The 65th annual Obie Awards ceremony streamed July 14, moving online in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Cole Escola hosted the pre-recorded event, honoring excellence in a season of Off- and Off-Off-Broadway theatre cut short.
As is Obies tradition, the judging panel did not determine winners by traditional category; rather, accolades were distributed based on the merits of this particular season.
Shows that picked up multiple wins included Heroes of the Fourth Turning and the Pulitzer-winning A Strange Loop. The two productions (both from Playwrights Horizons) received special citations for the entire cast and creative teams, and earned distinctions for writers Will Arbery and Michael R. Jackson, respectively. Joining them as a Playwriting recipient was Haruna Lee for the conception and writing of Suicide Forest.
Performances throughout the stream included numbers from Jackson, Saycon Sengbloh, Sahr Ngaujah, mother-daughter pair LaChanze and Celia Rose Gooding, and Shaina Taub, as well as a special performance of "Our Time" from Merrily We Roll Along featuring cast members from the original Broadway production, the 1994 York Theatre Company revival, and the 2019 Fiasco Theater revival.
Making additional appearances as presenters were American Theatre Wing President Heather Hitchens, Clint Ramos, Craig Lucas, Cynthia Erivo, Dominique Morisseau, Eisa Davis, Emilio Sosa, Heidi Schreck, Katrina Lenk, LaTanya Richardson Jackson, Liesl Tommy, Malcolm Gets, Rachel Chavkin, Rachel Hauck, Sam Pinkleton, Ngaujah, and Sengbloh.
As previously announced, Michael Feingold, a longtime Village Voice critic and former chair of the Obie Awards, received a special citation from co-presenters The Village Voice and The American Theatre Wing. Moving forward, an annual award in his name recognizing excellence in criticism, dramaturgy, translation, scholarship, mentorship, or education will be handed out annually.
Check out the full ceremony above, and view the complete winners list below.
Will Arbery, Heroes of the Fourth Turning (Playwrights Horizons)
Michael R. Jackson, A Strange Loop (Playwrights Horizon, Page 73)
Haruna Lee, for the conception and writing of Suicide Forest (Ma-Yi Theater Company, Bushwick Starr)
JoAnne Akalaitis, MUD/Drowning (Mabou Mines, Weathervane Productions, The Days and Nights Festival)
Kenny Leon, Much Ado About Nothing (The Public Theater)
Whitney White, Our Dear Dead Drug Lord (WP Theater, Second Stage, by special arrangement with Benjamin Simpson and Joseph Longthorne)
Les Waters: Sustained Excellence in Direction
Camille A. Brown: Sustained Excellence in Choreography
Liza Colón-Zayas and Elizabeth Rodriguez, Halfway Bitches Go Straight to Heaven (Atlantic Theater, LAByrinth Theater Company)
Emily Davis, Is This A Room (Vineyard Theatre)
Edmund Donovan, Greater Clements (Lincoln Center Theater)
April Matthis, Toni Stone (Roundabout Theatre)
Joe Ngo, Cambodian Rock Band (Signature Theatre)
Deirdre O’Connell, Dana H. (Vineyard Theatre, Goodman Theatre, Center Theatre Group)
Yu-Hsuan Chen, set design for Our Dear Dead Drug Lord (WP Theater, Second Stage, by special arrangement with Benjamin Simpson and Joseph Longthorne)
Mikhail Fiksel, sound design for Dana H. (Vineyard Theatre, Goodman Theatre, Center Theatre Group) and Cambodian Rock Band (Signature Theatre)
Andrea Hood, costume design for Public Works (The Public Theater)
Arnulfo Maldonado: Sustained Excellence in Set Design
Jen Schriever: Sustained Excellence in Lighting Design
National Black Theatre, for sustained excellence in production and continued advocacy on behalf of Black artists
Page 73, for providing extraordinary support for early career playwrights
The Tank, for providing extraordinary support for emerging artists
The creative team and ensemble of Heroes of the Fourth Turning
Cast members Jeb Kreager, Julia McDermott, Michele Pawk, Zoë Winters, and John Zdrojeski; set designer Laura Jellinek; costume designer Sarafina Bush; lighting designer Isabella Byrd; sound designer Justin Ellington; director Danya Taymor
The creative team and ensemble of A Strange Loop
Cast members Antwayn Hopper, James Jackson, Jr., L Morgan Lee, John-Michael Lyles, John-Andrew Morrison, Larry Owens, Jason Veasey, and Elijah Caldwell; director Stephen Brackett; choreographer Raja Feather Kelly; set designer Arnulfo Maldonado; costume designer Montana Levi Blanco; lighting designer Jen Schriever; sound designer Alex Hawthorn; hair, wig, and makeup designer Cookie Jordan; orchestrator Charlie Rosen; music director Rona Siddiqui; composer and vocal arranger Michael R. Jackson
David Cale, for the writing and performance of We’re Only Alive For A Short Amount of Time (The Public Theater)
Dave Malloy, Or Matias, and Hidenori Nakajo for their collaboration on the music and sound of Octet (Signature Theatre)
David Neumann and Marcella Murray, for the creation and performance of Distances Smaller Than This Are Not Confirmed (Advanced Beginner Group, Abrons Arts Center, Chocolate Factory Theater, Mabou Mines)
Tina Satter, for the conception and direction of Is This A Room (Vineyard Theatre)
Alexandria Wailes, for Sustained Excellence as an Artist and Advocate
AAPAC (Asian American Performers Action Coalition) for advocacy in the field of equity, diversity, and inclusion
Michael Feingold, for Extraordinary Service to the Theater