Drama Desk Integrity Battle?
Wonderful column again from Michael Riedel, who as noted previously always seems out front of the pack in traditional Broadway coverage…scoops and inside information. The latest is a focus on the Drama Desk Awards and a serious rift between Barbara Siegel and Tony Philips. According to Riedel, in the letter Philips resigns his post and expresses deep concern about the leadership of chairwoman Siegel, who writes for theatremania.com. The idea is that the Drama Desk Awards are on the brink of becoming a second-rate Tonys with a focus on celebrity over substance. A cynic might say “Welcome To Broadway.” However, this season has shown a fine balance of the innovative and the commercial. As fascinating as the Riedel article is, what is even more concerning is that the nominating committee for the Drama Desk is a group of 7 individuals. Such small group with such a tremendous amount of power. This is unsettling. There seems to be ample opportunity to create a more equitable and inclusive process that celebrates New York Theatre in the broadest sense and allows Off, Off-Off, and Broadway to share the stage and spotlight. The Obies are truly the gold-standard for Off-Broadway, and the list of other awards are long. The underlying story of Riedel’s article is that the divide between commercial theatre and non-commercial theatre is alive and unfortunately well. Surely there is a way to honor the full scope of accomplishments in all areas of New York Theatre that would weight both the esteemed chirping of crickets (as Edwin Booth might say) and the voice of theatre fans!
Will the glow of the Drama Desk awards be dimmed with visions of star-loving nominators wolfing down Chinese food and engaging in witch hunts? For those outside the process, it might give pause. Regardless of the veracity of all the claims, there are larger questions which the story raises about rewarding art. Hopefully an Off-Off Broadway One Act called “Dinner With Mrs. S.” will be playing next month at P.S. 21 that will give a Sheridan-like treatment of the whole idea of the comedy and tragedy that is always to be found when power resides in the hands of the few. Set in a Chinese restaurant, the show will frame the upcoming Drama Desk Nominees in a satirical light! Forbidden Broadway for the Awards community. Read the article here.
–Christopher Moore, Broadway Magazine, Broadway.tv