Rajiv Joseph’s Describe the Night, which received its New York premiere at Off-Broadway's Atlantic Theater Company in December, was named Best New American Play at the 63rd Annual Obie Awards, presented May 21 at Terminal 5.
Directed by Giovanna Sardelli, the new play by the Tony-nominated playwright of Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo and Guards at the Taj charts the crossed paths of seven men and women against the backdrop of Russian history. The award is accompanied by a $1,000 prize.
Emmy and Obie-winning actor John Leguizamo hosted this year’s ceremony, celebrating Off-Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway theatre. Unlike most theatre awards, the Obies do not announce formal nominees or categories, instead recognizing all works and artists deemed worthy of distinction by a panel chaired by Village Voice critic Michael Feingold.
Presenters included Tony winners Matthew Broderick, David Henry Hwang, Natasha Katz, William Ivey Long, Rebecca Taichman, and David Zinn, Tony nominees Andrew Garfield, Beth Malone, Arian Moayed, David Morse, Itamar Moses, Oliver Platt, and Emilio Sosa, plus New York City nightlife celeb Pixie Aventura, Village Voice President and CEO Peter Barbey, Lilli Cooper, Chair of the Obie Judges Michael Feingold, Gideon Glick, American Theatre Wing President and CEO Heather Hitchens, and Emmy Award nominee Lucy Liu.
Performances were given by Stephen Trask, who sang “Wig in a Box,” honoring the 20th anniversary of Hedwig and the Angry Inch; Laura Benanti, who led an Off-Broadway musical trivia segment; and Laura Osnes, who performed “What Matters Most” as part of the In Memoriam. The Obie Awards Band was led by P. Jason Yarcho and featured the vocals of Brie Cassil, Lisa Ramey, and Yvette Rovira.
See below for the full list of winners:
Best New American Play
Rajiv Joseph, Describe the Night (Atlantic Theater Company)
Aleshea Harris, Is God Is (Soho Rep)
Amy Herzog, Mary Jane (New York Theatre Workshop)
Abe Koogler, Fulfillment Center (Manhattan Theatre Club)
Dominique Morisseau, Pipeline (Lincoln Center Theater)
Jesse Berger, The Government Inspector (Red Bull Theater)
Anne Kauffman, Mary Jane (New York Theatre Workshop)
Taibi Magar, Is God Is (Soho Rep)
Sean Carvajal & Edi Gathegi, Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train (Signature Theatre Company)
Carrie Coon, Mary Jane (New York Theatre Workshop)
Alfie Fuller & Dame-Jasmine Hughes, Is God Is (Soho Rep)
Denise Gough, People, Places & Things (National Theatre/Headlong/St. Ann’s Warehouse)
Will Swenson, Jerry Springer – The Opera (The New Group)
Chukwudi Iwuji, The Low Road (The Public Theater)
Robert Sean Leonard, At Home at the Zoo (Signature Theatre Company)
Jessica Hecht, Admissions (Lincoln Center Theater)
Ben Edelman, Admissions (Lincoln Center Theater)
Billy Crudup, Harry Clarke (Vineyard Theatre/Audible)
Lap Chi Chu, Sustained Excellence of Lighting Design
Sarah Laux, Costume Design, Jerry Springer – The Opera (The New Group)
The Design Team, He Brought Her Heart Back in a Box (Theatre for a New Audience): Christopher Barreca (Set Design), Justin Ellington (Sound Design), Donald Holder (Lighting Design), Montana Levi Blanco (Costume Design), Austin Switser (Video Design)
Ariane Mnouchkine & Theatre du Soleil, A Room in India (Park Avenue Armory)
The Cast and Creative Team, Yerma (Park Avenue Armory): Simon Stone (Director), Lizzie Clachan (Set Design), Alice Babidge (Costume Design), James Farncombe (Lighting Design), Stefan Gregory (Sound Design); Maureen Beattie, Brendan Cowell, John MacMillan, Billie Piper, Charlotte Randle, Thalissa Teixeira (Cast)
David Greenspan, Jack Cummings III, & Transport Group, Strange Interlude (Transport Group)
The Ross Wetzsteon Award ($3,000 prize)
Ma-Yi Theater Company
Obie Grants ($6,000 prize each)
Pan-Asian Repertory Theatre
York Theatre Company, for its Musicals in Mufti Series
The Obie judges panel was chaired by Village Voice critic Michael Feingold and includes Entertainment Weekly theatre critic Melissa Rose Bernardo, Obie-winning projection designer Wendall K. Harrington, Broadway News theatre critic Charles Isherwood, Tony-nominated and Obie-winning costume designer Toni-Leslie James, dancer-actor-director Sondra Lee, Tony-nominated and Obie-winning actor Arian Moayed, and Obie-winning actor Ching Valdes-Aran.
The production team for the 2018 Obie Awards included artistic supervisor J. Jason Daunter, line producer Eric Cornell, musical supervisor P. Jason Yarcho, lighting designer Natasha Katz, sound designer Kai Harada, scenic designer Antje Ellermann, and video designer Adam J. Thompson.