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Home > The Buzz, Way Off Broadway > New York Innovative Theatre Awards Celebrates Off-Off Broadway

New York Innovative Theatre Awards Celebrates Off-Off Broadway

September 24th, 2014

Contributor Marcus Scott recaps the annual awards for New York’s Off-Off Broadway community.

New York Innovative Theatre Awards (photo: Innovative Theatre Foundation via The Broadway Blog.)

New York Innovative Theatre Awards (photo: Innovative Theatre Foundation via The Broadway Blog.)

It is rare that the underdog is awarded for excellence by exhibiting a caliber of artistry or ambition that may often rival that of the more popular and by-the-numbers candidate. For a decade, the New York Innovative Theatre Awards has made it their mission to shine a light on the work of art created Off-Off-Broadway, by lesser known theaters that are shaping the collective consciousness of theater-making today.

Host Jason Kravitz (photo: Innovative Theatre Foundation via The Broadway Blog.)

Host Jason Kravitz (photo: Innovative Theatre Foundation via The Broadway Blog.)

Hosted by the foul-mouthed stage and TV actor Jason Kravits, the 2014 New York Innovative Theatre Awards celebrated the more common WTF moments seen Off-Off-Broadway, relishing in all of the idiosyncrasies that make downtown theater so invigorating. For starters, there’s Kravits, whose anything-goes-carpe-diem showmanship resulted in a crass, though amusing, striptease. He also dazzled (or perhaps traumatized) in a multi-colored cross-strapped floral skintight one-piece (which by show’s end was worn by a muscular chorus boy.)

Then there was the acceptance speech by the artistic directors of Blessed Unrest, who took home the Caffe Cino Fellowship Award and gave an excerpt of their upcoming 2014-2015 showcase, “Line.” With an ensemble of nearly 20 performers, the stage flooded with personalities of every imaginable form, sashaying or pirouetting into the spotlight to ‘80s post-disco dance fluff and giving a bit of Greek chorus ham. It was out there, but certainly fabulous. Just as fabulous were the evening’s honorees. From Carlos Neto, who arrived in the U.S. only a year ago from Portugal and London on a work visa to Gail Cooper-Hecht, an actor-turned-seamstress who hadn’t been on a stage in over 40 years—this was definitely an accomplished and multifaceted group of artisans.

Among the night’s big winners, were a few special awards given to individuals who served as beacons of inspiration and consummate professionalism. Kevin R. Free, who had to run uptown to get in costume for his turn in the celebrated The Fantasticks, was presented the Doris Wilson Independent Playwright Award by friend and playwright Mariah MacCarthy. Wishing her family a “hello” in South Korea, Haejin Han of the Phoenix Theatre Ensemble was award Outstanding Stage Manager by Elise Stone.

Cult theater icon Jim Rado presented his longtime friend Dan Bianchi with the Artistic Achievement Award. Bianchi, who has wowed audiences far and wide with his company Radio XXXX, recalled how he became inspired to director noir-stylized theater.

Perhaps the most poignant moment of the night was the tribute to Woodie King, Jr. who was presented the Ellen Steward Award by friend and theater giant André De Shields. In an eight-minute speech, followed by a video presentation, De Shields recalled how he was first introduced to Ellen Steward and King, who took the actor under his wing. Responsible for creating a platform for important works like the Taking Of Miss Janie and For Colored Girls Who Considered Suicide When The Rainbow Was Enuf, was well as aiding the careers of actors like Denzel Washington, Ben Vereen, Audra McDonald and Alfre Woodard, De Shields shined a light on a forgotten hero. By the time King took the stage, he was given a resounding standing ovation.

Click through for the list of winners…

Outstanding Actress in a Featured Role
Jenny Seastone
The Gin Baby; Mermaid Sands Productions and Kid Brooklyn Productions

Outstanding Actor in a Featured Role
Noel Joseph Allian
Luft Gangster; Nylon Fusion Theatre Company

Outstanding Original Music
Scott Munson
Sawbones & the Diamond Eater; Days of the Giants LLC

Outstanding Solo Performance
Sandy Moore
The Simple Stories; WorkShop Theater Company

Outstanding Original Short Script
Lenore Wolf
April March, Fragments from an Unintegrated Life from East Side Stories: Movers; Metropolitan Playhouse

Outstanding Original Full-Length Script
David Stallings
Dark Water; MTWorks

Outstanding Innovative Design
Nicole Hill
For Puppet Design
Mute; New York Neo-Futurists

Outstanding Costume Design Presented by TDF Costume Collection
Gail Cooper-Hecht
The Importance Of Being Ernest; Take Wing and Soar Productions, Inc.

Outstanding Set Design
Travis McHale
Rubber Ducks and Sunsets; Ground Up Productions

Outstanding Lighting Design
Kia Rogers
The Gin Baby; Mermaid Sands Productions and Kid Brooklyn Productions

Outstanding Sound Design
Christian Frederickson
The Awake; kef theatrical productions

Outstanding Actor in a Lead Role
Jason O’Connell
Don Juan In Hell; Phoenix Theatre Ensemble

Outstanding Actress in a Lead Role
Heather E. Cunningham
An Appeal to the Woman of the House; Retro Productions

Outstanding Ensemble
At First Sight (and Other Stories)
Broken Box Mime Theater

Outstanding Choreography / Movement
Carlos Neto
Gymnos: A Geek’s Tragedy, Ticket 2 Eternity Productions

Outstanding Director
DeLisa M. White
Lights Narrow, Teatro Oscuro

Outstanding Performance Art Production
The God Projekt
La MaMa in association with Lone Wolf Tribe

Outstanding Production of a Musical
Allegro
Astoria Performing Arts Center

Outstanding Production of a Musical
Don Juan In Hell
Phoenix Theatre Ensemble

Outstanding Premiere Production of a Play
Pirira
Theatre 167

Marcus Scott, an MFA graduate of NYU Tisch, is a playwright, musical theater writer and journalist whose work has appeared in Elle, Out, Essence, Uptown, Trace, Giant, Hello Beautiful and EDGE Media Network.

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