A long-delayed Obie Awards ceremony next month will celebrate the resilience of New York’s theater scene, even as it applauds plays and musicals staged beyond Broadway.
The time-honored but freewheeling awards ceremony, created by the Village Voice in the 1950s and now run by the American Theater Wing, doles out prizes in ad hoc categories for work done Off Broadway and Off Off Broadway. This year’s ceremony will take place on Feb. 27, but many of the award recipients will be informed in advance, and their acceptance remarks will be recorded and released a few days before the ceremony, allowing that evening to focus on performances and partying rather than speeches.
“The Obies has always been such an important recognition to Off and Off Off Broadway, and that community was very, very hurt by the pandemic,” said Heather A. Hitchens, the Wing’s president and chief executive.
This year’s Obies will honor digital, audio and other virtual work, as well as productions staged in a more traditional fashion. Eligible shows must have opened between July 1, 2020, when theaters were still shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic, and Aug. 31, 2022, by which time theaters were open and in-person performance was again the main form of theater-making.
A panel of judges, led by the director David Mendizábal and the critic Melissa Rose Bernardo, assessed about 400 shows; the group plans to bestow 37 awards, including one named for Michael Feingold, the longtime Village Voice critic who died last fall.
“As artists had to adapt, it came down to us saying, ‘How do we acknowledge the ever-evolving landscape,’ and it was really important to a lot of the judges on the panel to be able to recognize works that maybe fell outside of the traditional theater experience,” Mendizábal said.
The Obie administrators said they were aiming for a ceremony lasting between 90 minutes and two hours at Terminal 5, followed by an after-party. The ceremony will feature songs and monologues, as well as the live presentation of about 10 awards, including those for lifetime and sustained achievement.
The last Obie Awards ceremony was a virtual one on July 14, 2020. The Wing had hoped to hold this one last November, but decided more time was needed to organize it.