The 63rd Annual Drama Desk Awards took place at Town Hall in New York City June 3, honoring achievements in Broadway and Off-Broadway theatre. SpongeBob SquarePants led the night as the big winner, including scoring the trophy for Outstanding Musical. (Read the full winners list here.)
The night began with Mean Girls’ Barrett Wilbert Weed and Grey Henson singing the rules for all winners to the melody of their opening number in Mean Girls, “A Cautionary Tale”:
We’ve gotta move this shit along
That’s why we put rules in a song
If you’re thanking your agent you’re doing something wrong
We love you all don’t speak too long
If you didn’t catch the livestream of the show hosted by actor Michael Urie, we captured highlights from acceptance speeches and caught up with some of the winners in the press room:
IN ORDER OF PRESENTATION:
Tina Landau, winner for Outstanding Director of a Musical for SpongeBob SquarePants:
“[I thank] my cast, my heroes for always being game. … This award is a recognition about what our show’s about and what we hold dear as a production the power of community … the need for joy in our lives always and now more than ever.”
In the press room: “I didn’t think we were going to get nominated for any awards at all. Period. Across the board. I just thought we weren’t that kind of show with that stamp of approval. So the first thing that shocked me were the reviews when we opened and the second thing was this wave of awards. It’s all icing on the cake because I’m so proud of this show, I’m so proud of what happens in that theatre every night with our audiences. I didn’t expect any of this, wasn’t wanting it, wasn’t hoping for it and what a surprise and how wonderful.”
Nathan Lane, winner for Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play for Angels in America:
“I’m sure Roy Cohn is smiling in hell and posting anonymously in All That Chat. I remember when the Drama Desk Award was a block of wood. … It was very butch for a theatre award, so I think we’ve finally come out of the closet. This has been one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences. … I thank everyone who works at the Neil Simon Theatre. … This begins and ends with Tony Kushner, Tony The Prophet Kushner.”
Later in the press room: “What was the impossible thing? It’s the whole play. It’s the epic nature of it the fact that one is 3.5 hours and the other is 4 and like all great plays it asks a lot of you. It challenges you. That’s why you want to play those parts. When we were in London I just remembered we were grateful to have survived when we got to the opening. Doing it here, American audiences have been much more effusive and they get more of the jokes and the references. It gives you energy and you feel like now we’ve lived in these characters for a while and I feel the play gets better and we’re more in control of it.
Jamie Brewer, winner for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play for Amy and the Orphans:
Thank you for letting us show you what people with disabilities can do.
Michael Curry, winner for Outstanding Puppet Design for Frozen:
The Drama Desk is only the award for puppetry. Twenty years ago I won this with Julie Taymor for The Lion King and … it’s since become a rather serious thing in our business. I think it’s a result of we’ve become tired of our screens and we enjoy a real character.
Andy Nyman for Derren Brown, winner of The Chase Award for Unique Theatrical Experience with Derren Brown: Secret:
“We are unbelievably excited and honored. Massive thanks to Neil [Pepe] and Jeff [Lawson] and everyone at the Atlantic Theatre. To David Binder and to Derren Brown, who is a truly remarkable and extraordinary collaborator, who we’ve worked with for 20 years.”
Billy Crudup, winner for Outstanding Solo Performance in Harry Clarke:
Holy shit. This is really the creation of David Cale and Leigh Silverman, I was their puppet but this was a collaborative event that I’ve never—to have the Vineyard and Audible produce a night of theatre where we weren’t sure what we were going to create. To make theatre in NYC is one of the great experiences that any performing artist can have. To my son and the people in my life who buoyed me up as I did this every night, thank you.
Sean Carvajal, winner of the Drama Desk Special Award:
“I just have to acknowledge what an amazing year it is for theatre. I want to thank the Signature Theatre, Mark Brokaw for trusting me in taking over this play.”
Catherine Zuber, winner for Outstanding Costume Design of a Musical for My Fair Lady
“Thank you so much to the Drama Desk Awards. This award means so much because it’s a [recognition] of the whole New York theatrical community.”
Charles G. LaPointe, winner for Outstanding Wig and Hair for SpongeBob SquarePants:
“Thank you very much Drama Desks for recognizing our category and what we do. I get to work with my friends every single day. … I want to especially thank Tom Watson for teaching me to do what I do.”
Neil Austin, winner for Outstanding Lighting Design for a Play for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child:
“There are so many important people to thank, all the creators of the show, but I’d like to just concentrate on the lighting team who don’t normally get mentioned and are backstage and just achieve. … Without you and your brilliant work I wouldn’t be standing here.
Imogen Heap, winner for Outstanding Music in a Play for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child:
“Completely unexpected! Thank you, thank you, the powers that be. This is my first time composing music for a play and I had no idea what the theatre was really like to make and how incredibly awesome what you do every day is.”
Juan Castano, winner of the Sam Norkin Award for Oedipus El Rey, A Parallelogram, and Transfers:
“All I ever wanted to do was act and I never considered it was a possibility that there was an award for this type of thing.”
Justin Peck, winner of Outstanding Choreography for Carousel:
“First I want to thank our cast, you inspire me. … I could not ask for a better director to work with. … I’m filled with so much gratitude, I’m so honored to contribute to this glorious community.”
Gavin Lee, winner for Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical for SpongeBob SquarePants:
“Oh my God I’m so excited. … SpongeBob SquarePants on Broadway, who’d have thought. I had the same reaction you did when I first got my audition but boy was I wrong. It’s just the best show on Broadway to watch and to be in. We have the happiest family over at the Palace Theatre and it all starts with Tina Landau; she truly is the best leader of a company I’ve ever had. I also finally get to dance Chris Gattelli choreography. … Thank you so much Drama Desks, this is fantastic.
Lindsay Mendez, winner for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical:
“Jack O’Brien you’re unbelievable, I’d follow you anywhere. I want to thank Joe Mantello, my best friend and mentor for all of your advice, and my beautiful husband Philip who is just a saint. I love this community so much and it means the world to me we’re all here together.”
Peter Kellogg, winner for Outstanding Lyrics for Desperate Measures:
“[Composer David Friedman] pushes me every day never to settle. Sometimes I wish he’d let me settle, but not tonight. The reason I’m here is he insists on writing music so that you can hear the lyric and every lyric can be understood. I know, a crazy concept.”
Tina Fey, winner for Outstanding Book of a Musical for Mean Girls:
“Barrett didn’t sing about whether I had to bring my purse. Thank you to the Drama Desk, I’m so honored to be up here. I share this award only completely with our incredible cast, our six female principals … Casey [Nicholaw], this is the first time in history a Greek man and a Greek woman have gotten along. … If you are streaming tonight please keep those YouTube covers of the songs coming. … I want to thank our producer Sonia Friedman who I like to believe I do a really good impression of, Stuart Thompson who held our hand until he couldn’t anymore. Of course, Lorne Michaels, who’s been attached to this project for more than 20 years. The message of our show is very simple: calling someone ugly doesn’t make you any better looking, calling someone stupid doesn’t make you any smarter. It’s a simple thing to say; it’s a hard thing to put into practice. … I personally believe the only way forward is when we start treating each other with basic human dignity, and hopefully jokes will help.”
Ethan Slater, winner for Outstanding Actor in a Musical for SpongeBob SquarePants:
“I’m thoroughly blown away. … I think this show became something more than it had any right to be at the beginning and that’s because each step of the way we just tried to make it the best we possibly could. At the Palace Theatre I have some of the best friends. … Lilli Cooper and Danny Skinner, we get to save the world every night and that is an utter privilege.”
Later in the press room: “The first thing I did was text Danny because he’s been texting me, 'Do you know who won?' We’re freaking out via text at the moment. That feel particularly good because we’ve poured a lot of energy and positivity and creativity into this show that could be way less than what it is, and I think we’ve created something surprising and special and it’s an acknowledgment of the work of the whole company, not the individuals doing it, but the way we worked together and that’s what the show’s about.”
Jessie Mueller, winner for Outstanding Actress in a Musical for Carousel:
“I’m so humbled and honored to be here with all of you [in my cast]. … It’s a thrill to be able to do what we love every week and to do it with people we love.”
Tony Kushner, winner for Outstanding Revival of a Play for Angels in America:
“Our play is the longest play on Broadway so we feel we should give the shortest acceptance speech: Thank you.
"Alright. Two. I want to say on behalf of the producers and the director and the company of AIA and our magnificent cast, we’re all really really thrilled people are finding the play relevant, and we look forward to the day when people come to see AIA and say, This was a time when American democracy was dealing with misogyny and homophobia and xenophobia and that must have really sucked, and thank god we’re over that.' And we want that to start this November with the midterms.”
Joshua Harmon, winner for Outstanding Play for Admissions:
“All I have ever wanted to do in my life was be a playwright. I put plays on in basements and wedges of lobbies and actual storefronts—also in my parents' living room for far longer than it was enjoyable. Mom and Dad, I love you. I’d really like to thank Lincoln Center and Andre Bishop for producing this play. I want to thank my cast and the designers and my director the great Daniel Aukin, whom I adore.”
Later in the press room: “I started thinking about the play 12 years ago, just the initial ideas. And then it’s good to let things sit and then I was at Juilliard and you just have to churn out plays. I had a workshop and I had no play, so I was like it’s time to try to write this one. The play was a chance to try to have a conversation that I think is important and really difficult and scary, and the only way I could have written it was being at a place like Juilliard where I had a lot of love and support to take risks. And that’s what Chris Durang and Marsha Norman gave me.”
Andre Bishop, winner for Outstanding Revival of a Musical for My Fair Lady:
“The thing about doing a musical again is that you have to honor what that musical is but you have to find new ways of doing it and [director] Bart [Sher] did that with this show.
Susan Vargo, winner for Outstanding Musical for SpongeBob SquarePants:
“Before any of you people asked why we wanted to do this, we asked ourselves how and then we found the incomparable Tina Landau. Every human who has come in contact with our show has brought an open mind and an open heart and every inch of optimism they had.”