A season year of theatre going  — over 250 shows for Drama Desk consideration as well as a substantial additional number of concerts and readings and other events addressing other interests and work obligations — has been marked by several events over the past few weeks. One involves a group of people working through a confidential multi-day process to analyze, refine, and vet our nominations. A second involves the public pronouncement of the results of those deliberations. A third is a celebration of all the nominees and special award winners in chats and musings in a fancy hotel reception room. And a final event this evening will transpire without my presence.

29 April 2013. Linda Lavin announces some of the nominees to the awaiting press and other interested parties. Image by Martha Wade Steketee
29 April 2013. Linda Lavin announces some of the nominees to the awaiting press and other interested parties at 54 Below. Image by Martha Wade Steketee

The Public Announcement. The 2013 Drama Desk nominees and special award winners are revealed April 29, 2013 at a morning ceremony at the groovy cabaret space 54 Below. I know the results already as we nominators finalized them several days before during our multi-day deliberations that cap off scores of meetings over the season during which we parse our responses to the offerings we individually have attended. Other media folks cover the event as news — see for example, an advance announcement in Playbill.com and the full nominee list posted later.  The Variety-speak coverage entertains me — my first experience having something I had anything to do with (this nominee list) re-framed using language such as “tuner,” “Rialto,” ,”Main Stem,” and “legit.” I have my own subjective responses to the event this day as one of the six Nominators who experienced the full wash of the On, Off- and Off-Off Broadway season of 2012-2013. My favorite moments include some silly ones. I anticipate in advance, for example, hearing Linda Lavin articulate the title of the nominations for the downtown holiday romp “Chris March’s The Butt-Cracker Suite! A Trailer Park Ballet.” All aspects of the event, including this part of the announcement, are memorable.

8 May 2013. (L-R) Tracy Letts, Reed Birney, Kellie Overby, Richard Kind. Image by Martha Wade Steketee.
8 May 2013. (L-R) Tracy Letts, Reed Birney, Kellie Overby, Richard Kind at Essex House Ballroom. Image by Martha Wade Steketee.

The Nominees Reception. Each year, all of the nominees are treated to a reception where they receive congratulations, representatives of the media pepper them with questions, photogs snap, and the Nominators have a chance to chat up the individuals whose plays, designs, direction, and performances have been entrancing us all year. For me this event on May 8, 2013 is three hours of life high points — standing on a receiving line prior to the “red carpet” section of the reception room at the Essex House Hotel on Central Park South, we Nominators are able to have relaxed interactions with our nominees. Andrea Martin to Tom Hanks to Laila Robbins to Judith Light to Amy Herzog  — it is dangerous to begin listing because all the individuals I meet are gracious and charming. Because we all know their work this year well, this is the easiest small talk I’ve ever engaged in. Pure delight. And a moment when everyone in the room can feel the community that is theatre in this town — all venues, all areas of town, all celebrated together. Formal coverage focuses on the posed images from the event. While these are of course lovely to look at, for my money the real spirit of the event and of the awards themselves is represented in this fuzzy image at left. Nominees Reed Birney (Soho Rep’s Uncle Vanya), Tracy Letts (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?), Kellie Overby (Sleeping Rough) and Richard Kind (The Big Knife) talking quietly together. An image that reminds me poignantly of our Drama Desk mission: to celebrate leading, featured, on and off- and way off- Broadway all together.

The 58th Annual Drama Desk Awards. May 19, 2013 from Town Hall (red carpet coverage begins at 6:45pm, ceremony begins at 8pm) the 58th Annual Drama Desk awards will be broadcast live via livestream. Due to a rabid cold, this evening I shall forego my fancy dress duds and nice venue seating to watch from the other side of my computer screen. My personal reward this year was the pleasure and privilege of serving as a Nominator and the invitations to the hundreds of shows I experienced and discussed with my fellow Nominators. Once our 2013 ballot was assembled, our task was complete. The Drama Desk members as a group have determined the results that will be announced this evening, and the event belongs to the nominees and to the theatre season we all have witnessed. A wild ride and a privilege from start to finish.

© Martha Wade Steketee (May 19, 2013)

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