In early April, a mass-mailed letter from past winners Meryl Streep and Mamie Gummer solicited donations to the not-for-profit awards, indicating "financial trouble" and characterizing the institution as "on life support."
Streep (winner for 27 Wagons Full of Cotton) and Gummer (winner for Mr. Marmalade) reminded potential donors that they will get access to the invitation-only awards ceremony and after-party. But will there be enough money for a 2010 Theatre World Awards?
The Theatre World board released this statement to Playbill.com on April 26: "As recently as early April, we had serious concerns as to whether this year's Theatre World Awards ceremony would take place. In the past, the Theatre World Awards organization has relied almost entirely upon the founder John Willis and donations from former winners. With rising costs and the downturn in the economy, we now have begun an outreach to the theatre community for support and are planning our first major fundraising event for this fall (as well as seeking corporate and private sponsorship).
"While exploring alternative venues outside the Broadway theatre district, we have implemented cost-cutting measures and look forward to making an announcement soon about the venue of this year's ceremony."
The board confirmed that the 66th Annual Theatre World Awards will be held 2-4 PM June 8 at a Manhattan venue to be announced. The Theatre World Awards board, committee and advisors are now in a campaign "to create an endowment to ensure that the recognition of important new performers continues into perpetuity."
Since 1944, the Theatre World Award has given a spotlight to artists (young and old) who are new to the New York stage. Recipients have included Marlon Brando, Alec Baldwin, Julie Andrews, Paul Newman, Meryl Streep, Julie Harris, James Earl Jones, Rosemary Harris, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Anna Kendrick, John Lloyd Young, Jonathan Groff, Geoffrey Rush and Fantasia Barrino, among others.
The ceremony, a private industry event, features past winners returning to bestow awards on the new honorees at an "unscripted ceremony that is not only entertaining and spontaneous, but often very moving, as participants reminisce about their debuts and share stories rarely heard at other theatrical award ceremonies," according to the board.
The non-competitive honor does not depend on reviews, box-office receipts or publicity, but on the strength of the individual performers.
The Theatre World Award winners are chosen by the Theatre World Awards committee, which includes David Cote (Time Out New York, NY1), Joe Dziemianowicz (New York Daily News), Peter Filichia (Newark Star-Ledger, Theatermania.com), Harry Haun (Playbill), Matthew Murray (Talkin' Broadway), Frank Scheck (The Hollywood Reporter) and Linda Winer (Newsday).
The Theatre World Awards board of directors includes Kati Meister (president), Erin Oestreich (vice-president), Steven Bloom (treasurer), Mary K. Botosan (secretary), Randall Hemming, Barry Keating, Tom Lynch and Jane Stuart.
All contributions to the Theatre World Awards are 100 percent tax deductible. To contribute, click here. For more information, visit theatreworldawards.org.