think it’s been an especially powerful year for women. There’s a shift around recognition and women elevating other women… There is a surge of opportunity and it feels really great to be a part of that. It’s also been a year where I’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with amazing women like Theresa Rebeck and the WP Theater, among others.”
What drives her to make theatre: “I really need to feel like a piece of theatre is pushing the conversation forward and asking audiences to think about things in a different way and encouraging people to empathize with characters or worlds that they either may not have first-hand experiences with or access to.”
A female-identifying theatremaker who should be on people’s radars: “I'm working with an actor called Renata Friedman [who will perform in the upcoming Colt Coeur show, Zürich] who I think is about to blow people's minds. Also the playwright of that piece: Amelia Roper.”
Who: Playwright Rohina Malik
Award and what it is: The Lee Reynolds Award, which recognizes a woman whose work has helped illuminate the possibilities for social, cultural, or political change.
What it means to be honored: “It means the world. I’ve been working as a playwright for the last ten years and it’s been hard; it’s 99 percent rejection. But then there are those moments when a theatre says ‘yes’ and it’s magic. A lot of my plays focus on voices that we don’t often hear in the theatre; it’s been very meaningful to see that work on stage and to be recognized for it.”
What drives her to make theatre: “Theatre reminds us of our shared humanity and I think it teaches us how to be better human beings. I think we need that now more than any other time.”
A female-driven show that she’ll ever forget: Anything by Anna Deavere Smith.
A female-identifying theatremaker who should be on people’s radars: Director and artistic director Ari Laura Kreith, as well as director and choreographer Ann Filmer (“She was talking about diversity before it was the cool thing“).
Who: Sound Designer Cricket S. Myers
Award and what it is: The Ruth Morley Award, given to an outstanding female designer.
What it means to be honored: “It’s a huge honor. Designers are frequently people who aren’t noticed—if we do our job right, we’re there to support the production. Certainly as a woman in the field, I feel honored to be representing them.”
What drives her to make theatre: “I am passionate about theatre. It's my home, my community, and my extended family. There's no greater joy for me than sitting with a group of people making art. I also think that we can change minds through our stories and that's important to me, especially in today's society.”
A female-identifying theatremaker who should be on people’s radars: Sound designer Jill BC Du Boff and lighting designer Elizabeth Harper.
Who: Emily Joy Weiner, Co-Founder and Artistic Director of Houses on the Moon Theater Company
Award and what it is: The Josephine Abady Award, given to an emerging theatre artist or creative director of a work of cultural diversity.
What it means to be honored: “I co-founded my company 17 years ago and I’ve been extremely focused on the work for a long time now and didn’t know that people were paying attention. It means a great deal.”
What drives her to make theatre: “I’ve always felt a deep need to create new works that speak to our times, create empathy, embrace differences, and engage different communities. I think storytelling can really build community.”
A female-driven show that she’ll ever forget: “Houses on the Moon was doing a storytelling residency four years ago with people whose lives had been touched by guns in different ways. One member of the group, Elaine Lane, had a son who had been killed. She ended up being the inspiration for a character in a play we developed called The Assignment, written by Camilo Almonacid. Elaine was an incredible force in the sharing of her story and was involved in the entire process of development. Her courage and all-round beauty allowed us to create a beautiful and honest piece of theatre.”
Rashad, who was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award, is a Tony winner who has worked extensively on and Off-Broadway throughout her long career. This season, she will direct the Off-Broadway revival of Stephen Adly Guirgis’ 2002 play Our Lady of 121st Street at Signature Theatre.
This year’s Theatre Women Awards also launched a social media-driven advocacy initiative for gender parity called #OneMoreConversation. The initiative is a call to action for directors, artistic directors, producers, businesses, boards, and other industry professionals to have one more conversation about a female candidate before making a final hiring decision.
LPTW is a non-profit organization which has been championing women and advocating for gender parity in the theatre for over 35 years. Their annual Theatre Women Awards are the only awards dedicated to promoting the visibility of the theatrical work of female-identifying artists and their contributions to the field, across all disciplines.