It's been an unusually fertile Broadway season, and the Main Stem's creative breadth was clear on Fri., May 14 when the 2004 Drama League Awards were distributed at a star-packed, gala luncheon at the Grand Hyatt Hotel.
No single production swept the awards, a testimonial to such a varied season. Yet Doug Wright's "I Am My Own Wife" capturing the distinguished production of a play honor was unsurprising; the play, starring Jefferson Mays as enigmatic German transvestite Charlotte von Mahlsdorf (and some 40 other characters), has already won this year's Pulitzer Prize in Drama and earned three Tony noms.
Among musicals, this season's biggest box-office smash, "Wicked," was also the unsurprising victor for the best musical prize, yet for composer-lyricist Stephen Schwartz, who hasn't had a Broadway hit in over 25 years, the show's success during awards season so far must be sweet—since "Wicked" also received 10 Tony noms last week.
In a change from last year, the revival category was split between plays and musicals. Lincoln Center Theater's mounting of Shakespeare's "Henry IV" won for distinguished production of a play, and Roundabout Theatre Company's production of the John Weidman-Stephen Sondheim musical "Assassins" garnered the musical honor.
The awards were distributed at the Drama League's annual luncheon at the Grand Hyatt Hotel; the proceeds benefit the organization's Directors Project, now in its 20th year.
Perhaps the most sought-after (and certainly coveted) award is for distinguished performance, and it went to Hugh Jackman, whose performance in "The Boy From Oz" was one of the season's unforgettable highlights.
Several pre-announced special awards were also handed out. George C. Wolfe, the playwright and director who has served as producer of the Public Theater for more than a decade and recently announced his departure from that spot, received the fifth Julia Hansen Award for Excellence in Directing. City Center's Encores! Great American Musicals in Concert—the project that turned the idea of concert-style musicals into a nationwide theatrical craze—won the Unique Contribution to Theatre Award. And Donna Murphy, a two-time Tony winner currently starring in the revival of "Wonderful Town" on Broadway, was feted with the Distinguished Achievement in Musical Theatre honor.
The history of the Drama League is a long and fascinating one. The organization was originally called the New York Center of the Drama League of America, a national organization begun in Chicago in 1910 to "awaken public interest in the art of drama." Then, in 1916, the Drama League of New York incorporated separately. The league's first award, for acting, was established in 1935 and honored actress Katharine Cornell.