NEW YORK CITY: The Dramatists Guild of America honored their 2023 awards recipients in a ceremony at Joe’s Pub on May 15. In addition to the six previously announced winners, this year’s DG award recipients included Marc Shaiman, Nissy Aya, Candrice Jones, Dave Harris, and Iakowi:he’ne’ Oakes.
Marc Shaiman received the Frederick Loewe Award for Some Like It Hot. The award is funded by the Frederick Loewe Foundation and presented annually by the Dramatists Guild Council to a composer recognizing achievement in a theatrical score presented on or Off-Broadway during the previous theatrical season. Shaiman is a composer/lyricist/arranger/performer working in films, television, musical theatre, and recordings. He has won a Tony, an Emmy, a Grammy and has garnered seven Oscar nominations. Currently represented on Broadway with Some Like It Hot (which just garnered 13 Tony nominations, including Best Musical and Best Score), his other Broadway credits with co-lyricist Scott Wittman are Hairspray (Tony & Grammy Awards), Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me, Catch Me If You Can (Tony nom) and Charlie & The Chocolate Factory. Coming in 2024 is the Broadway version of Smash.
This year’s Lanford Wilson Award went to playwrights Nissy Aya and Candrice Jones. The award was established by the estate of Lanford Wilson and is presented by the Dramatists Guild Council to a dramatist based primarily on their work as an early career or “emerging” playwright. Aya (she/ze/we) is a Black girl from the Bronx. As a cultural worker and writer, she believes “in the transformative nature of storytelling, placing those most affected by oppressive systems in the center, and examining how we move forward/shape new worlds/end this world through healing justice, Afrofuturist frameworks, and practices of feeling good.” Jones is a playwright, poet, and educator from Dermott, Ark., who “writes love letters for and to women” of the American South. She is a Voices of our Nations Arts alum and a Jerome and Many Voices fellow at the Playwrights’ Center. Her work has been developed or read at Theatrical Outfit, the National New Play Network, San Francisco Playhouse, the Arkansas New Play Festival, and the Bay Area Playwrights Festival, among others.
Dave Harris received the 2023 Horton Foote Award. Sponsored by the Richenthal Foundation, this honors a dramatist or dramatists whose work seeks to plumb the ineffable nature of being human. Harris is a poet and playwright based in Philadelphia whose work Tambo & Bones premiered at Playwrights Horizons in 2022. Other works for the stage include Exception to the Rule and Everybody Black. His first feature film, Summertime, premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival and was released in 2021. Dave is writing the feature adaptation of The Fortress of Solitude alongside several other feature and television projects. His first full-length collection of poetry, Patricide, was published by Button Poetry.
Iakowi:he’ne’ Oakes became the first Lortel Indigenous Theatremaker Awardee. Administered by the Dramatists Guild Foundation, this inaugural award is presented to an Indigenous theatre institution or organization for their work and commitment to the preservation and upliftment of Indigenous theatremakers located in New York or Connecticut. Oakes received the award on behalf of the advocacy work that she has done as founder and director of The North American Indigenous Center of New York. Oakes is a Kanienʼkehá꞉ka/Mohawk woman, mother, cultural curator, leader, advocate, producer, coach, artist, designer, and athlete. Born and raised in Akwesasne Mohawk Territory, a federally recognized tribal nation that straddles the border of New York, Ontario, and Quebec, she has focused on nation-building, maintaining and strengthening sovereignty, the right to self-determination, land stewardship, economic development, social justice, culture, and the arts.
The Dramatists Legal Defense Fund also presented Defender Awards to Brooklyn Public Library and Friends of George’s, uplifting champions of free speech who have fought back against book banning and the Tennessee drag law.
The ceremony featured performances of songs written by past and current DG awardees. Kayla Pecchioni performed “At the Old Majestic Nickel Matinee” from Some Like It Hot; Colton Ryan performed “A Quiet Thing” from New York, New York (originally from Flora the Red Menace) with music by John Kander and lyrics by Fred Ebb; and Jillian Lewis performed “Natural High” from I’m Getting My Act Together… with music by Nancy Ford and lyrics by Gretchen Cryer.
The Dramatists Guild of America is the professional trade association for playwrights, librettists, lyricists, and composers. The guild works to protect and advance the rights of all theatre writers across the country.
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