NEW YORK CITY: On Friday evening, hundreds gathered at the Times Center to say “Time’s Up” in the theatre community at the League of Professional Theatre Women (LPTW)’s annual Theatre Women Awards. The event, which was part celebratory and part advocacy, recognized female-identifying theatre artists across all disciplines and encouraged attendees to support and recognize the next generation of women in the field.
“We are the only award dedicated to honoring the theatrical work of women and their contributions to the field, across all disciplines,” said LPTW co-president Kelli Lynn Harrison.
“The League of Professional Theatre Women may sound like a league of superheroes, a veritable collection of wonder women, and in a way we are!” said Ludovica Villar-Hauser, vice president of programming at LPTW.
The host for the event was actor, writer, and performance artist Florencia Lozano, and presenters for the evening included Marshall Jones III, Wayne Maugans, Shelley Butler, Roma Torre, Karen Kandel, Celia Keenan-Bolger, and Jocelyn Bioh.
The first superhero to receive her award was playwright and performer Rohina Malik, who took home the Lee Reynolds Award, given annually to a woman or group of women whose work in the theatre promotes social, cultural, or political change. Malik’s plays include Unveiled, The Mecca Tales, and Yasmina’s Necklace.
“I grew up in London, England and I knew from a young age that I was a theatre artist,” said Malik. “There were a lot of voices that would say to me, you can’t because your skin is brown, you can’t because you’re a woman, you can’t because you’re Muslim, and you can’t because you cover your hair. I’m excited to tell you that I proved all those people wrong.”
Sound designer Cricket S. Meyers received the Ruth Morley Design Award, which is given to an outstanding theatrical designer in honor of costume designer Ruth Morley.
“There are too few women in theatre, and too few women studying design,” said Meyers. “They walk away before they get a chance to get established. We must welcome them and we must take a professional stand with them to minimize the brutal atmosphere for any young artist. We must share and inspire them, and help them to push through those difficult years as they master their art.”
“Can you imagine an award for a critic? What a concept,” laughed Winer. She was the chief theatre critic for Newsday from 1987-2017. “I came to New York and I sat there in my aisle seat, and I looked down the aisle—and it was all men,” said Winer. “There were no women critics, first-string, for the first 30 years that I was here. I was the only first-string woman critic at any paper in the Tri-state area…We’ve gotten more and more critics; unfortunately there are fewer and fewer papers for women to work at. But I do think that this is a kind of remarkable time for women, whether it has to do with journalism or not.”
The Josephine Abady Award, given to an emerging director, producer, or creative director, was awarded to Emily Joy Weiner. She is the co-founder and artistic director of the New York City-based Houses on the Moon Theater Company, whose mission is to lift up untold stories in the interest in promoting social justice.
“I am committed to listening and to doing the best that I can to sharing these stories with the world,” said Weiner. “For me, there is no better way for both personal and community growth.”
The LPTW Lucille Lortel Award, with an endowment fund given to an inspiring woman in any discipline of theatre who exemplifies creative promise, was awarded to director Adrienne Campbell-Holt and her Brooklyn-based company Colt Coeur.
“As theatre artists, we are storytellers and influencers, and we have a lot to say,” said Campbell-Holt. “Our work collectively reaches millions of people. Every decision we make matters. We are all participating in the cultural moment that is inspiring a groundswell of new feminist language…Our job, the people in this room, is to keep telling stories that put dynamic women at the center and to keep challenging the status quo of what those women look like.”
Playwright and performer Jocelyn Bioh introduced the Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, Phylicia Rashad. In preparing the speech, she reached out to her friend Condola Rashad for three words to describe her mother. “She is clear, she is regal, and she is legendary,” Bioh reiterated.
“Truthfully, my entire career has been nurtured by women,” said Rashad. “When women come together there is magic—especially when we come together in support and in recognition of one another.”
To end the evening, which was riddled with hashtags in speeches ranging from #womentheatreawards, #goals, #shero, to #thefutureisfemale, the audience was sent off with a call to action with a new hashtag: #OneMoreConversation.
“We simply call for directors, artistic directors, and other decision makers in our field to have just one more conversation with a woman designer, technician, stage manager, assistant, or other theatre professional before deciding who to hire,” said Susan Bernfield, co-chair of LPTW’s advocacy committee.
The inspired attendees spilled into the lobby for a champagne toast, chocolate covered strawberries, with a charge to continue to support and celebrate women.