Honorary IT Awards to Go to Several Major Players in Off-Off Community 

Doug Strassler 

Every year, in addition to the production categories, the IT Foundation doles out three honorary awards at its annual ceremony. These Honorary Awards are presented to individuals and organizations that have made significant contributions to the Off-Off-Broadway community and are selected each year by the Honorary Awards Committee, co-chaired this year by Abby Marcus and Ben Hodges.

The 2010 Artistic Achievement Award, presented in recognition of significant artistic contributions, will go to esteemed playwright Lanford Wilson. Wilson, who began his career as a playwright at Caffe Cino in the 1960s, has peppered his career with landmark works. And what an illustrious career it has been; Wilson has received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for Talley’s Folly, was elected into the Theater Hall of Fame, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Wilson, a native of Lebanon, Missouri, began his career writing such one-act plays as Ludlow Fair, Home Free!, and The Madness of Lady Bright, the latter of which is considered a milestone in the world of homosexual theater. Subsequent works included Balm in Gilead (being revived this season at T. Schreiber Studio) and The Rimers of Eldritch produced at Cafe LaMama.

Wilson was a founding member of the Circle Repertory Company in 1969, where many of his plays were first presented, including The Hot l Baltimore, which went on to receive the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award, the Outer Critics Circle Award, and the Obie Award.

The 2010 Stewardship Award, presented in recognition of significant contributions to the Off-Off-Broadway community through service, support and leadership, goes to Dixon Place, is an Obie-winning organization dedicated exclusively to the development of original pieces of theater, dance, performance art and literature that are works in progress. Ellie Covan founded Dixon Place in 1986; by now, they host about 400 artists annually. In 1999 the theater won the Edwin Booth Award for Excellence in Theater.

In October 2008, Dixon Place moved into a new space on Chrystie Street. Some notable performance artists who have done work at Dixon Place include Blue Man Group, Holly Hughes, Frank Maya, Craig Lucas, John Leguizamo, and this year’s IT Awards host, Lisa Kron. "Dixon Place never imagined receiving awards for what we love to do every day - so this is truly an honor to receive the Stewardship Award from the Innovative Theatre Awards,” said Leslie Strongwater, director of programming at Dixon Place. “After nearly 25 years of helping artists present their original works and building a new home for them in which to develop their craft, we are ecstatic that we can continue to contribute to the community and the city by providing a safe haven and support system for innovative performance to thrive."

The 2010 Caffe Cino Fellowship Award is named for the very same venue that helped give birth to Wilson’s own career. The IT Foundation presents it to an Off-Off-Broadway theatre company that consistently produces outstanding work. This award also includes a grant to be used toward an Off-Off-Broadway production. This year’s recipient is the New York Neo-Futurists, an ensemble of dynamic writer/performer/directors who have built from the model that first emerged in Chicago in 1988 and present the critically acclaimed, energetic show of original short plays, Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind, a non-illusory collage of the comic and tragic, the political and personal, the visceral and experimental, while embracing chance, change, and chaos. The New York Neo-Futurists have created over 1900 plays. “We are ecstatic about receiving the Caffe Cino award,” said Rob Neill, NYNF Managing Director. “We are honored to be in such groundbreaking company as the previous recipients. We thought it was really cool to be recognized for outstanding work and all that we have been doing. The New York Neo-Futurists are a quality collective of writer/director/performers and they inspire and challenge me (and each other). We are an eclectic family that works really hard to create really fun and inspiring theater. “The IT Awards are so affirming and celebratory for the independent theater community that we are a part of. We love going to the events and they are some of the few times during the year where we can see and connect with so many of our fellow artists. I feel that recognition of the quality of work from the IT Awards is invaluable for all of the theater companies like the New York Neo-Futurists.” With forces as strong as this year’s three honorary award recipients, the world of Off-Off-Broadway has quite a future ahead.


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