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Citing Pandemic, This Year’s Obie Awards Will Include Streaming Theater


The Obie Awards, an annual ceremony honoring theater work performed Off and Off Off Broadway, this year for the first time will consider digital, audio and other virtual productions.

The awards administrators decided to expand their scope in recognition of the adaptations made by many theater companies during the coronavirus pandemic, which prevented most New York theaters from staging in-person performances for at least a year, and in many cases considerably longer. Numerous theaters pivoted to streaming, and some experimented with audio.

“We wanted to make sure that the work that did happen was eligible,” said Heather Hitchens, the president and chief executive of the American Theater Wing, which presents the awards. “The Obies respond to the season, and to the evolving nature and rhythms of theater.”

This year’s Obie Awards are expected to take place in November, which would be 28 months after the last ceremony, reflecting the extraordinarily disruptive role the pandemic has played in theatermaking. The ceremony will consider productions presented by Off Broadway and Off Off Broadway theaters between July 1, 2020 and Aug. 31, 2022.

The exact date for the ceremony has not been chosen, but Hitchens said she expects it to be in-person (the last one was streamed) and she expects it to have a host (or hosts).

This year’s Obie Awards will be the first presented solely by the Wing, which also founded and copresents the Tony Awards. The Obies were created by The Village Voice and first presented in 1956; in 2014, as The Voice struggled, it entered a partnership with the Wing to preserve the ceremony, and now The Voice has granted the Obies trademark to the Wing, Hitchens said.

The Obies, always a mixture of prestige and quirkiness, have long been distinguished by their lack of defined categories — each year, the judges decide what works to recognize, and for what reason. This year’s awards will be chaired by David Mendizábal, who is one of the leaders of the Movement Theater Company, and Melissa Rose Bernardo, a freelance theater critic. The judges will include David Anzuelo, an actor and fight choreographer; Becca Blackwell, an actor and writer; Wilson Chin, a set designer; Haruna Lee, a playwright; Soraya Nadia McDonald, the culture critic for The Undefeated; Lisa Peterson, a director and writer; Heather Alicia Simms, an actor; and Kaye Voyce, a costume designer.


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