Drama Desk Award - History


The Drama Desk organization was formed in 1949 by a group of New York theater critics, editors, reporters and publishers, born out of the desire to educate the community on vital issues concerning the theater. In 1955, the organization began presenting the Vernon Rice Awards in honor of theater critic Vernon Rice of the New York Post, who had pioneered Off-Broadway coverage in the New York press. The name was changed as of the 1963–1964 awards season. In the first fifteen years of the award, Broadway shows were not eligible for these awards, but as of the 1968–1969 season, Broadway productions were included. Only winners were announced in the early years, but in 1975, the Drama Desk began to announce nominees as well. In 1974, the Drama Desk became incorporated as a not-for-profit organization.

The Drama Desk is composed of theatre critics, reporters and editors, more than 140 of whom vote on the awards. The Drama Desk chairperson of the Nominating Committee is Barbara Siegel, and its president is Isa Goldberg. The awards' executive producer is Robert R. Blume.

In keeping with its original mission, the organization sponsors guest panel luncheons with theater professionals. Panels address topics of current interest: covering the season on Broadway, Off-Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway, with the aim of prompting informative and stimulating discussion.

All of the Drama Desk officers and Nominating Committee members perform their various services for the organization on a voluntary basis. The Nominating Committee generally meets twice a month to discuss the many eligible shows members are responsible for seeing. They then nominate the productions on which the entire membership will vote. What sets the organization apart is that the awards are voted on "by media people only without any vested interests in the results," according to the organization.

Previous winners include Bernadette Peters, Dustin Hoffman, Al Pacino, Catherine Zeta-Jones, among many others. Over the last 36 years, the Drama Desk Awards have contributed to the ongoing success of major stars, playwrights and designers, while also identifying newcomers. The Drama Desk was the first New York theater organization to give awards to talents such as Edward Albee, Wendy Wasserstein and George C. Scott. Plays like Driving Miss Daisy, Other People's Money, Steel Magnolias and The Boys in the Band built momentum with the help of Drama Desk wins.

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