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Ghosts of Obies Past | Village Voice

Ghosts of Obies Past | Village Voice

The Obie judges for 1971-1972: (l-r, again) John Lahr, Michael Smith, Arthur Sainer, and Michael Feingold, and (l-r, entrance) Julius Novick, Dick Brukenfeld, and Martin Washburn

Ghosts of Obies Previous
Might 31, 1994

To assist have fun the 39th annual Village Voice Obie awards, we requested a number of current and former Obie judges to answer the following six questions.

  1. What do you assume is crucial distinction between the Obie and other awards?
  2. What Obie have been you most happy to see?
  3. What Obie do you most regret not giving?
  4. What was your favorite moment at the Obie ceremonies?
  5. How would you modify the selection process?
  6. What question haven’t you been asked that you simply’d most wish to answer?


  1. The Obies have stiffer compe­tition. Also wiser and youthful judges, especially the yr I was on the committee.
  2. Dustin Hoffman, Greatest Actor (for Journey of the Fifth Horse), because I used to be at his desk and he stored making an attempt to go away as a result of he was positive he wasn’t going to win. Ulu Grosbard, who I feel had assured his presence, practi­cally had to sit on him. (I wasn’t a decide that yr.)
  3. I don’t keep in mind what gained and what didn’t the yr I used to be a decide. (Besides that we gave about 10 Obies to By way of the Leaves.)
  4. When Angela Lansbury, the presenter that yr, kissed me once I gained Greatest Play for Scorching L.
  5. I don’t actually know what it is, but I must be a decide every year.
  6. Why doesn’t the New York Occasions cowl this award


  1. Other awards aren’t given by the Village Voice. We open doors; others undergo them later — or, in this dim-witted culture, some­occasions by no means.
  2. Should you imply the citation as a bodily object, Beckett’s Obie for Endgame (though I’ve by no means actu­ally seen it), with the blank slot the place one of the three judges, Walter Kerr, refused to sign. However my favorite award, remodeled the furious protests of two guest judges, was to a play that had been revealed but not but pro­duced — Sam Shepard’s Curse of the Starving Class.
  3. Too many to listing. Between different individuals’s hidden agendas, quirks of style, and sins of omis­sion (i.e., productions they haven’t seen), there are at the very least six every year. If solely they’d let me make all the choices. In any case, I’m all the time proper.
  4. (a) On egomaniacal grounds, Elisabeth Welch’s acceptance speech, videotaped in London. There’s nothing like getting a per­sonal message of affection, on an enormous display, in front of a roomful of main artists, to make you are feeling good. (b) Purely as an anecdote: Charles Stanley accepting his Obie from Groucho Marx. Grou­cho had just been advised that, among his many different achieve­ments that yr, Charles was play­ing Greta Garbo in John Vaccaro’s Persia. He arrived on the podium in a lumberjack shirt and jeans, making Groucho crack, “You don’t look very similar to Greta Garbo.” “No,” Charles shot again with out hesitation, “however I typically put on her garments.” Groucho Marx topped! I want I had it on videotape.
  5. See answer to quantity three.

  6. Do the Obies truly imply something to anyone? So much that it typically frightens me­ — and, on the similar time, nothing in any respect. As Gertrude Stein stated, “Ex­plain profitable prizes.” Anybody keep in mind what Obie-winning work that line is from?


  1. In any case these years, the Obies are nonetheless largely free from hype, healthily eccentric and independent-minded, and structurally flexible enough to satisfy the chang­ing circumstances of the theater­ — which doesn’t mean they will’t also be bloated with self-righ­teousness, as tiresomely predict­in a position as the Village Voice, and pink­olent with nostalgia for a cultural scene that went out with Richard Nixon. (N.B. The Obie events at their worst-self — righteous, pre­dictable, nostalgic — are better than the opposite awards events at their greatest.)
  2. Those I agreed with, in fact. The remaining is amnesia.
  3. (a) Reza Abdoh is considered one of a scant handful of artists working in the theater anyplace immediately who can create items large enough, pas­sionate enough, complicated, pro­discovered, and unique enough to qualify as vital responses to what we feebly call modern reality. He has been acknowledged internationally, however not nationally, for his achievement. Along with Anna Deavere Smith’s documentary works, his Tight Right White is the one theater production in current reminiscence to return anyplace near confronting American racism with satisfactory scale and artistic imagination. That it acquired no Obie last yr (however as an alternative a pan in the Voice, not for its content but because the reviewer couldn’t stand its relentless intensity) exhibits just how sclerotic New York theater — and theater critics — have turn out to be. If he’s not honored this yr for Quotations From a Ruined City, which en­compasses the agonies of Bosnia and AIDS, the sclerosis has be­come complete mummification. (b) The Obie committee ought to award a Pulitzer Prize to Anna Deavere Smith for her distinguished origi­nal play, Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992.
  4. The appearance of Bloolips again in 1981. It was too late for Aristophanes and Oscar Wilde, however we still had Bette Bourne and company. Unfortunately, they only acquired an award for cos­tumes when they need to have been honored for giving us a glimpse of what a New World Or­der must be like.
  5. Less self-righteousness, less predictability, less nostalgia, more life.
  6. Why does the publication that sponsors the one awards even slightly counterbalancing the prepackaged hype of the Tonys, the only newspaper that purports to serve a group of alterna­tive theater artists and audiences, steadily scale back theater protection basically and various theater protection particularly? Why is satisfaction of place and area virtually invariably given to yet one more re­view of the newest Andrew Lloyd Webber train in elephantiasis? Or Disney? Or Cameron MacIn­tosh? And so on.? And so forth.? The reply have to be that uptown promoting dollars really are the supply of Vil­lage Voice “aesthetics.” So why not stop the hypocrisy of the Obies and begin awarding the Schlockies like everyone else? In any other case, please reserve the mis­erable, cramped little Cameos within the Theater section for Broadway and give satisfactory outstanding at­tention to the artists who truly win the Obies.


In the tradition of the Obies, I’m throwing out your categories and inventing my very own.

  1. Greatest backstage second: Olympia Dukakis. The ceremony was at the Puck Constructing that yr — the place the loos are a degree under and a few quarter mile from the ballroom. And there was Olympia Dukakis, standing by the sinks, chatting with a cou­ple of buddies, as endearing (although not as screwy) as she’d been in The Marriage of Bette and Boo that season — and, clearly, with no clue she was about to be referred to as to get an Obie for that per­formance. What to do? It’s one factor to move up a second of glory because you’ve determined to play saxophone at Michael’s Pub in­stead. But to miss an award be­cause you’re gabbing in the lavatory? Following the Village Voice tradi­tion, I made a decision to go for rude. I elbowed my approach towards the pink liquid cleaning soap, making an attempt to make Duka­kis feel as a lot in the best way as potential — like, hey, loos are for individuals who need to use them. No cube. She stepped apart with the tiniest quizzical glance and stored speaking. So shifting on to the Obie tradition of trashing guidelines, I broke the Obie’s only rule. I informed. “Excuse me,” I muttered “I’m one of the judges and, nicely, you in all probability should go upstairs.” For a nanosecond, Dukakis looked at me like, “What is that this, the toilet monitor?” — and then it flashed. “Oh!” she shrieked, and bounded upstairs. In time.
  2. Greatest acceptance speech: Anne and Jules Weiss. La Mama’s angels, Anne and Jules, sporting grocery-shopping garments, stood at the microphone wanting surprised and somewhat embarrassed until the applause began to wane. Then Anne announced, “I advised Jules, ‘It doesn’t matter what we put on. We’re not going to get something.’ ”
  3. Most predictable battle line: the Y-chromosome Maginot. In fact the play and playwright (all the time male) diversified from season to season — Mamet, Shawn, Rabe, Albee, whoever — but the warring judges all the time divided cleanly down gender strains. The lads (straights and, often, gays) noticed Great Artwork, specifically the defini­tive, archetypal portrayal of the male-female relationship. We girls noticed, as soon as again, that we now have our work minimize out for us.
  4. Most bittersweet aftertaste: Robert Massa at Obie lunch meet­ings. As a light counterbalance to the sanity he delivered to Obie meetings, Robert would collude with me in butterfat. Often we ordered, and shared, each dessert on the menu.
  5. Most unacceptable, unbear­in a position part of the ceremony (worse and worse every year): The listing of deaths annually — documenting the plague.


  1. As one who coated the margin of the margin — performers who in­vited you to take a look at their cervices, performers who sat motionless for seven hours making an attempt not to blink — I all the time regarded the Obies as terri­bly mainstream. I mean, have been “my” performers ever going to win the identical award as soon as present­ed to Meryl Streep? As it turned out, they have been. Kind of. Occasion­ally. The Obies don’t apply to the additional reaches of performance artwork, however they’re flexible sufficient to accommodate a lot of what can occur on a stage – or behind it.
  2. For instance: The yr I used to be on the committee, I used to be particu­larly joyful concerning the award to Robbie McCauley for Sally’s Rape, a bit about black-white relationships that stored breaking open to disclose its historic and emotional subtext, and then broke open once more to show the racial self-consciousness that retains us from even discussing this stuff, much less therapeutic them.
  3. During that very same yr, I paid to see Brace Up! 3 times. (For a poorly paid critic and busy Obie decide, that’s saying quite a bit.) As a lot as I liked the play — and Kate Valk’s performance in partic­ular — I couldn’t nominate it for anything as a result of it by no means officially opened. In fact, from a perfor­mance artwork perspective, I can respect the concept of making a bit that by no means “opens.”
  4. As for the Obie show itself, I’ll never forget Ethyl Eichelberger leaping for pleasure method back in 1983, when he gained for Lucrezia Bor­gia — perhaps as a result of it was such a contrast to the cynical, above-it-­all acceptance speech we’d simply heard from Gary Sinise.
  5. Throughout my yr, I assumed we would have liked no less than yet one more decide, so more could possibly be seen.
  6. The one query I’d like to have the ability to answer is — how can we cease the AIDS epidemic?


If democracy, as Churchill sug­gested, is at greatest not as dangerous as the worst, then so be it with the, Obies. Awards have to be given, I suppose, through which case, it’s protected to say that the Obies are distributed with extra good argument, truthful ex­change, and plain widespread sense than most. Even so, perhaps it’s time to complete them off or convey them back the place they started­ — specifically, these early days beneath Jerry Tallmer, then Michael Smith, Richard Gilman, and Gordon Ro­goff, when a deliriously optimistic, progressive theater launched into a cleanup campaign of your complete Guide of the Month Membership strategy to drama that has all the time made us the poorest of relations to the oth­er critical arts.

Best of all have been the two years by which we topped every part with an anti-Obie “for outstand­ing disservice to the American theater” — one yr to the Lincoln Middle Repertory Theatre, the other to Walter Kerr. Briefly, the Obies themselves have been conceived and dedicated to the proposition that technical proficiency and con­sensus politics were not our do­foremost. Put it to the occasions or to youthful pugnacity, we have been sim­ply part of a scene not in contrast to the New York artwork scene earlier than us, and we have been having fun.

Little question about it: the Obies have been ultimately adjudicated extra democratically, which means extra judges, more checks-and-balances visitors taking a look at Voice critics and our savagely expressed disagree­ments as if we’d just stepped off a Spielberg spaceship, and positively a wider consciousness of the broaden­ing scene. By now, there’s an excessive amount of to cover for even a big committee, though you’d scarcely realize it from the current Voice Theater section, primarily a one-man band, a subspecies gossip column, and a relentless collection of brief takes that, with the most effective will on the earth, can solely affirm the prophecy that nothing issues very a lot.

Which, given the rise of proto­fascism all over the place, can’t be true. As a stunned recipient of an Obie as soon as, I’m not more likely to sus­tain my own argument that Obies themselves might not matter very a lot. Like Oscars for greatest supporting actors, they’re in all probability the kiss of demise, whilst they proceed to be a momentary joy to receive. For what little it’s value, I’d warning winners to design their futures as if the Obies don’t matter, and I’d enjoin once-and-future Obie judges to do all in their restrict­ed energy to chase the Voice The­ater section again to these fiscally irresponsible corners where quirky, unimitative innovations could be given time equal to the institutional sludge now driving many people again to the films.


  1. The other Sunday, Vincent Canby wrote within the Occasions, “For those who’re in a mood to think about alter­native theater, you couldn’t do higher than to check out…” What he was recommending doesn’t matter here; the purpose is that he was assuming that “alter­native theater” was someway marginal, esoteric, to be sampled solely in special moods. This as­sumption is widespread virtually to the point of universality; it’s constructed into the time period “various theater” (and into the term “Off-Broad­approach,” for that matter). The Obies are based mostly quite the opposite assump­tion; what most people regard as marginal they take to be your complete theatrical universe. This does not give them a monopoly on aesthetic advantage within the awards enterprise (al­ways keep in mind that awards are principally hype, not criticism, any­how), however it makes them a useful counterbalancing drive,
  2. What swims most readily to the surface of my memory is, of all issues, the award we gave Farley Granger for his efficiency in Talley and Son by Lanford Wil­son. Here’s a former Hollywood pretty boy, whom you’d anticipate to be luncheon meat for a bunch of arty, caustic, high-minded varieties just like the Obie judges. However his per­formance, in a task that was the other of showy, had extraordi­nary power, weight, there-ness, and so we gave him the recogni­tion as an actor, as an artist, that he deserved — a type of recogni­tion that had eluded him via­out most of his profession. As he picked up his award, he stated, if I keep in mind right, “You’ve made an previous actor very completely happy.”
  3. As befits a paper whose mot­to could possibly be “Divided we stand,” Obie committee conferences have been (and I hope nonetheless are) zestfully con­tentious. We took turns being amazed that such esteemed col­leagues, such paragons of theatri­cal knowledge, might on this or that specific matter be so inexplica­bly ill-advised. As the committee’s resident right-wing deviationist, I fought in vain towards dozens of egregious injustices-by-omission — ­of which, oddly enough, I can’t now recall any. I gave out plenty of personal Obies inside my head. I think that other Obie judges did likewise.
  4. See above, quantity two. In a much less sentimental vein, there was the time, a few years ago, when Groucho Marx served as host. Of course Groucho was an amazing hero to most of those current, myself included, however he didn’t seem to know much about Off-Broadway, or assume a lot of it, and generally he handled us pretty much the best way he used to deal with Margaret Du­mont. So regardless of Groucho’s venerable age, there was a quiet sense of man-bites-dog when somebody — I’ve lengthy since forgot­ten who — collected his award and stated, “Thanks, Groucho. Beloved you in The Gold Rush.”
  5. Any decide who threatens to resign from the committee more than twice during any given meet­ing must be pressured to make good his menace.
  6. “Of all the bare emperors whose new garments have been sa­luted by the Obie committee through the years, which do you assume was the nakedest?” In fact I might not dream of answering that one on such a festive occasion as this.


  1. I feel an important distinction between the Obies and other awards is the popularity of artists initially of their careers, i.e., Sam Shepard, Mor­gan Freeman, Gilbert Moses, Ed Bullins, Lanford Wilson, Mary Al­ice, Judy Dearing, and so forth. Other awards, particularly in New York — the Tony Awards, the Dra­ma Desk Award, the Audelco Awards, and the Drama Critic Cir­cle Awards — are more specific when the American theater partic­ipants are so numerous, so multi­dimensional. The Obies are cogni­zant of the differences.
  2. I’m all the time pleased when the Obie committee acknowledges New Federal Theatre — in the 1974–75 season with The Taking of Miss Janie, and once more in the 1987–88 season when New Federal Theatre acquired a much needed examine from the Obie committee of $3500. I am pleased that the Obie awards embrace a money award to a theater or theater legend.
  3. I regret not giving an Obie award to the director Shauneille Perry for continued excellence for greater than 25 years in the Off-Off- and Off-Broadway theater. From her early directorial work at AMAS Repertory Theatre, New Federal, American Place Theatre, and the Negro Ensemble Compa­ny, Perry exemplifies one of the best of the Off-Off-Broadway theater motion. A number of of the plays she directed are Sty of the Blind Pig, Black Woman, famimma, Present­down, Prodigal Sister, Love, Striv­ers Row, Williams and Walker, Keyboard, Celebration, and The Balmyard.
  4. My favourite moment at an Obie award show was the yr Andre DeShields carried out a scene from Ain’t Misbehavin’. Magic! 
  5. If I might change the selection process, it might be within the space of minority illustration. The Village and the Off-Off­-Broadway scene have modified a lot because the inception of the Obies, yet it appears that evidently the struc­ture is principally the same. There should be nominations by a di­verse group of artists. From the nominations, the Obie committee might view the work and choose winners. At present, the members of the Obie committee are so re­stricted as a result of they see so few plays, particularly by black and His­panic artists. Get collectively a di­verse group of artists/administra­tors who will go to the theaters and make nominations.
  6. The query I might ask is, why haven’t I been requested to serve on the Obie committee once more?


Most of those questions mirror a certain smugness. They’re about process moderately than what that professional­cess means inside the theater that gave rise to it, the theater it want­ed to have fun and help. The Obies all the time have been and all the time shall be enjoyable, and good for theater artwork­ists, however occasions have modified and that sweet little piece of calligra­phy’s perform has modified with them. The question I’ll reply as an alternative is: What’s in a reputation?

It was the “off” of Off-Broad­method that made the difference. The Obies have been created to reward ex­periment, marginality, dissent, de­viance — lurching around a loft na­ked while reciting obscurely radical texts with superb talent and sexiness. They proclaimed the facility of life outdoors the institu­tional, the mainstream, the com­mercial. Such life only existed in fragments and was already beleaguered from in and out by the time I joined the Obie jury in the late ’70s, nevertheless it was actual. Many Obies that made me cringe have been passionately defended by other judges because the true “off.” Even Obies that went to resolutely con­ventional work have been voted in be­trigger someone thought the work wasn’t so typical, or that naked-loft art-politics had grow to be their own convention.

The previous line between commer­cial and noncommercial theater broke down way back — maybe theater foreshadowed the present privatization of completely every­thing? — although till very lately we might nonetheless see loads of uppity work. Yet nothing, definitely not the Obies, might hold us from ending with as we speak’s theater, which — just like the left, the opposite arts, younger individuals, middle-aged individuals, the very air — reflects publish­–Cold Conflict numbness and confu­sion. In this confusion, “off” and “on” are virtually meaningless.

In New York, to guage by the Voice, “off” is silent. Although I hear rumors of a wiggly, biting, molelike subversive activity by new (and surviving) theater poets and politicals, a disproportionate quantity of the evaluate area and heavy-hitting is devoted to Broad­approach and the Broadway-bound.

Which will get back to the Obies’ perform. Once upon a time there was a New York inventive/intellec­tual/activist group of opposi­tion. It had a newspaper, this one, and a theater movement, indeed several theater movements, wildly totally different in every format and ideo­logical method besides that they have been all “off.” The paper expressed the group (which argued on a regular basis, making for decent journalism), the theater enacted its debates and wishes, the paper’s theater awards pulled all of it collectively. The Obies fostered what they praised, helped it flourish.

Fiddling around with a properly democratic, though crazed, selec­tion process gained’t deliver this again. Listening to previous judges gripe or preen about one award or another gained’t help. The ceremonies will stay a gesture, merrily pointing to a vanishing vision of what ought to, might, and is perhaps — till you find the new work, give it attention, and create a center for theater people who are making an attempt to vary things, including theater. Battle the dominant tradition, for god’s sake, don’t mirror it.


  1. Obie, what elitism, and, good for you, you shun prime time. Not like these other awards that share billing with miniseries and odious televised fodder ladled out to the plenty. Better but, the plenty can’t identify a toddler after you, no gun-toting, drug-induced, illiter­ate, and abusive little Obies to go together with all of the tens of millions of Oscars, Emmys, and Tonys. With such elan and hauteur, you’ve parted from the embrace of humanity, preferring to consign your identify to the astral regions of the universe. Where else but in Star Wars do we find the identify Obi coupled with “the pressure.” And that, too, minus a vowel. I dread to think about what Alec might have achieved had he been additional em­powered with that further e. Lastly, which of the other awards are phonetically so resonant and full that they can be professional­nounced in fractal varieties: exclama­tory as “OB,” cinematically as “Obi” and voiced village — like as in “Obie.”
  2. The ones I might have given an Obie to have been I a decide and jury of one.
  3. Jack Smith, Gertrude Stein, Judson Dance Theatre, and the true (not ersatz) avant-garde.
  4. To seek out, once again, Maria Irene Fornes’s mother, Carmen, at age 100-plus, in attendance and asking her for a dance. It does my body good; hers needs no oiling.
  5. Why hassle? By now, hasn’t nearly everyone (the well-de­serving, the less well-deserving, the not well-deserving, and the not-deserving-by-any-count) gotten an Obie? Why reinvent de­mocracy, pluralism, egalitarian­ism, plain befuddlement, and the occasional throw of the cube? Un­much less, in fact, and should the heav­ens forbid, the selectors elect these new millimeter sticks that some use nowadays to calibrate expertise — multiculturalism, political correctness, cultural development­ism, gendered criteria, and other educational perversities.
  6. Should anyone else be the favored recipient of the Obies? Yes. How about supporters of Off- and Off-Off-Broadway, resembling in­corrigible alternate and avant­garde theater junkies, reckless and passionate funders and their orga­nizations, gallery house owners sympa­thetic to efficiency, and, why not, Irene’s mom? And when you’re at it, how about some mor­sels thrown the best way of critics and writers on efficiency?


  1. So far as I can make out, the Obie is the one award that recog­nizes theater as a malleable artwork that cohabitates promiscuously with other disciplines, and, as such, cannot be locked down into fastened, repressive groupings of best-this and best-that from one yr to the subsequent. It’s the one award the place you look to the ever evolving award categories — as much as the winners themselves­ — for a barometer studying on the place theater is heading.
  2. When Joe Papp advised the NEA where it might go together with its family­ values loyalty oath, it was argu­ably his best hour, one of the great heroic gestures within the con­short-term theater. His Obie cita­tion (and the thundering standing ovation that accompanied it) for valiant conduct in the face of po­tential economic hardship was gratifying to behold.
  3. Charlayne Woodard is a type of chameleons who has been boldly reinventing herself each different yr since her jivey musical splash in Ain’t Misbehavin’. I might have been thrilled to see an Obie for her delicious Maria in Twelfth Night time, or her rangy Gru­sha in The Caucasian Chalk Cir­cle. Ken Elliott’s burlesque staging of The Woman in Question was dis­ciplined and genuinely zany — wor­thy of Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca. Elliott and a memorable en­semble (Charles Busch, Julie Hal­ston, Meghan Robinson, Andy Halliday, Arnie Kalodner) de­served recognition. I’m also thankful for the reminiscence of Craig Lucas’s heartbreaking Reckless, Robbie Baitz subtly usurping Ar­thur Miller’s throne with each 3 Resorts and The Substance of Hearth, and director Fran Soeder’s exqui­website cameo rendering of Pacific Overtures. It might also have been nice to acknowledge Jeffrey Essman for something, before he fled the theater altogether for sem­inary faculty.
  4. Fyvush Finkel’s acceptance speech, which may or might not have been longer than his Obie­-winning position in Cafe Crown. He was so Fyvish: cute, shticky, and rambling on in the best way that folks do when they are receiving a very belated accolade and gained’t let go of the second as a result of it in all probability gained’t occur once more. I felt like I used to be seeing how my grandfather would have behaved upon profitable an award for his most notable life achievement, which I consider was playing away the family’s complete belongings.
  5. Give the guest critics su­preme authority and the ultimate say.
  6. When did the Obies get probably the most number of eggs on its face? When the judges handed out more performance awards (four, rely ’em, four) to Mabou Mines’s Lear than Oscar gave to The Piano and All About Eve put collectively. It was a captivating manufacturing, but jeepers, people, the overall degree of appearing was very come-as-you-are, to say probably the most. The overenthu­siasm of the Obie committee struck many people on the periph­ery as clubby partisanship of the lowest order. So there.


  1. Anarchy (aside from the obvi­ous ways — noncompetitiveness, flu­id classes). Other awards are de­termined by tyranny of the majority — whoever gets probably the most votes wins. The Obie choice pro­cess makes a gathering amongst a consensus-seeking, feminist collective look authoritarian. Positive, we vote. However then we argue, cajole, foyer, and discount to get other judges to endorse our passions — or at the very least to stop objecting to them. Ardent ora­tions are widespread. So are threats. (If Michael Feingold doesn’t prom­ise to resign over a minimum of three of my most zealous favorites — and vice versa — I know I’m performing some­factor flawed.) In consequence, some art­ists win with no majority of votes of their favor; some with majorities don’t win. Unfair typically? Per­haps. But an Obie award isn’t tepid.
  2. Each single certainly one of them. In voting conferences, I threaten to re­signal as much as the subsequent decide; I declare that sure awards might be given over my lifeless physique; I be a part of in the sniping about different judges’ lack of discernment, information, precept, and style. However when the Obies are literally awarded, I flip to complete mush.
  3. I’d wish to see extra awards for the unsung, typically unseen, people who make theater happen — ­techies, dramaturgs, translators, play publishers. And more for events that reach our definitions of theater — parades, protests, cir­cuses, histrionic occasions of all types. Finally, deliver back the leg­endary anti-Obie. There’s an extended record of deserving candidates.
  4. Dancing with Irene Fornes, Ruth Maleczech, Judith Malina, and Peggy Shaw all on the similar time.
  5. More judges. Getting eight or 10 individuals to agree on a meeting time may be a logistical nightmare, but a much bigger panel of judges means extra work gets seen and that no one can dominate. Extra impor­tant, it means there could be a wider range of views represented. We’d like artists and critics from the new era; we’d like individuals in contact with work popping out of all types of communities.
  6. Is the Voice dwelling up to the spirit of the Obies? A couple of weeks in the past I ran into a good friend who had gained an Obie half a dozen years back. Earlier than we might change pleasantries, he thrust a card un­der my nostril saying his new present. He informed me he didn’t anticipate it to get any critical consideration from the Voice. “None of us do,” he stated, referring to Downtown ex­perimental varieties. “So far as we’re concerned, the Voice has turned its back on us.”I needed to leap to the paper’s defense, but I needed to agree. The work the Obies have been invented to acknowledge gets brief shrift in our pages. For proof, I pull a paper at random from the stack that awaits bundling. Here’s what’s I find in the Theater section: an almost page-­long evaluate of the Broadway Me­dea, half a web page on Yoko Ono, half a web page on the Louisville festi­val. Then, after a two-page unfold advertising the Obies, come the Cameos. Right here, a paragraph each is allotted to a brand new work by Ma­bou Mines, a brand new play at the Ri­diculous, and the CSC production of James Magruder’s new Mari­vaux translation. One thing is improper with this picture.Sure, sure, there are area con­straints. And all the remainder of the diurnal drudgery of putting out a newspaper. But the current sys­tem, beneath which one critic domi­nates (and what piques his inter­est is what will get probably the most consideration) and other writers are relegated to snappy little critiques (which may virtually by no means be up­graded to full-length pieces, regardless of how enthusiastic a author may be a few production), threatens to make the Obies hypo­important. The difficulty isn’t who domi­nates the part, but that anyone does. The theater can be better served by vigorous discussion among a bevy of critics with differing factors of view. Even the Occasions doesn’t ship the identical reviewer to every manufacturing at each main Off-Broadway theater. Even the Occasions grants more than 250 words to Mabou Mines or the Ridiculous. The present organize­ment on the Voice leaves no room for brand spanking new critics to develop. And it makes little critical area for es­tablished younger critics.The Obies have been born at a mo­ment when the theater spearheaded a vibrant countercultural transfer­ment. Maybe some of my nostalgic older colleagues are proper that such a motion doesn’t ex­ist these days. However there’s plenty of work out there that’s scrappy, in­ventive, critical, and nonetheless experi­menting. It’s not sufficient to concentrate to it on one self-congrat­ulatory night time in Might.


  1. The Obies are supposed to hon­or inventive achievement as an finish in itself, not as an adjunct to com­mercial success — as Marilyn Sokol as soon as stated, “I expected the telephone to ring off the hook with job gives the day after I gained my Obie, but I’m right here to inform you that the Obie is a assure of completely noth­ing.” And I also very very similar to our refusal to categorize artwork. We’ve honored parades as well as performances, circuses in addition to scripts. If the judges like some­factor, they provide it an Obie, with­out worrying about methods to label the award. However the largest differ­ence, I feel, is that the Obies aren’t competitive. I’m all the time ap­palled by these 5 faces on the TV display at the Tonys and Os­automobiles, four of them pressured to burst into devastated smiles whereas the fifth feigns astonishment. No one wins an Obie at another person’s expense — our angle is that if all 5 of them have been good, give all 5 of them awards. In any case, ar­tistic achievement isn’t a matter of competition.
  2. Dozens — including Gospel at Colonus (the good American mu­sical), something by Irene Fornes (probably the most underappreciated the­ater artist of our time), JoAnne Akalaitis (just a few months after her disgraceful firing at the Public Theatre), Julian Beck and Judith Malina for Antigone, and Ruth Maleczech for Lear (transcendent performances unjustly maligned by the mainstream critics). But my personal favorite was the quotation to Anne and Jules Weiss for their years of impressed, selfless work at La Mama — they have been two of the kindest, most beneficiant individuals in our group, the embodiment of the spirit of Off-Off-Broadway.

  3. A tie. Martha Clarke and Wally Shawn have every gained Obies, but they every deserved an­other, and in Clarke’s case two. Her Garden of Earthly Delights enthralled everyone however a number of re­calcitrant Obie judges — a type of meditation on the Hieronymus Bosch painting, it had humor, hor­ror, and dozens of stunningly idio­syncratic pictures. Miracolo d’Amo­re appeared to displease everybody but a recalcitrant me, but I’ll nev­er overlook Rob Besserer, Felix Blaska, Polly Styron, and John Kelly, and particularly Richard Peaslee’s pretty score. Shawn’s Marie and Bruce portrayed the breakdown of a relationship within the poetry of scatology, and by the top of the evening even curses had turn into lyrical — which is greater than I can say concerning the judges’ meeting that unaccount­ably voted it down.

  4. Once more, dozens — host Grou­cho Marx mumbling out of the aspect of his mouth, “When is that this goddamned thing going to finish?”, Farley Granger almost sobbing as he stated he’d never gained anything before, Dustin Hoffman grabbing an unruly audience by the throat and forcing 500 individuals to pay at­tention, Kevin Kline saying solemnly that while most actors worked from the inside out he pre­ferred to work from the surface out, Leo Bassi going berserk and taking everybody with him, the award winner who appeared to be undergoing a spiritual conversion while receiving his Obie and urg­ing us all to comply with the path in an interminable (properly, truly solely 11-minute) acceptance speech, and of course (ahem) my very own Obie. But two moments stand out. Backstage earlier than one Obie cere­mony, hostess Elaine Might appeared nearly catatonic with nervousness­ — catastrophe loomed — she might hardly keep in mind her identify — however the sec­ond she stepped onstage she be­came the portrait of self-confident vivacity. An much more provoca­tive lesson in the psychodynamics of theater got here once I first stepped onstage — a bit catatonic myself — nervously informed a joke, and felt engulfed in a wave of laughter. I’ve never since questioned why anybody would need to grow to be an actor — the communication be­tween stage and viewers, the ex­change of power, just isn’t only pal­pable, it’s exhilarating. Everyone says it, in fact, however it’s a must to expertise it to comprehend it.
  5. To hell with all those different Obie judges. Let me decide all the winners every year.
  6.  (a) Why did you ask these questions? The essence of the Obies is variety, eccentricity, lack of formal structure — a refusal to categorize, or comply with conven­tion, or converse in a single voice (I take again my reply to query number five). I needed the judges, as at our conferences, to reveal their infinite variety. (b) What do you have to do now? Read over that listing of winners once more — and cherish the artists of our group.

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