Theatre World Awards, Honoring Broadway/Off Broadway Debuts June 6
By Ellis Nassour
May 31, 2022: The 76th annual Theatre World Awards (TWA) is one of the most anticipated events of theater season’s end – and one of immense joy as actors – young to older – making their Broadway debuts are honored for their standout performances. In what has become an often touching tradition, 12 previous winners serve as presenters, and often relive moments from past ceremonies and share tales rarely heard.
The 2022 TWAs will be held June 6 at 7 P.M. at Circle in the Square (235 West 50th Street, next door to Wicked and home to David Mamet’s American Buffalo revival). Returning as host is the host with the most (great theater tales) theater journalist, author, and raconteur Peter Filichia.
There’s no campaigning or even an iota of suspense since there are no nominations. Honorees are actually announced in advance.
Being recognized by the TWA selection committee will be 12 actors – six male, six female, who’ve made an impact with their Broadway and now Off Broadway debuts.
The honorees for outstanding Broadway or Off-Broadway debut performance are Patrick J. Adams (Take Me Out), Yair Ben-Dor (Prayer for the French Republic), Kearstin Piper Brown (Intimate Apparel), Sharon B. Clarke (Caroline or Change), Enrico Colantoni (Birthday Candles), Justin Cooley (Kimberly Akimbo), Crystal Finn (Birthday Candles), Gaby French (Hangmen), Miles Frost (MJ), Jaquel Spivey (A Strange Loop), Shannon Tyo (The Chinese Lady), and Kara Young (Clyde’s).
In addition, there will be special honors: Tony-winning actor, playwright, and screenwriter Harvey Fierstein, he with one of the industry’s most distinctive voices, will receive the John Willis Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theater, which recognizes “an individual whose lifetime achievements and personal generosity to the theater community merit special recognition and acknowledgement.” Fierstein is best known for his classic Torch Song Trilogy and Hairspray and movie roles in Mrs. Doubtfire, Independence Day, and as the voice of Yao in Mulan and Mulan II.
Michael Oberholtzer, so memorable in Hand to God and now as Shane in the hit revival of Richard Greenberg’s Take Me Out (Helen Hayes Theatre) will receive the Dorothy Loudon Award for Excellence in the Theater.
This award honors the beloved, late Tony-winning actress (original Annie), who won a TWA in 1963 when co-starring in and stealing the, sadly, short-lived Sol Berkowitz and James Lipton musical No Where to Go But Up, directed by Sidney Lumet. She went on to triumph in Noises Off, Westside Waltz, and Ballroom. Her appearances on the Tony Awards were showstoppers.
The recipient is chosen from recommendations from the Theatre World Awards Committee and by trustees of The Dorothy Loudon Foundation, of which veteran theatrical agent Lionel Larner is executive director. In addition to funding arts programs, the Foundation has supported the disadvantaged, AIDS research-related charities, and disaster-relief programs.
The TWAs, “presented annually at the end of the theater season to recognize significant, reviewable, debut performances in a Broadway or Off-Broadway production,” are produced by the organization’s board, Dale Badway (president), Tom Lynch (VP), Michael Kostel (VP). Stephen Wilde (secretary), Ilene Zatkin-Butler (treasurer), and Karen Johnston and James Sheridan.
The Awards were founded in 1945 by Daniel Blum, then editor of Theater World magazine, who wanted to honor Broadway actors making their debuts. Carol Channing and Alan Alda were among those honored. Following Blum’s death in 1963, John Willis, his assistant, continued to carry the torch. He kept the Awards going for 40 years, while also editing annual publications Theatre World and Screen World, Willis passed away, age 93, in 2010.
On the list of previous honorees are also Julie Andrews, Alec Baldwin, Anne Bancroft, Marlon Brando, Zoe Caldwell, Tom Hanks, Rosemary Harris, James Earl Jones, Audra McDonald, Liza Minnelli, Al Pacino, Bernadette Peters, Christopher Plummer, Chita Rivera, and Meryl Streep.
The Awards are Invitation-only to industry members, with an Ultra VIP package – $250, VIP seating, Justin “Squigs” Robertson poster, after party; and a VIP – $100, VIP seating, after party. For the packages, visit www.theatreworldtickets.org. Nathan Daugherty is supervisor of marketing and ticketing. As a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization, it survives entirely on tax deductible contributions.
TWA sponsors are EMRG Media (email@example.com), fabulous Tabula immersive event space (135 West 4st Street), and the Theatre District’s luxury Civilian Hotel (305 West 48th Street/Hello@CivilianHotel.com).
Follow the Theatre World Awards on Facebook, on Twitter at @TWAwards, and at www.theatreworldawards.org.