New York’s theatre awards season wraps up next Sunday with the Tonys, broadcast on CBS. Last night, my member organization, the Drama Desk, celebrated its 60th anniversary, which can still be enjoyed here.
The Drama Desk is the only awards body to put Broadway, Off Broadway, and Off Broadway shows in contention with one another. This results in a lively and unpredictable slate of nominees, in 29 categories (including sound design and projection design, which the Broadway-specific Tonys have either dropped, or never considered.) I was a nominator for one memorable term, when I saw upwards of 250 shows. Only the most tenacious voting members will see as many, or can see, given ticket availability and schedules. I recall seeing three shows on some Saturdays and Sundays, which is difficult to pull off if you’re not trying to cover New York’s theatrical waterfront, as I was back during the 2007-2008 season.
The knock on the organization, in some circles, is that the awards tend to go to the Broadway shows. What this calculus forgets is that numerous Off and Off Off Broadway shows ignored by other organizations receive nominations, and that these nominations are as good as wins for companies that are grateful for the recognition, and can parlay it into subsequent productions of their work. As a member, it’s gratifying to see so many nominations noted within talent biographies.
As it happens, this year an Off Broadway musical, the Public’s juggernaut Hamilton, took home the most awards. Broadway previews for Lin-Manuel Miranda’s phenom begin on July 13, and its wins last night can only consolidate its must-see status. While I don’t pay much heed to the algorithms of websites that track award winners–nominations tell a compelling story in their own right–I note that this season’s Drama Desks will surely foretell next season’s Tony Awards.