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Staying Power

Tonys and Obies and more.

Longevity was a prized commodity at the 1984 Tony Awards. San Diego’s Old Globe Theatre was cited for its 49 years of Shakespearean repertory with a special Tony and a $15,000 grant from American Express. Producer Joseph Papp took home a 14-carat gold Tony to mark A Chorus Line‘s record as the longest-running show in Broadway history. The first Brooks Atkinson Award, named for the late drama critic of The New York Times, went to Al Hirschfeld for his 60 years as a theatre caricaturist, and stage mechanic and designer Peter Feller won a Tony for working on more than 1,000 Broadway shows over 40 years. Even up-to-the-minute winners such as Chita Rivera, best actress in a musical for her performance in The Rink, and Jerry Herman, who won for his musical score of La Cage aux Folles, were applauded for their staying power and their long theatrical careers.

La Cage, a traditional, big-scale musical with an unconventional subject—the love relationship of two men in a French nightclub—won six awards, including best musical, book of a musical (Harvey Fierstein), director of a musical (Arthur Laurents), actor (George Hearn) and costumes (Theoni V. Aldredge). Among plays, Tom Stoppard’s The Real Thing dominated the competition, taking awards for best play, director of a play (Mike Nichols), actor and actress in a play (Jeremy Irons and Glenn Close) and featured actress in a play (Christine Baranski)

The leading American play of the Broadway season, David Mamet’s Pulitzer-winning Glengarry Glen Ross, received only one award, for the supporting performance of Chicago actor Joe Mantegna. The Stephen Sondheim-James Lapine musical Sunday in the Park with George, which had 10 nominations, won two awards, for Tony Straiges’ elaborate scenic design and Richard Nelson’s lighting.

Death of a Salesman, which became the subject of controversy when Dustin Hoffman was not nominated for his performance as Willy Loman, won a Tony as best revival of the year. Hoffman made an unscheduled appearance to give the best play award and received a standing ovation from the capacity audience at the Gershwin Theatre.

Other musical awards went to choreographer Danny Daniels and featured actor Hinton Battle of The Tap Dance Kid and featured actress Lila Kedrova of Zorba. Director Peter Brook and producer Alexander H. Cohen won a special Tony for their presentation of The Tragedy of Carmen at the Vivian Beaumont in Lincoln Center. Cohen and his wife Hildy Parks produce the Tonys—officially the Antionette Perry Awards—for the American Theatre Wing. The ceremonies were televised nationally on June 3.

Obie Tally

Sam Shepard’s Fool for Love, Lee Breuer and Bob Telson’s Gospel at Colonus and Franz Xaver Kroetz’ Through the Leaves were the most-honored plays in this year’s Obie Awards presentation. The Off and Off-Off Broadway citations were presented by The Village Voice May 21 at the Cat Club in New York’s East Village.

The Shepard play and the Breuer-Telson musical shared the newspaper’s $1,000 prize for best new American works of the year. Fool for Love, originally mounted by San Francisco’s Magic Theatre and brought to New York City by Circle Repertory Company, has been widely produced across the country. Gospel at Colonus, an adaptation by Mabou Mines innovator Breuer of Sophocles’ Oedipus play set to Telson’s pop gospel score, was praised by the Obie committee as a “once-in-a-lifetime experience.” The musical, featured in the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave series, coincidentally re-opened on the night of the awards ceremony at the Houston Grand Opera.

The Kroetz play, notable for its “uncompromising savagery and uncommon honesty,” garnered five awards, including citations for Kroetz, director JoAnne Akalaitis, designer Douglas Stein and actors Fred Neumann and Ruth Maleczech. The Interart Theatre, which co-produced the play with Mabou Mines, was awarded a $5,000 support grant. A similar grant went to Theatre for the New City, which continues as a major New York outlet for new plays and faces relocation this year. TNC co-artistic director Crystal Field thanked “all the writers whose plays we haven’t yet read.” Both grants were presented in memory of late director Alan Schneider.

A $1,000 sustained achievement award went to the Music Theatre Group/Lenox Arts Center, and composer Richard Peaslee was cited for his work on that theatre’s production The Garden of Earthly Delights. Actors Mbongeni Ngema and Percy Mtwa and director Barney Simon won Obies for Woza Albert!, which originated at Johannesburg’s Market Theatre, and the International Theatre Institute earned a special citation for promoting international theatre exchange.

New York Shakespeare Festival producer Joseph Papp accepted a playwriting award on behalf of Vaclav Havel for A Private View, and promised to deliver it in person to the writer, who has been imprisoned in Czechoslovakia for his political outspokenness. Other writing awards went to Samuel Beckett for Ohio Impromptu, What Where, Catastrophe, and Rockaby; Maria Irene Fornes for The Danube, Mud and Us (plays which she also directed); and Ted Talley for Terra Nova.

Among 13 actors winning Obies were Pamela Reed (who was cited for sustained excellence), F. Murray Abraham, Morgan Freeman, Sheila Dabney, George Guidall, Richard Jordan, Stephen McHattie, Dianne Wiest, Kathy Whitton Baker, Ed Harris and Will Patton.

Top Stoppard

Tom Stoppard’s The Real Thing was selected as the best new play of the 1983-84 season by the New York Drama Critics Circle. David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross was named best American play and the Stephen Sondheim-James Lapine musical Sunday in the Park with George was chosen as best musical.

The critics voted a special citation to Samuel Beckett for his two evenings of one-act plays presented in New York this season, and in recognition of his body of work.

A check for $1,000, given annually by Lucille Lortel, was presented to Stoppard in ceremonies May 21. The Critics Circle represents newspapers and magazines in the New York area.

The Outer Critics Circle also honored The Real Thing with an outstanding play award, announced the same week. La Cage aux Folles won best musical, Tina Howe’s Painting Churches (originally produced by Second Stage) earned an Off Broadway award, Death of a Salesman was cited as best revival and American Place Theatre’s A…My Name is Alice as best revue. The group’s John Gassner playwriting award went to Howe for Painting Churches.

Stoppard’s sophisticated examination of marital infidelity was also at the top of the Drama Desk Awards list, announced May 31. The group honored Sunday in the Park with George as outstanding musical, Michael Blakemore of Noises Off as director, Dustin Hoffman of Death of a Salesman as actor in a play, Joan Allen of And a Nightingale Sang... as actress in a play, Chita Rivera of The Rink as actress in a musical and George Hearn of La Cage aux Folles as actor in a musical.

The late director Alan Schneider was recognized by the Drama Desk for “his integrity in successfully serving a wide range of playwrights.” Other special awards celebrated A Chorus Line‘s record-breaking run, Equity Library Theatre for more than four decades of showcasing professional work, and the Interart Theatre for supporting women artists and exploring women’s issues.

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