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The Lilly Awards: Saving Women From Disappearing in Theatre

The Lilly Awards: Saving Women From Disappearing in Theatre

The Tony Awards are on Sunday night. There are very few female nominees. Even the NY Times is starting to think this is a problem. (Note to NY Times theatre writers and reviewers – don’t think that just because you are writing this story you are relieved of your own complicity in this problem. While you don’t produce plays, you do help set the agenda with your personal tastes and those tastes have not been friendly to women. Ask any female playwright and she will tell you.)

Here’s from a post yesterday entitled: Women on the Verge of Disappearing From the Stage

For while the Broadway season was a bountiful one in many ways – what’s this, almost a dozen new musicals? – it was pretty thin on significant leading roles for women. For the first time in years the Tony nominators could find only four leading women in musicals they deemed worthy of notice. That’s not particularly surprising, either, when you scan the list of new musicals and absorb how many of them didn’t have any role at all for a leading lady.

And the playing field was arguably still more unequal in plays…of the four Tony nominees for best play, only one, David Lindsay-Abaire’s “Good People,” featured a leading female role.

Here’s the kicker line:

Given the evidence of the past couple of seasons, I worry that Broadway has come to share this unspoken bias against the idea of women’s stories and defining women’s roles as commercially viable.

Women working in the theatre have known for some time that there is a bias against them especially regarding awards and visibility at the highest level Broadway where not a single play written by a woman was even eligible to be nominated. That means that plays by women were not produced on Broadway.

So into this breach walked Marsha Norman, Theresa Rebeck and Julia Jordan along with some other great folks to show and acknowledge the great work of women working in the theatre.

There are women we have all heard of and women that we will be hearing a lot more of in the future. They represented the breadth and depth of women’s work in the theatre. The good will in the room and on the stage was palpable and there were some incredibly moving moments especially when a long line of 50 young African American female playwrights walked up onto the stage to thank Ntozake Shange for making possible their ability to be playwrights.

Here are the awardees (I will also post some of the citations)
THE LILLY AWARD FOR DIRECTION -SUSAN STROMAN – Susan Stroman bore the brunt of the failure of the film The Producers. Here’s a quick comparison of how women and men fail differently in the film business. Rob Marshall (while he had a success with Chicago) also had the failures of Memoir of a Geisha and Nine. His failure propelled him to directing the newest Pirates of the Caribbean. Stroman has not directed on screen since The Producers.

THE LILLY AWARD for HEARING HER VOICE – KRISTIN LINKLATER – world renowned voice teacher, dialect coach, actress, theatre director, author.

THE LILLY AWARD for COSTUME DESIGN – SUSAN HILFERTY – Her Broadway credits include Wicked and Spring Awakening, her off Broadway credits include Second Stage, The Roundabout, Classic Stage Company, The Public Theater, New York Theater Workshop

THE LILLY AWARD FOR DIRECTION – JO BONNEY – for her masterful direction of this season’s BY THE WAY MEET VERA STARK, written by Lynn Nottage, and THE BREAK OF NOON, by Neil LaBute.

THE LILLY IN PLAYWRITING – LISA KRON – a performance artist, a writer, a human being who has grabbed the world by the shoulders and told them all to sit down and listen.

THE LILLY AWARD IN GRACE UNDER PRESSURE – TINA FALLON – founder and producer of the 24 Hours Plays on Broadway

THE MARIAN SELDES LILLY AWARD IN ACTING – ELIZABETH MARVEL – Strength, emotional honesty, rage, intelligence, courage and a cunning wit are just the tip of the iceberg when she walks onto a stage.


THE BETTY COMDEN LILLY AWARD IN LYRICS – LYNN AHRENS – With her partner of 30 years, Stephen Flaherty, she began her career with a musical called Lucky Stiff. Their next project, Once on This Island would set them on the path to the legendary status they now enjoy. And their musical Ragtime won Broadway’s triple crown – the Tony, the Drama Desk and the outer Critics Circle Award.

THE MARSHA NORMAN SPIRIT OF ACHIEVEMENT LILLY AWARD – DIANA GRISANTI – The Kennedy Center has an scholarship in Marsha Norman’s name and it will be given each year to a young playwright.

THE LILLY AWARD FOR ANGEL GUIDE AND ALSO ACTING – LYNN COHEN – She is a comedian, a tragedian and a force of nature.

THE LILLY AWARD IN SETDESIGN – RACHEL HAUCK – a scenic designer with an extraordinary gift for rooting the audience in a specific time and place while simultaneously transporting them to a world beyond.

THE APHRA BEHN LILLY AWARD IN PLAYWRITING – BASH DORAN – Reading Parents Evening and Living Room in Africa, two other ground-breaking works, you cannot help but be stricken by the power of her voice, the breadth of her vision, and her absolute fearlessness in form and content.

Lynne Meadow has been artistic director of Manhattan Theater Club since 1972. That’s nearly 40 YEARS!!! She has won every award, been named every fabulous everything. But the reason she is receiving this award is that she has championed and produced more work by young writers than any other living producer in the American Theatre. And unlike most of the rest of them, she has committed herself and her theater to her writers, producing 5 plays by David Lindsay Abaire, 6 plays by Donald Margulies, 5 plays by Beth Henley, including Crimes of the Heart, nine plays by Shanley, nine plays by Terrence. She produced the brilliant PROOF by David Auburn, and the beloved RUINED, by Lynn Nottage. She has produced 12 plays by women, that’s four times what her closest competitor on Broadway has done. Coming up next, she is producing Closing Up Space by Molly Metzler, and an untitled musical by Julia Jordan. So not only has she sat in the chair at the head of the room for all this time, she has gotten up and directed with luminous power and grace, and done the really hard work of bringing new voices to the stage. For her infectious laugh, for her 17 Tony Awards, for the last 40 years, the 2011 Lilly Award for Lifetime Achievement Award goes to the unbeaten, the unbowed, the unbelievable Lynne Meadow.

I-TOLD-YOU-SO LILLY AWARD IN PLAYWRITING TO AMY HERZOG – (This one merits the whole citation)
Hello, I am David Ives. In 1996 I received a letter from a high school student who was performing two of my plays. The letter was so eloquent and astute, I wrote back asking if she were really a high school student. I asked, “Are you really from theatre week?” I answered her questions, then told her to stay in the theater because we needed her, and I said I expected to see her Lincoln Center Theater debut in couple of weeks! Well. This afternoon I’m reading the citation for her first Lilly Award, and the first preview of her play 4000 miles at Lincoln Center theater is TONIGHT! Amy Herzog is fearless. Her tender and gripping play After the Revolution, was much loved at both Williamstown Theatre Festival and Playwrights Horizons this season. Her newest play, a Yale Rep commission called Belleville, will premiere there in the fall. She is a prolific playwright who writes fiercely intelligent plays, a writer whose goal seems to be the old sacred one of telling the truth. Ladies and Gentleman, it is my great pleasure to present the I TOLD YOU SO Lilly Award IN PLAYWRITING TO the wonderful Amy Herzog.

Hello. I am Dael Orlandersmith. It is my pleasure to introduce the woman who wrote, “I found god in myself and I loved her/ I loved her fiercely. In 1977, she changed the American theatrical universe by writing “For Colored Girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow isn’t enuf.” She won all the prizes for that fearless piece of living fire, and then won a second Obie for Mother Courage and her Children. In her long career as a writer, performer and teacher she has won the LA Times Book Review Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, Columbia University’s Medal of Excellence, the Pushcart Prize, the Pew fellowship in fiction, and the Paul Robeson Achievement Award. She has written three novels, six books of poetry, numerous essays and screenplays, along with other plays. She teaches writing and drama at the University of Houston, she is a Melon Professor at Rice, and an Associate Professor Women and Gender Studies at the University of Florida. She has endured, she has inspired, she has lived a lifetime doing things no one has ever done. Her name is on the tongue of every brave woman writer in America. She is the one who said Look At Me, Listen to Me, no really, listen to me. For her enduring monumental presence in our lives, in our minds, For her work without ceasing, for the standard she set for speaking out, the 2011 Lilly Award for Lifetime Achievement In Writing goes to Ntozake Shange.

I’m already excited or the event next year.

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