Monthly Archives: May 2022


The words and wisdom of Constantin Stanislavski:

To arouse a desire to create is difficult; to kill that desire is extremely easy. If I interfere with my own work, it is my own affair, but what right have I to hold up the work of a whole group? The actor, no less than the soldier, must be subject to iron discipline. (AP)


(Arifa Akbar’s aicle appeared in the Guardian, 5/26; via Pam Green; Photo: A terrible, startling drama … Eileen Walsh (Clytemnestra) and David Walmsley (Agamemnon) in Girl on an Altar. Photograph: Peter Searle.)

Kiln theatre, London
Family dynamics and toxic masculinity are explored in Marina Carr’s riveting version of the story of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra

The story of Clytemnestra is not quite as we know it from the blood-drenched texts of ancient Greek tragedy here. In those, she is a powerful figure, plotting a murderous revenge on her husband, Agamemnon, for sacrificing their daughter.

In Marina Carr’s audacious version, the power lies squarely with Agamemnon, who consents to the ritual killing of their 10-year-old, Iphigenia, for his advancement in the war against Troy. Yet Clytemnestra is certainly not voiceless in this co-production with the Abbey theatre in Dublin.

Carr tells the story of Clytemnestra (Eileen Walsh) and Agamemnon (David Walmsley) through a series of internal monologues with revisions that make us see the shocks of this story afresh. Innovatively directed by Annabelle Comyn, the production brings a deadly coolness to the searing revelations – unlike the frenzy we saw in Ivo van Hove’s recent retelling of the same story in Age of Rage. The characters here feel larger than life as opposed to in van Hove’s version, where the humans seemed so small and insignificant amid the large-scale set.

It is a counterintuitive venture with riveting results for the most part. A few moments feel static but these are brief and there is a terrible, startling drama inside the stillness. Carr’s story is so intimate in its telling, with so many off-stage scenes painted in words, that it verges on novelistic and makes it necessary for us to imagine much of what it is described. The lighting and sound take on a stupendous force, with an interplay of black and white as doors open suddenly and shafts of light reveal new figures on stage (lighting design by Amy Mae; video design by Will Duke). The sound of lapping waves or cawing birds is crisp and beautiful (composition and sound design by Philip Stewart). With Tom Piper’s spare set design, the combined effect is astonishingly atmospheric.

The script itself has an epic quality – Homeric in its vivid detail and oral splendour – but it is at heart a pointed study of a marriage, profoundly unequal in its power. The bed on stage drives home the point that this story is about marriage, love, sex and childbirth.

(Read more)


(Chris Wiegand’s article appeared in the Guardian, 5/25; Photo:  The instrument of the human body … James Thierrée in Room. Credit: Richard Haughton.)

The circus star turns singer in his new show, Room, which is designed to embrace chaos. He talks about the mystery of theatre and his movie missions

In James Thierrée’s beguiling stage shows, the furniture has a life of its own: brasserie chairs duet with their sitters and velvet sofas gobble people up. So it is a little disconcerting to share a corner table in a Parisian cafe with this ringleader of the unexpected who is swivelling around in his seat. But Thierrée is just on the lookout for his morning coffee, he explains, swinging back with a raspy laugh.

Thierrée has the air of an inventor with his white jacket, round specs and floppy fringe of salt and pepper curls. His latest concoction is Room, which is on a European tour winding its way to the Edinburgh international festival (EIF) in August. By then, Thierrée explains, his Room will have been somewhat rearranged. “I never want them to be bored,” he says of the musicians and dancers who perform its loose-limbed melee of skits and tricks in a huge salon that is constructed before us on stage then promptly blown apart. “Every afternoon we switch a piece of music. I warned everyone it’s going to be moving all the time.” He assumes the roles of architect and director in the story, attempting to marshal his surroundings but constantly upended by them.

Thierrée’s visually arresting shows – including past EIF productions Tabac Rouge and The Toad Knew – usually come with threadbare plots. This time, the connection between musical instruments and the instrument of the human body was his starting point for an exploration of “the whim of pleasure and music and nonsense”. His pick ’n’ mix collection of performers arrived for rehearsals in 2020 only to return home the following day because of rising Covid cases. Now, he hopes the piece will chime with pandemic-weary audiences who want to let go a little – although the single-room setting is bound to prompt flashbacks to lockdown. “Those bloody walls!” he groans, remembering his spell of isolation.

In the absence of plot, he likes to give the audience a tempo. “We can follow a beat,” he says, explaining that we are not just creatures of intellect but of “rhythm and unconscious yearnings”. If there is a philosophy to the show, he says, it is to “embrace chaos”. Did he give his performers similar advice for the creation process? “I try to tell them it should be about their head, too. If all I do is direct my dream, it’s kind of a lonely process. I need their madness.” The production has become a cultural exchange of sorts: the musicians roam around the stage, guided by Thierrée, while he is singing on stage for the first time.

(Read more)



(Sarah Bahr’s article appeared in The New York Times, 5/19; via Pam Green; Photo:  The cast and creative team of the original production of “Little Shop of Horrors.” In the front at center are Howard Ashman, left, wearing plaid, and Alan Menken, lying on the floor.Credit… Estate of Howard Ashman.)

Members of the cast and creative team from the original production, as well as the current Off Broadway revival, look back on how the show came together and discuss its enduring influence.

“Little Shop of Horrors” was Alan Menken’s last shot.

It was the winter of 1979 when Menken, a young composer, and Howard Ashman, the lyricist, playwright and director, were coming off a disappointing Off Broadway run of a musical version of the Kurt Vonnegut novel “God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater.”

So, when Ashman called with the idea to develop a low-budget musical comedy about a murderous plant, based on Roger Corman’s semi-obscure 1960 black comedy film, Menken made a deal with himself: He would give musical theater one more shot. If it didn’t work, he would commit to writing advertising jingles full time.

Of course, the off-the-wall, low-budget musical would go on to become an improbable success, selling out houses at the 98-seat WPA Theater in the Flatiron district before transferring to the 347-seat Orpheum Theater, where it would run for a little over five years. In the decades since, it’s reached cult classic status and become one of the most produced shows at high schools across the country.

On the 40th anniversary of the original Off Off Broadway production, which opened on May 20, 1982, at the WPA Theater, members of the original cast and creative team, as well as some from the current Off Broadway revival and family members of Ashman, who died in 1991 from AIDS, at 40, reflected on how it came together, its improbable success and why it still resonates. These are edited excerpts from the conversations.

The seed that would become “Little Shop of Horrors” had been planted in Ashman’s head for a few decades, ever since he saw Corman’s black-and-white horror spoof of the same name when he was around 14. But revisiting it proved a bit tricky.

SARAH ASHMAN GILLESPIE (sister of Howard Ashman) My husband and I were the only people Howard knew who had the Betamax, and we rented “Little Shop” — the movie — for us all to watch. Except for Howard, we were appalled. We didn’t think it would be a good idea at all to do the show. Of course, he ignored us entirely. That was Howard’s way; when he had a vision for something, he wasn’t going to take no for an answer.

And Ashman had the perfect partner in mind: The composer Alan Menken, with whom he’d just collaborated on “God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater.”

BILL LAUCH (Ashman’s partner) Howard had the idea that “God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater” had an Off Broadway sensibility, but it was just too expensive. He resolved that the next musical he was going to do is going to have a very small cast — under 10 characters. And it was going to have some kind of element at the heart of it that would be so unusual that it would just demand attention.

Continue reading the main story

ALAN MENKEN (composer) I hadn’t seen the film, but a few weeks after he told me he wanted to make a musical, it showed up on cable TV. My God, there were so many fun elements!

(Read more)


(Arifa Akbar’s aricle appeared in the Guardian, 5/2; Seething with anger … Hala Omran as Reem in Two Palestinians Go Dogging at the Royal Court, London. Photograph: Ali Wright.)

Royal Court, London
Set two decades into the future, in Palestinian territories that are still occupied, Sami Ibrahim’s play is a startlingly bold tragicomedy and a furious call to action

Don’t be fooled by the title. This is not – bar a few fruity scenes – a play about dogging, and there are more than two Palestinians in it. There are Israelis too, living in contested territory and enacting the fear, hostility and oppression of that conflict which has become so dreadfully familiar to us through news feeds that even the language around its reporting is inflammatory.

What this slowly rumbling earthquake of a show does so startlingly well is take the conflict and make it small, specific, multi-layered – yet as devastatingly epic as Greek tragedy. Sami Ibrahim’s script revolves around a Palestinian family living in a village east of Jerusalem and being slowly destroyed. Reem (Hala Omran, bolshy, mercurial) is its matriarch and our central narrator; alongside her is her melancholic husband, Sayeed (Miltos Yerolemou, just wonderful).

When an Israeli soldier, Sara (Mai Weisz), is murdered, there are calls for retribution; but Reem has her own scores to settle after her children are killed. Through her we get a sense of a community living under siege, seething with powerless anger, while Sayeed just emanates hopeless resignation.

This local focus on one family has echoes of Lorca, in its intractable grudge-bearing and cycles of violence. Reem tells us of the terror of the Red Zone, of Israeli troops taking sniper shots at unarmed Palestinians, of drone strikes on houses, of children being gunned down at point blank range – including her own 12-year-old girl and then a second daughter, Salwa (Sofia Danu).

Directed by Omar Elerian, the production is many things at once: playful and tragic, baggy and taut, always pulling back from whimsy at the tipping point of self-indulgence. Just as we are lulled by a moment of comedy or metafictive silliness, violence comes careering around the corner.

So many of its scenes stay seared on the mind: Reem watching a video of her son’s last moments; Sara begging for her life before it is horrifyingly stamped out. The saddest scene, for me, is a quiet one with Reem and Sayeed sitting side by side, she sifting lentils, he peeling an orange. “Can you imagine what it’d be like, not living here? Not doing all of this? … Protests and campaigns and watching people die?” he says to her, and she sounds nonplussed by such an implausible thought.

(Read more)


(Henry Alford’s article appeared in the The New Yorker, 5/16; Photo:

The actor and director hangs at the lounge of Studio 54, where he is performing in “The Minutes,” to discuss sixty years in the theatre, casting a young Laurie Metcalf and John Malkovich, and being an octogenarian object of desire.

Spend an hour talking with the actor and director Austin Pendleton in the lounge above Studio 54, and three slightly alarming things happen. First, the diminutive eighty-two-year-old, in the manner of a sleepy hedgehog, will gradually slouch down into the banquette, so that his head ends up where his shoulders once were. This will cause what Pendleton calls his “very excitable hair” to pouf up vertiginously. Finally, an extension cord under the table will somehow get wrapped around his ankles.

Pendleton is currently performing in a play at the theatre downstairs: Steppenwolf’s production of Tracy Letts’s dark comedy “The Minutes,” which is a parody of a Midwestern city-council meeting that descends into bloody political chaos. Pendleton plays a querulous council member named Mr. Oldfield. “It’s almost uncomfortable how readily I’m able to identify with this character,” he said, explaining that in real life he’s on the council of the Dramatists Guild. “Sometimes when I ask a question at a guild meeting it becomes clear that I haven’t followed anything that was said in the last half hour.”

Pendleton, best known for his supporting roles in movies—the nerdy musicologist Frederick Larrabee, in “What’s Up, Doc?”; Charles Durning’s shy sidekick, Max, in “The Muppet Movie”; Gurgle, in “Finding Nemo”—has worked with Steppenwolf for forty-three years. But it’s a relationship that almost didn’t happen. In 1979, when the fledgling Chicago-based troupe asked him to direct “Say Goodnight, Gracie,” he declined at first. He wasn’t a Broadway regular at the time (though he’d originated the role of Motel the tailor, in “Fiddler on the Roof” and would go on to direct Elizabeth Taylor in “The Little Foxes”), but his wife was pregnant, and he didn’t want to move. Also, the name bugged him: “Either they’d named themselves after a rock group, which is beyond pathetic,” he said, “or after a novel by my least favorite novelist.” But he ended up taking the gig and started auditioning the troupe—twelve relative unknowns. “For one role, I had to choose between Laurie Metcalf and Joan Allen,” he said. A second role went to a guy named John Malkovich.

(Read more)


(Kate Connolly’s article appeared in the Guardian, 5/14/22; Photo:  Frederik Mayet as Jesus Christ in the 42nd Oberammergau passion play. Photograph: Lukas Barth/Reuters.)

In 1633 the Bavarian village vowed to stage its play every 10 years if it survived the plague. It did then and has again

From his perch in the orchestra pit of the Oberammergau stage, Christian Stückl nods and points to his players above, trying to offer them helpful instructions as their dress rehearsal to a half-full house of mainly local people gets under way.

“It is hard to believe we’ve got this far. I keep waiting for something to go wrong, but apart from a couple of older men forgetting their lines there’s really nothing to complain about,” the director says at the end of the five-and-a-half-hour show.

The villagers of Oberammergau in the Bavarian Alps are in a state of excitement. Their “passion play” – which in 1633 their forebears vowed to God they would stage every 10 years if they were spared further deaths from the plague (they were) – is back again after having been thrown off its usual schedule by two years owing to the latest pandemic.

Depicting the life, persecution, death and resurrection of Jesus, the 42nd season of what is believed to be the oldest continuous running amateur theatre production in the world will open on Saturday with a 103-performance run until October.

The play is the village’s raison d’etre. It is taken for granted that almost every one of the 5,200 residents who is eligible, from babies to nonagenarians, plays a part either on or off the stage. All children are allowed, as is anyone who has lived in the village for 20 years or more.

After being postponed for two years due to Covid, the passion play will be performed from 14 May to 2 October. 

“The last time we had to delay was 100 years ago, due to the Spanish flu, as well as deaths and injuries from the first world war, after which it was rescheduled for 1922,” Stückl says. “Pandemics and the passion play have a certain tradition.”

Despite misgivings over whether it would be able to go ahead, the usual decree went out on Ash Wednesday last year, forbidding male participants from cutting their hair or shaving their beards until the production closed the following October.

“It was hard for us to believe until recently that it would actually go ahead as the coronavirus infection rate had exploded, but most of us stuck to the rules and didn’t cut our beards in the hope it still would,” said Werner Richter, a taxi driver who has taken part in every production since 1970. His grandchildren are among the 400 youngsters on stage and his son, Andreas, a former Jesus and a psychologist by profession, has one of the lead roles as the high priest Caiaphas.

About 400 players who had signed up to take part in 2020 were forced to drop out, some due to changing life plans, others owing to their refusal to be vaccinated or to take a daily test. The Catalan donkey Sancho, on whose back Jesus was due to ride into Jerusalem, has gone into retirement, replaced by the younger Aramis.

(Read more)


(Maya Phillips’s article appeared in The New York Times, 4/26; Photo: Jaquel Spivey, center, as Usher, a 25-year-old Broadway usher, in “A Strange Loop” at the Lyceum Theater in Manhattan. Credit…Sara Krulwich/The New York Times.)

Michael R. Jackson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning meta musical arrives on Broadway with its uproarious dialogue, complex psychology and eclectic score intact.


A Strange Loop

NYT Critic’s Pick

Broadway, Musical

1 hour 45 minutes

Open Run

Lyceum Theatre, 149 W. 45th St.


When the homophobic, God-fearing, Tyler Perry-loving mother of Usher, the protagonist of the remarkable musical “A Strange Loop,” describes her son’s art, she uses the word “radical.” She doesn’t mean it as a compliment.

But “A Strange Loop,” Michael R. Jackson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning meta musical about a Black queer man’s self-perception in relation to his art, is radical. And I definitely mean that as a compliment.

This musical, a production of Page 73, Playwrights Horizons and Woolly Mammoth Theater Company, forgoes the commercial niceties and digestible narratives of many Broadway shows, delivering a story that’s searing and softhearted, uproarious and disquieting.

“A Strange Loop,” which opened Tuesday night, isn’t just the musical I saw in the packed Lyceum Theater a few evenings ago; it’s also the musical Usher (Jaquel Spivey), a 25-year-old usher at the Broadway production of “The Lion King,” is writing right in front of us.

He’s facing a few hurdles, namely his intrusive thoughts, embodied by the same six actors who originated the roles in the 2019 Off Broadway premiere: L Morgan Lee, James Jackson Jr., John-Michael Lyles, John-Andrew Morrison, Jason Veasey and Antwayn Hopper. They give voice to his anxieties of being a plus-size Black queer man, his alcoholic father’s constant denigration and his mother’s pleas to stop running “up there in the homosexsh’alities” and produce a wholesome gospel play instead.

Through scenes that move between Usher’s interactions with the outside world, like a phone conversation with his mother or a hookup, and a constant congress with his most devastating notions of himself, “A Strange Loop” pulls off an amazing feat: condensing a complex idea, full of paradoxes and abstractions, into the form of a Broadway musical.

(Read more)





 (via Scott Klein / Logan Metzler at Keith Sherman & Associates; visit .)



(Monday, May 16, 2022) – Nominations for the 66th Annual Drama Desk Awards were announced today, and the full list of nominees is available below.


In keeping with the Drama Desk‘s mission, the nominators considered shows that opened on Broadway, Off-Broadway, and Off-Off Broadway during the 2021-2022 New York theater season, that the Drama Desk determined ended as of May 1, 2022. Only live performances were eligible – if performances were also available for streaming, 21 or more unique live performances were required. 


Due to the realities of Covid, the 2022 Drama Desk Awards ceremony will be different this year. Winners will be announced the week of June 6. The Awards will be presented during an abbreviated ceremony at Sardi’s (234 West 44th Street) on Tuesday, June 14 from 3:00 – 6:00PM. 


The Drama Desk Awards are produced by Tony Award winner Scott Mauro/Scott Mauro Entertainment and the show is being written by six-time Emmy Award winner Bruce Vilanch.


In determining eligibility of the Broadway productions of A Strange LoopFor Colored Girls, Hangmen, Is This a Room, Skeleton Crew, and The Lehman Trilogy which had recent Off-Broadway runs in previous seasons, the nominating committee considered only those elements that constituted new work. 


Additional productions on and off Broadway not eligible as they were considered in their entirety in prior seasons included Beyond BabelCoal CountryDana H.Get on Your KneesGirl from the North CountryThe Patsy, and What to Send Up When It Goes Down.


Trouble in Mind was considered a revival due to its Drama Desk-eligible 1955 off-Broadway production. 


The 2021-2022 Drama Desk Nominating Committee is composed of: Martha Wade Steketee (Chair; freelance,, Peter Filichia (Broadway Radio), Kenji Fujishima (freelance: TheaterMania), Juan Michael Porter II (; freelance: TDF StagesDid They Like It?New York Theatre Guide, Queerty), Ayanna Prescod (freelance: VarietyNew York Theatre GuideToday Tix), Zachary Stewart (TheaterMania), and Diep Tran (freelance: BackstageAmerican TheatreBroadway NewsNew York Theatre Guide).


Follow the Drama Desk Awards: @DramaDeskAwards on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook for updates


*   *   *


About The Drama Desk

The Drama Desk was founded in 1949 to explore key issues in the theater and to bring together critics and writers in an organization to support the ongoing development of theater in New York. The organization began presenting its awards in 1955, and it is the only critics’ organization to honor achievement in the theater with competition among Broadway, Off Broadway and Off-Off Broadway productions in the same categories. 



Follow the Drama Desk Awards 


on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook for updates





Outstanding Play

Cullud Wattah, by Erika Dickerson-Despenza, The Public Theater

English, by Sanaz Toossi, Atlantic Theater Company

Prayer for the French Republic, by Joshua Harmon, Manhattan Theatre Club

Sanctuary City, by Martyna Majok, New York Theatre Workshop

Selling Kabul, by Sylvia Khoury, Playwrights Horizons

The Chinese Lady, by Lloyd Suh, The Public Theater


Outstanding Musical

Harmony, National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene

Intimate Apparel, Lincoln Center Theater

Kimberly Akimbo, Atlantic Theater Company


The Hang, HERE Arts Center


Outstanding Revival of a Play

for colored girls who have considered suicide/ when the rainbow is enuf

How I Learned to Drive, Manhattan Theatre Club

Lackawanna Blues, Manhattan Theatre Club

Skeleton Crew, Manhattan Theatre Club

Trouble in Mind, Roundabout Theatre Company

Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992, Signature Theatre


Outstanding Revival of a Musical

Assassins, Classic Stage Company

Baby, Out of the Box Theatrics

Caroline, or Change, Roundabout Theatre Company



Outstanding Actor in a Play

Brandon J. Dirden, Skeleton Crew, Manhattan Theatre Club

Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Take Me Out, Second Stage Theater

Jacob Ming-Trent, Merry Wives, The Public Theater (Free Shakespeare in the Park)

Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Lackawanna Blues, Manhattan Theatre Club

John Douglas Thompson, The Merchant of Venice, Theatre for a New Audience


Outstanding Actress in a Play

Tala Ashe, English, Atlantic Theater Company

Ruth Negga, Macbeth

Andrea Patterson, Cullud Wattah, The Public Theater

Phylicia Rashad, Skeleton Crew, Manhattan Theatre Club

Shannon Tyo, The Chinese Lady, The Public Theater

Michelle Wilson, Confederates, Signature Theatre


Outstanding Actor in a Musical

Billy Crystal, Mr. Saturday Night

Myles Frost, MJ

Rob McClure, Mrs. Doubtfire

Jaquel Spivey, A Strange Loop

Chip Zien, Harmony, National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene


Outstanding Actress in a Musical

Kearstin Piper Brown, Intimate Apparel, Lincoln Center Theater

Victoria Clark, Kimberly Akimbo, Atlantic Theater Company

Sharon D. Clarke, Caroline, or Change, Roundabout Theatre Company

Jeanna de Waal, Diana

Joaquina Kalukango, Paradise Square


Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play

Joshua Boone, Skeleton Crew, Manhattan Theatre Club

Chuck Cooper, Trouble in Mind, Roundabout Theatre Company

Daniel K. Isaac, The Chinese Lady, The Public Theater

Billy Eugene Jones, On Sugarland, New York Theatre Workshop

Ron Cephas Jones, Clyde’s, Second Stage Theater


Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play

Francis Benhamou, Prayer for the French Republic, Manhattan Theatre Club

Stephanie Berry, On Sugarland, New York Theatre Workshop

Sonnie Brown, what you are now, Ensemble Studio Theatre

Page Leong, Out of Time, NAATCO and The Public Theater

Kenita R. Miller, for colored girls who have considered suicide/ when the rainbow is enuf

Kara Young, Clyde’s, Second Stage Theater


Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical

Justin Austin, Intimate Apparel, Lincoln Center Theater

Justin Cooley, Kimberly Akimbo, Atlantic Theater Company

Matt Doyle, Company

Jared Grimes, Funny Girl

Tavon Olds-Sample, MJ


Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical

Judy Kuhn, Assassins, Classic Stage Company

Tamika Lawrence, Black No More, The New Group

Patti LuPone, Company

Bonnie Milligan, Kimberly Akimbo, Atlantic Theater Company

Jennifer Simard, Company


Outstanding Director of a Play

Knud Adams, English, Atlantic Theater Company

Saheem Ali, Merry Wives, The Public Theater (Free Shakespeare in the Park)

Rebecca Frecknall, Sanctuary City, New York Theatre Workshop

Taibi Magar, Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992, Signature Theatre

Whitney White, On Sugarland, New York Theatre Workshop


Outstanding Director of a Musical

John Doyle, Assassins, Classic Stage Company

Marianne Elliott, Company

Lucy Moss and Jamie Armitage, Six

Bartlett Sher, Intimate Apparel, Lincoln Center Theater

Jessica Stone, Kimberly Akimbo, Atlantic Theater Company 


Outstanding Choreography

Ayodele Casel (tap choreography), Funny Girl

Carrie-Anne Ingrouille, Six

Bill T. Jones, Garrett Coleman, and Jason Oremus (Irish + Hammerstep), Gelan Lambert and Chloe Davis (associates), Paradise Square

Liam Steel, Company

Christopher Wheeldon, Michael Balderrama (associate), Rich + Tone Taleuega (Michael Jackson movement), MJ 


Outstanding Music

Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss, Six

Jason Howland, Paradise Square

Matt Ray, The Hang, HERE Arts Center

Carrie Rodriguez, ¡Americano!

Jeanine Tesori, Kimberly Akimbo, Atlantic Theater Company


Outstanding Lyrics 

Amanda Green, Mr. Saturday Night

Taylor Mac, The Hang, HERE Arts Center

Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss, Six

David Lindsay-Abaire, Kimberly Akimbo, Atlantic Theater Company

Lynn Nottage, Intimate Apparel, Lincoln Center Theater

Shaina Taub, Suffs, The Public Theater


Outstanding Book of a Musical 

Billy Crystal, Lowell Ganz, and Babaloo Mandel, Mr. Saturday Night

Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss, Six

Lynn Nottage, Intimate Apparel, Lincoln Center Theater

Bruce Sussman, Harmony, National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene


Outstanding Orchestrations

Tom Curran, Six

Greg Jarrett, Assassins, Classic Stage Company

Mark Hartman and Yasuhiko Fukuoka, The Streets of New York, Irish Repertory Theatre 

Jason Michael Webb and David Holcenberg, MJ


Outstanding Music in a Play

Te’La and Kamauu, Thoughts of a Colored Man

Bill Sims Jr., Lackawanna Blues, Manhattan Theatre Club

Michael Thurber and Farai Malianga (drum compositions), Merry Wives, The Public Theater (Free Shakespeare in the Park)


Outstanding Scenic Design for a Play

Beowulf Boritt, Merry Wives, The Public Theater (Free Shakespeare in the Park)

Wilson Chin, Pass Over

Marsha Ginsberg, English, Atlantic Theater Company

Takeshi Kata, Clyde’s, Second Stage Theater

Junghyun Georgia Lee, Kristina Wong, Sweatshop Overlord, New York Theatre Workshop


Outstanding Scenic Design for a Musical 

Emma Bailey, Six

Beowulf Boritt, Flying Over Sunset, Lincoln Center Theater

Bunny Christie, Company

David Zinn, Kimberly Akimbo, Atlantic Theater Company


Outstanding Costume Design for a Play

Linda Cho, The Chinese Lady, The Public Theater

Gregory Gale, Fairycakes

Tilly Grimes, The Alchemist, Red Bull Theater

Qween Jean, On Sugarland, New York Theatre Workshop

Jennifer Moeller, Clyde’s, Second Stage Theater


Outstanding Costume Design for a Musical 

Machine Dazzle, The Hang, HERE Arts Center

Susan Hilferty, Funny Girl

Santo Loquasto, The Music Man

Gabriella Slade, Six

Catherine Zuber, Intimate Apparel, Lincoln Center Theater


Outstanding Lighting Design for a Play

Christopher Akerlind, Clyde’s, Second Stage Theater

Reza Behjat, English, Atlantic Theater Company

Isabella Byrd, Sanctuary City, New York Theatre Workshop

Amith Chandrashaker, Prayer for the French Republic, Manhattan Theatre Club

Jeanette Oi-Suk Yew, Cullud Wattah, The Public Theater


Outstanding Lighting Design for a Musical

Natasha Katz, Diana

Natasha Katz, MJ

Bradley King, Flying Over Sunset, Lincoln Center Theater

Jennifer Tipton, Intimate Apparel, Lincoln Center Theater


Outstanding Projection Design

59 Productions, Flying Over Sunset, Lincoln Center Theater

David Bengali, Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992, Signature Theatre

Stephania Bulbarella and Alex Basco Koch, Space Dogs, MCC Theater

Shawn Duan, The Chinese Lady, The Public Theater

Sven Ortel, Thoughts of a Colored Man


Outstanding Sound Design for a Play

Tyler Kieffer, Seven Deadly Sins, Tectonic Theater Project and Madison Wells Live

Hidenori Nakajo and Ryan Rumery, Autumn Royal, Irish Repertory Theatre

Ben and Max Ringham, Cyrano de Bergerac, The Jamie Lloyd Company at Brooklyn Academy of Music

Mikaal Sulaiman, Sanctuary City, New York Theatre Workshop

Lee Kinney, Selling Kabul, Playwrights Horizons


Outstanding Sound Design for a Musical

Ian Dickinson for Autograph, Company

Paul Gatehouse, Six

Kai Harada, Kimberly Akimbo, Atlantic Theater Company

Gareth Owen, MJ


Outstanding Wig and Hair

Matthew B. Armentrout, Paradise Square

David Brian Brown, Mrs. Doubtfire

Paul Huntley, Diana

Charles G. LaPointe, MJ


Outstanding Solo Performance

Alex Edelman, Just for Us,  Cherry Lane Theatre

Arturo Luís Soria, Ni Mi Madre, Rattlestick Playwrights Theater

Kristina Wong, Kristina Wong, Sweatshop Overlord, New York Theatre Workshop


Unique Theatrical Experience

Seven Deadly Sins, Tectonic Theater Project & Madison Wells Live


Outstanding Adaptation 

Merry Wives, by Jocelyn Bioh, The Public Theater (Free Shakespeare in the Park)

The Alchemist, by Jeffrey Hatcher, Red Bull Theater


Outstanding Puppet Design

Amanda Villalobos, Wolf Play, Soho Rep.

James Ortiz, The Skin of Our Teeth, Lincoln Center Theater

Rockefeller Productions, Winnie the Pooh, The Hundred Acre Theatre 


Harold S. Prince Lifetime Achievement Award:

In four decades as playwright, novelist, actor, and director, Alice Childress (1912-1994) challenged racism with engrossing stories and memorable characters. When a New York producer demanded revisions to soften the impact of Trouble in Mind, after an initial run Off Broadway and prior to its Broadway debut, Childress withdrew the script. Sixty-five years later, the Drama Desk celebrates the long-delayed Broadway premiere of this timeless masterpiece and salutes Childress as a towering figure in contemporary theater history.


Ensemble Award:

In Six, Adrianna Hicks, Andrea Macasaet, Brittney Mack, Abby Mueller, Samantha Pauly, and Anna Uzele bring to musical life the women who married England’s King Henry VIII. The fanciful result is a buoyant dramatization of their individually purposeful and collectively empowering journeys.


The Sam Norkin Off-Broadway Award:

This season, as a woman hiding her brother from the Taliban in Sylvia Khoury’s Selling Kabul and an English instructor straddling two very different cultures in Sanaz Toossi’s EnglishMarjan Neshat embodied disparate characters so fully that it was hard to recognize the single actor in the two roles. Whether in drama or comedy, Neshat mines the playwright’s text for a vast panoply of emotions that yield vivid, intricate portrayals of the parts she undertakes.


Additional Special Awards:

Dede Ayite seems to have costumed half the actors of this theater season with her designs for Merry WivesSeven Deadly SinsThe Last of the Love LettersChicken and BiscuitsSlave PlayNollywood DreamsAmerican Buffalo, and How I learned to Drive. Whether dressing working-class Marylanders of the 1960s, amateur criminals of the 1970s, or West African immigrants in today’s Harlem, Ayite has a knack for conveying characters’ means, values, and aspirations before the actors utter a word.


Adam Rigg enhanced storytelling through wildly varying scenic designs this season including: a house in wood, shadow, and reflective glass that draws the audience into the Flint, Michigan water crisis in Cullud Wattah; a community cul-de-sac where trauma and history are celebrated in On Sugarland; and the falling walls, flower-covered hillsides, and functional seaside fun ride of The Skin of Our Teeth.


With the category-defying Oratorio for Living Things, Heather Christian aims to encompass all human existence in a single inventive and startlingly beautiful work. In times of pandemic, war, and social upheaval, Christian’s work (directed by Lee Sunday Evans and brought to life by a superb cast and creative team) is an awe-inspiring reminder that, even in the darkest times, there will always be artistic peaks to scale.



Productions with multiple nominations:


Six: 10

Kimberly Akimbo: 9

Company: 8

Intimate Apparel: 8

MJ: 7

Clyde’s: 5

English: 5

Merry Wives: 5

The Chinese Lady: 5

Assassins: 4

On Sugarland: 4

Paradise Square: 4

Sanctuary City: 4

Skeleton Crew: 4

The Hang: 4

Cullud Wattah: 3

Diana: The Musical: 3

Flying Over Sunset


(Michael Seaver’s article appeared in the Irish Times, 5/14; Photos (top to bottom): Choreographer Áine Stapleton has spent eight years exploring Joyce’s artistry; Lucia Joyce: Whenever her name is mentioned, the words ‘daughter of James Joyce’ aren’t far away.)

Whenever the name of Lucia Joyce is mentioned, the words “daughter of James Joyce” are never far away. A talented dancer, writer and musician, Lucia’s career was cut short after she had a nervous breakdown and was – some say inaccurately – diagnosed with schizophrenia. She spent the rest of her life in institutions where she was subjected to experimental treatments.

According to dance historian Deirdre Mulrooney, many accounts of her life are Mills & Boon-style narratives, where the real protagonists are famous male writers, including her father and Samuel Beckett, with whom Lucia had a relationship. Writing in Joyce Studies Annual, Mulrooney claims: “This misunderstood artist has been reduced to a ‘mad girl’, synonymous with mental illness, considered primarily in relation to her father, and filed away under ‘miscellaneous’ in coveted James Joyce special collections around the world.”

This two-dimensional caricature would be different had she fulfilled her artistic potential. In 1928 the Paris Times stated that, “When she reaches her full capacity for rhythmic dancing, James Joyce may yet be known as his daughter’s father”.

Choreographer Áine Stapleton has spent the past eight years forefronting Lucia Joyce’s artistry and will premiere a dance film installation, Somewhere in the Body, at this year’s Dublin Dance Festival. “In 2014 I was working with some friends in a band who had created musical interpretations of Joyce’s major works for Bloomsday,” she says. “During the rehearsals, they told me a bit about Lucia and her dance career. That same week, I managed to source some letters that were written by Lucia during her later years in psychiatric care. I could instantly see a clear divide between the clichéd accounts of Lucia in the press and media, compared to the kind, intelligent and loving person that came through in her letters. These writings inspired me to make my first work about Lucia and I’ve been immersed in her story ever since.” Stapleton would concur with Mulrooney’s disdain for the superficial accounts of Lucia’s life.

“I try to avoid the clichés that are so often associated with her story, so it’s always important for me to research as thoroughly as possible. But it’s very difficult to find information about Lucia, due in part to the fact that Stephen Joyce, James Joyce’s grandson and long-time estate administrator, is known to have had part of Lucia’s correspondence with her father and Samuel Beckett destroyed following her death.” Poems and an unpublished novel have also been lost or destroyed.

Stapleton has created two previous dance films. Medicated Milk was based on a period of time that Lucia spent in Bray, Co Wicklow (“close to where I grew up, which Lucia described as a magnificent place, full of flowers”), and Horrible Creature, based on her life in Switzerland between 1915 and the late 1930s.

“Somewhere in the Body takes a different approach to my previous work about Lucia, which relies heavily on her biographical details,” she says. “For this film installation, I examine the psychic spaces that Lucia inhabited in her father’s mind, and how she appears in his writings, with a particular focus on Finnegans Wake.”

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