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Theatre Awards Roundup: The Obies, Hermitage, and USITT

A roundup of prizes, fellowships, and other recognitions.

The winners of the 67th Obie Awards were announced last Saturday on Spectrum News NY1’s “On Stage” program. Presented by the American Theatre Wing, the annual awards recognize outstanding contributions made in Off-Broadway and Off-Off Broadway theatre. This year’s awards season included shows performed from Sept. 1, 2022 through Aug. 31, 2023. In lieu of an awards ceremony, the American Theatre Wing will provide winners with grants ranging from $1,000-5,000 to support their artistic growth.

Ryan J. Haddad’s Dark Disabled Stories (the Bushwick Starr and The Public Theater) earned the award for Best New American Play. Playwriting awards went to Hansol Jung for Wolf Play (MCC Theater, Soho Rep, and Ma-Yi Theater Company), and Bruce Norris for Downstate (Playwrights Horizons, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, and National Theatre). Awards for Direction went to Dustin Wills for Montag (Soho Rep), Wet Brain (Playwrights Horizons and MCC Theater), and Wolf Play; Shayok Misha Chowdhury for Public Obscenities (Soho Rep and National Asian American Theatre Company); and Faye Driscoll for Weathering (New York Live Arts).

Awards for Sustained Achievement in Directing were given to Eric Ting for The Far Country (Atlantic Theater Company) and The Comeuppance (Signature Theatre Company), and Pam MacKinnon for Downstate. The Performance award winners included William Jackson Harper for Primary Trust (Roundabout Theatre Company), Mara Mindelle for Titanique (Eva Price), Zuleyma Guevara for Sancocho (The Sol Project, Lantinx Playwrights Circle, and WP Theater), and Maryann Plunkett for Deep Blue Sound (Clubbed Thumb). The awards for Sustained Achievement in Performance were presented to Shannon Tyo for The Comeuppance, The Far Country, and Regretfully, So The Birds Are (Playwrights Horizons and WP Theater); John Douglas Thompson for Endgame (Irish Repertory Theatre) and Hamlet (The Public Theater), and K. Todd Freeman for Downstate (Playwrights Horizons).

The Design awards were given to Enver Chakartash (Costumes) for Public Obscenities, Toros (Second Stage Theater), The Trees (Playwrights Horizons and Page 73), Wolf Play, Catch As Catch Can (Playwrights Horizons), and I’m Revolting (Atlantic Theater Company); and Barbara Samuels (Lights) for Public Obscenities, Wolf Play, Becky Nurse of Salem (Lincoln Center Theater), and Toros. The awards for Sustained Achievement in Design were presented to dots (Sets) Collective: Santiago Orjuela-Laverde, Andrew Moerdyk, and Kimie Nishikawa for Public Obscenities, Dark Disabled Stories, Events (The Hearth Theater Company), Infinite Life (Atlantic Theater Company), Deep Blue Sound, and Grief Hotel (Clubbed Thumb); and Mikaal Sulaiman (Sound) for The Half God of Rainfall (New York Theatre Workshop), Primary Trust, Des Moines (Theatre For A New Audience), and Evanston Salt Costs Climbing (The New Group).

Special citations were given to the ensemble of Dark Disabled Stories: Ryan J. Haddad, Dickie Hearts, and Alejandra Ospina; the Wet Brain design team: Kate Noll (Set), Cha See (Lights), Haydee Zelideth Antuñano (Costumes), Tei Blow (Co-Sound), John Gasper (Co-Sound), and Nick Hussong (Projections); the ensemble of The Comeuppance: Brittany Bradford, Caleb Eberhardt, Susannah Flood, Bobby Moreno, and Shannon Tyo; the writer and director of Grief Hotel: Liza Birkenmeier and Tara Ahmadinejad; Montag lead actors: Ariana Venturi and Nadine Malouf; and founder and mentor of Intimacy Coordinators of Color Ann C. James.

Lifetime Achievement awards were presented to Peggy Shaw and Lois Weaver, writing and performing duo of Split Britches, and Carole Rothman, co-founder and artistic director of Second Stage Theater. Theatre Grants were given to Breaking the Binary Theatre Company, Dominican Artists Collective (DAC), and The Brick. The Ross Wetzsteon award was given to the Under the Radar Festival. The Michael Feingold Award went to director of artistic Sign Language Andrew Morrill and access dramaturg Alison Kopit for Dark Disabled Stories.

Chris Bush.

The Hermitage Artist Retreat has announced that U.K.-based playwright and Olivier Award-winning lyricist Chris Bush has been selected as the fourth recipient of the Hermitage Major Theater Award (HMTA). This jury-selected prize was established in 2021 with support from Flora Major and the Kutya Major Foundation in order to support the creation of an original work of theatre. Bush will receive a cash prize of $35,000, as well as a six-week residency at the Hermitage and a developmental workshop in a major arts capital. Bush’s workshop will take place in London in late 2025. The finalists for this year’s Hermitage Major Theater Award include Natasha Gordon, Beth Steel, and Sam Steiner.

Chris Bush is an award-winning playwright, lyricist, and theatremaker raised in Sheffield and living in London. Her work for the musical Standing at the Sky’s Edge won her an Olivier Award and a UK Theatre Award for Best Musical. Bush received a UK Theatre Award for Best Show for Children & Young People for her production Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World and a UK Theatre Award for Best Musical for Assassination of Katie Hopkins.

Bush’s intended HMTA commission, currently titled Orlando (FL), follows a trans woman whose life is turned upside down by the arrival of a fantastical stranger. Inspired by Virginia Woolf’s classic novel, the play seeks to explore contemporary queer identities and the power of fiction.

The Hermitage is a nonprofit artist retreat located in Manasota Key, Fla., inviting accomplished artists across multiple disciplines for residencies on its beachfront campus. The Hermitage seeks to inspire and foster the most influential and culturally consequential art and artists of our time. Each year, the Hermitage awards the Greenfield Prize for a new work of art, the Major Theater Award for an original theatre commission, and the Aspen Music Festival’s Prize in Composition.

The United States Institute for Theatre Technology (USITT) has announced its 2024 award winners. This year’s recipients will be honored in a ceremony on March 21 at 9 a.m. as part of the organization’s annual Conference & Stage Expo at the Seattle Convention Center.

The Distinguished Achievement Awards honor individuals who have established meritorious career records in specific fields of expertise in any area of design or technology in the performing arts or entertainment industry. Each recipient will be a featured part of the USITT Conference in a special session presented by one of the commissions. The Distinguished Achievement Award Recipients are Nancy Uffner (Education), Karen Maness (Scene Design), Karl Ruling (Engineering), Dawn Chiang (Lighting Design), Richard Bugg (Sound Design), and Susan Tsu (Costume Design).

Oscar G. Brockett Golden Pen Award, sponsored by USITT and the Oscar G. Brockett Center for Theatre History and Criticism at the University of Texas at Austin, honors an outstanding publication in the field of design and production for the performing arts. This year’s Golden Pen Award winner is Christin Essin for “Working Backstage.” The Herbert D. Greggs Awards promote innovative, in-depth writing about theatre design and technology in TD&T. The Greggs Awards Merit winners are Naoko Skala for “Introducing Joruri Puppetry,” Winter 2022 and Mark Reaney for “Teaching Lighting Design with Computer Modeling,” Fall 2022. The Greggs Awards Honor winners are Anastasia Goodwin for “The Costume History Classroom as Laboratory,” Fall 2022 and Brant Thomas Murray and Dr. K. Camille Murray for “Placing Emotional Intelligence Center Stage,” Winter 2023.

The Rising Star Award, sponsored by LDI/Live Design, is given annually to a young professional at the beginning of their career. This year’s Rising Star is theatrical sound designer and game audio designer William Lowe. The Young Designers, Managers, and Technicians (YDMT) Awards recognize young professionals at the beginning of their careers. They are made possible by gifts from USITT sponsors. The YDMT recipients include Aholibama Castañeda González (KM Fabrics Technical Production Award), Athene Wright (The Barbara Matera Award for Costume-Making), Nathan Bowden (The Richard Hay Undergraduate Scene Design Award), Grzegorz Labuda (Zelma H. Weisfeld Costume Design & Technology Award), Andrew Riedemann (Bernhard R. Works, Frederick A. Buerki Scenic Technology Award), Xotchil Musser (Barbizon Lighting Company Jonathan Resnick Lighting Design Award), Annie Hennen (USITT Stage Management Award Winner), Tiara Jones (USITT Makeup Design Award), and Tianxuan Chen (USITT Scene Design Award Sponsored by Rose Brand).

The USITT Award recognizes a lifetime of distinguished contributions to the performing arts or entertainment communities. This year’s recipient is Rachel Keebler. The Honorary Lifetime Membership Award recognizes years of continuous and extraordinary service to the Institute. This year’s winner is Lea Asbell-Swanger. Sponsored by the USITT Architecture Commission, the Architecture Awards Program honors excellence in design. The Merit winners are Thaden Performance, Steelhouse Omaha, and David Geffen Hall, and the Honor winners are Groton Hill Music Center and the Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center.

The Sherry Wagner-Henry Board Fellowship is a flexible, 12- to 18-month-long fellowship meant to invest in the growth of the future leaders of USITT. The 2024 Board Fellow is Dani Ranisate. USITT Fellows are leaders in their craft or field and are considered an indispensable resource in continuing the work of the Institute. The USITT Fellow Inductees are Holly Monsos, Michael Monsos, and Tony Hardin. The Howard Vincent Kurtz Student Engagement Grants provide financial assistance to USITT student members. This year’s grant award winner is Marisa Lawrence.

The United States Institute for Theatre Technology is a membership organization which aims to advance the skills and knowledge of theatre, entertainment, and performing arts professionals involved in the areas of design, production, and technology. USITT seeks to connect performing arts design and technology communities to ensure a vibrant dialogue among practitioners, educators, and students.

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