The Off Broadway Alliance, the organization made up of producers, theatre owners, general managers, press agents and marketing professionals, celebrated the sixth annual Off Broadway Alliance Awards June 21 at Sardi’s in New York.
The theatre district hotspot was filled with some of the biggest names in the industry for the reception, including Marjorie Prime actress Lois Smith and iconic press agent Merle Debuskey, who were each on hand to receive a Legend of Off Broadway Award. Sundance Institute’s Philip Himberg accepted the third accolade on behalf of honoree Robert Moss, founder of Playwrights Horizons.
Debuskey is widely considered to be one of the founders of Off-Broadway, having helped develop such institutions as the Shakespeare Festival with Joseph Papp, Circle in the Square, and Lincoln Center Theater. “To be a part of the original groups that created Off-Broadway,” the theatre veteran told Playbill when asked what he was most proud of during his long career.
Debuskey said he was delighted with the strides that had been made Off-Broadway since entering the business after World War II. “I think there have been, happily, remarkable advancements. The theatre Off-Broadway is affluent and significant, and it’s a remarkable community.” He went on to highlight the importance of Off-Broadway in giving unknown artists a voice and the much needed support to grow.
“I think it’s a base for many things that make the theatre viable and valuable,” said Debuskey. “Most Broadway producers are worried about what’s financially viable but Off-Broadway doesn’t look at it that way and they come up with a remarkable assortment of plays. The totality of it is overwhelming.”
During the reception, Anne Meara, Anne Jackson and Eli Wallach and Elizabeth Swados were also posthumously inducted into the Off Broadway Hall of Fame; and friends and family, including Ben and Amy Stiller, and Roz Lichter, were in attendance to accept the honors on their behalf.
This year’s winners included Best New Musical, Futurity; Best New Play, Exit Strategy; Best Musical Revival, The Robber Bridegroom, with director Alex Timbers and Roundabout's Todd Haimes present to receive the award; Best Play Revival, The School for Scandal; Best Unique Theatrical Experience, Sense & Sensibility; Best Solo Performance, James Lecesne, The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey; and Best Family Show, The Pirate La Dee Da.
The Off Broadway Alliance is a non-profit corporation. Among its initiatives, it sponsors 20at20, the event that runs twice a year for 20 days and allows theatregoers to purchase $20 tickets to Off-Broadway shows 20 minutes before curtain. For more information, visit OffBroadwayAlliance.com.