Last night, the New York Innovative Theatre Awards – recognizing, honoring, and advocating for individuals, companies, and productions from NYC’s Off-Off-Broadway/Indie theater community for the past seventeen years – announced the recipients of the 2020-21 NYIT Honorary Awards. Because of the extended shutdown of theaters due to COVID-19 since March 2020, the non-profit organization was unable to celebrate shows in the usual way, with its full list of annual categories. But Co-Executive Directors Cat Parker, Akia Squitieri, and Jazmyn Arroyo noted, “We are happy to honor those who have contributed to the community over the years and, for the first time, those who stepped up to help during the crises of our time – the pandemic and the fight against white supremacy – our Indie Theatre Champions!”
In addition to the inaugural Indie Theatre Champions Awards, this season’s honors include five established categories: The Caffe Cino Award, named for the legendary venue and presented to a company that consistently produces outstanding work; The Ellen Stewart Award, given in honor of the eponymous founder of LaMaMa to an individual or organization demonstrating a significant contribution through service, support and leadership; The Artistic Achievement Award, for artists who have made an important artistic contribution to the Off-Off-Broadway community; The Outstanding Stage Manager Award, honoring the vital link between artistic conception and practical implementation; and The Doric Wilson Independent Playwright Award, named in honor of playwright and activist Doric Wilson and recognizing a playwright whose produced Off-Off-Broadway work embodies Wilson’s daring spirit.
The recipients are:
The Caffe Cino Award: The Parsnip Ship – launched in Spring 2015, the podcast play company reimagines the concept of the radio play by specifically focusing on stories by underproduced playwrights that differ in form, content, and plot, creating communities in person and digitally through both live and audio events.
The Ellen Stewart Award: The Indie Theatre Fund/IndieSpace – born from a deeply rooted connection to the indie theater community and frustration with systemic inequities that have kept it from thriving, the service organizations provide responsive, transparent, and equity-focused funding, real estate programs, professional development, and advocacy to individual artists, theater companies, and indie venues.
The Artistic Achievement Award: Penny Arcade/Steve Zehentner – the artists’ diaristic and journalistic work examines the borders between experimental theater and long-form performance art with multilayered soundtracks and live and pre-recorded video designed to provide a “cultural critique you can dance to!”
The Outstanding Stage Manager Award: Rachel April – exemplifying professionalism and care in her work, the freelance stage manager is outstanding at gracefully navigating the needs of both artists and producers.
The Doric Wilson Independent Playwright Award: Chris Weikel – a founding member of TOSOS (NYC’s oldest and longest producing LGBTQ+ theater company), the playwright creates work that consists of theatricality, magical realism, and a decidedly queer sensibility, while dismissing the current fixation with single set, six character plays.
The Indie Theatre Champion Awards: Randi Berry – the indie theater maker, actor, writer, producer, and executive director of the IndieSpace Fund and Independent Theatre Fund tackled COVID head on and joined the fight for racial equity training; Episcopal Actors Guild – a nonsectarian charitable membership organization founded in 1923, with the mission of providing emergency aid and support to professional performers of all faiths who are undergoing crisis, rose to the challenge of these past months of the pandemic, working to help theater artists both fiscally and directly from their pantry; Ximena Garnica – co-founder of LEIMAY and co-creator of the Cultural Solidarity Fund with other community leaders, Garnica works in tandem with arts organizations and funders to provide emergency grants to artists and cultural workers left behind by other forms of COVID-19 relief; JACKNY – the Brooklyn-based OBIE-winning performance-meets-civic space presents over 100 theater, music, and dance performances a year and holds community conversations on issues of importance to address racial discrimination and to increase awareness; LatinX Playwrights Circle – promoting, developing, and elevating LatinX playwrights nationwide, the group’s goal is to build a network that makes their plays accessible to theater-makers in search of the next generation of American storytellers; and Aimee Todoroff – through her work as managing director of the League of Independent Theater, the director, dramaturg, and advocate has fought tirelessly for space, grants, safety, and political acknowledgement on behalf of independent theater artists.
NYIT Awards plans to celebrate the recipients in person and via livestream on Sunday, November 14, from The Kraine Theatre, 85 E. 4th St, NYC. More information on the event will be available soon; for updates, visit the website.