Drama Desk Award

Last updated
Drama Desk Awards
Awarded forExcellence in New York theatre
CountryUnited States
Presented byDrama Desk
First awarded1955;66 years ago (1955), founded as the Vernon Rice Awards
Website DramaDesk.org

The Drama Desk Awards, originally known as the Vernon Rice Awards, are an annual award, first bestowed in 1955, that recognizes excellence in New York theatre productions.


Initially they were awarded to Off-Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway. Broadway productions were included beginning with the 1968–69 award season. [1] [2] The awards are considered a significant American theater distinction. [3]


The Drama Desk organization was formed in 1949 by a group of New York theater critics, editors, reporters and publishers, in order to make the public aware of the vital issues concerning the theatrical industry. They debuted the presentations of the Vernon Rice Awards. The name honors the New York Post critic Vernon Rice, who had pioneered Off-Broadway coverage in the New York press. The name was changed for the 1963–1964 awards season to the Drama Desk Awards. [1] [4] [5]

In 1974, the Drama Desk became incorporated as a not-for-profit organization. In 1975, the Drama Desk announcement of winners included the nominees as well. [4] [6]

The Drama Desk has more than 100 members, including theatre critics, reporters and editors who cover New York theater and vote on the awards. Membership consists of two categories: active (voting) membership and participating membership. [7]

All of the Drama Desk officers and nominating committee members perform their various services for the organization on a voluntary basis. The nominating committee generally meets twice a month to discuss the many eligible shows members are responsible for seeing. They then nominate the productions on which the entire membership will vote. What sets the organization apart is that the awards are voted on "by media people only without any vested interests in the results", according to the organization.

Previous winners include Bernadette Peters, [8] Dustin Hoffman, Al Pacino, and Catherine Zeta-Jones, among many others.

The Drama Desk Awards have contributed to the ongoing success of major stars, playwrights and designers, while also identifying newcomers. The Drama Desk was the first New York theater organization to give awards to talents such as Edward Albee, Wendy Wasserstein, and George C. Scott. Plays like Driving Miss Daisy , Other People's Money , Steel Magnolias , and The Boys in the Band built momentum with the help of Drama Desk wins.

In keeping with its original mission, the organization sponsors guest panel luncheons with theater professionals. Panels address topics of current interest: covering the season on Broadway, Off-Broadway, and Off-Off-Broadway, with the aim of prompting informative and stimulating discussion. [4]


SeasonNominations announced dateNomination announcement host(s)Awards ceremonyLocationAwards ceremony host(s)Ref
2006–07April 26, 2007 James Naughton & Beth Leavel May 20, 2007 LaGuardia Concert Hall Kristin Chenoweth [9]
2007–08April 28, 2008 Bebe Neuwirth & Len Cariou May 18, 2008 Jeff Bowen, Hunter Bell, Susan Blackwell, Heidi Blickenstaff & Larry Pressgrove [10]
2008–09April 27, 2009 Jim Dale & Faith Prince May 17, 2009 Harvey Fierstein [11]
2009–10May 3, 2010N/AMay 23, 2010 Patti LuPone [12]
2010–11April 29, 2011 Audra McDonald & Liev Schreiber May 23, 2011 Hammerstein Ballroom, New York CityHarvey Fierstein [13]
2011–12April 27, 2012 Donna Murphy & Brian d'Arcy James June 3, 2012 The Town Hall, New York City Brooke Shields & Brian d'Arcy James [14]
2012–13April 29, 2013 Linda Lavin & John Lloyd Young May 19, 2013 [15]
2013–14April 25, 2014 Robert Lopez, Kristen Anderson-Lopez & Fran Drescher June 1, 2014 Laura Benanti [16]
2014–15April 23, 2015 Judith Light & Jessie Mueller May 31, 2015 [17]
2015–16April 28, 2016 Matthew Morrison & Vanessa Williams June 5, 2016 Michael Urie [18]
2016–17April 27, 2017Laura Benanti & Javier Muñoz June 4, 2017 [19]
2017–18April 26, 2018 Jane Krakowski & Tituss Burgess June 3, 2018 [20]
2018–19April 25, 2019Roma Torre & Frank DiLellaJune 2, 2019 [21]
2019–20April 21, 2020 Seth Rudetsky & James WesleyJune 13, 2020Virtual CeremonyFrank DiLella [22]

Award categories

Performance categories

Show and technical categories

Special awards

Retired awards

See also

Other theatre awards in New York:

Related Research Articles

Lynn Ahrens is an American writer and lyricist for the musical theatre, television and film. She has collaborated with Stephen Flaherty for many years. She won the Tony Award, Drama Desk Award, and Outer Critics Circle Award for the Broadway musical Ragtime. Together with Flaherty, they have written many musicals, including Lucky Stiff, My Favorite Year, Ragtime, Seussical, A Man of No Importance, Dessa Rose, The Glorious Ones, Rocky, Little Dancer and, recently on Broadway, Anastasia and Once on This Island.

The Obie Awards or Off-Broadway Theater Awards are annual awards originally given by The Village Voice newspaper to theatre artists and groups in New York City. In September 2014, the awards were jointly presented and administered with the American Theatre Wing. As the Tony Awards cover Broadway productions, the Obie Awards cover off-Broadway and off-off-Broadway productions.

Jefferson Mays American actor

Lewis Jefferson Mays is an American actor. He is the recipient of numerous accolades, including a Tony Award, a Helen Hayes Award, a Lucille Lortel Award, two Drama Desk Awards, two Outer Critics Circle Awards and three Obie Awards.

Carolee Carmello American actress

Carolee Ann Carmello is an American actress best known for her performances in Broadway musicals and for playing the role of Maple LaMarsh on the television series Remember WENN (1996–1998). She is a three-time Tony Award nominee and a five-time Drama Desk nominee, winning the 1999 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actress in a Musical for her role in Parade.

Joe Mantello American actor and director

Joseph Mantello is an American actor and director best known for his work on Broadway productions of Wicked, Take Me Out and Assassins, as well as earlier in his career being one of the original Broadway cast members of Angels in America.

Sherie Rene Scott

Sherie Rene Scott is an American actress, singer, writer and producer. She has been seen in multiple Broadway and off-Broadway plays and musicals, on numerous solo and original cast recordings, and in various film and television roles.

Stephanie J. Block American actress and singer

Stephanie Janette Block is an American actor and singer, best known for her work on the Broadway stage.

The Outer Critics Circle Awards are presented annually for theatrical achievements both on Broadway and Off-Broadway. They are presented by the Outer Critics Circle (OCC), the official organization of New York theater writers for out-of-town newspapers, digital and national publications, and other media beyond Broadway. The awards were first presented during the 1949–50 theater season and will celebrate their 70th anniversary in 2020. David Gordon, Senior Features Reporter at TheaterMania.com, currently serves as President.

The Norman Conquests is a trilogy of plays written in 1973 by Alan Ayckbourn. Each of the plays depicts the same six characters over the same weekend in a different part of a house. Table Manners is set in the dining room, Living Together in the living room, and Round and Round the Garden in the garden.

Celia Keenan-Bolger is an American actress and singer. She is known for portraying Scout Finch in the play To Kill a Mockingbird (2018), which earned her a Tony Award. She has also won three Drama Desk Awards and an Outer Critics Circle Award.

Brian dArcy James American actor & musician

Brian d'Arcy James is an American actor and musician known primarily for his Broadway roles, including Shrek in Shrek the Musical, Nick Bottom in Something Rotten!, King George III in Hamilton and Quinn Carney in The Ferryman, as well for his recurring role as Andy Baker on the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why. He played reporter Matt Caroll in the 2015 film Spotlight, which won the Academy Award for Best Picture.

Jan Maxwell

Janice Elaine Maxwell was an American stage and television actress. She was a five-time Tony Award nominee and two-time Drama Desk Award winner. In a career spanning over thirty years, Maxwell was one of the most celebrated and critically acclaimed stage actresses of her time.

Raúl Esparza American actor

Raúl Eduardo Esparza is an American stage, television and voice actor, best known for his role as New York Assistant District Attorney (ADA) Rafael Barba in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit where he had a recurring role in Season 14 and was promoted to a series regular in Seasons 15 to 19. He received Tony nominations for his roles as Philip Salon in the Boy George musical Taboo in 2004; Robert in the musical comedy Company in 2006; Lenny in Harold Pinter's play The Homecoming in 2008; and Charlie Fox in David Mamet's play Speed-the-Plow in 2009. He played Riff Raff in the 2000 Broadway revival of The Rocky Horror Show and Caractacus Potts in the original Broadway production of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in 2005.

The Lucille Lortel Awards recognize excellence in New York Off-Broadway theatre. The Awards are named for Lucille Lortel, an actress and theater producer, and have been awarded since 1986. They are produced by the League of Off-Broadway Theatres and Producers by special arrangement with the Lucille Lortel Foundation, with additional support from the Theatre Development Fund.

Alex Timbers is an American writer and director and the recipient of Golden Globe, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, and London Evening Standard Awards, as well as two OBIE and Lucile Lortel Awards. He is the recipient of the 2019 Drama League Founder's Award for Excellence in Directing and the 2016 Jerome Robbins Award for Directing. He was nominated for a 2020 Grammy Award.

<i>Adding Machine</i> (musical)

Adding Machine is a musical with music by Joshua Schmidt, and book and lyrics by Jason Loewith and Joshua Schmidt. It is an adaptation of Elmer Rice's 1923 play of the same name.

Tom Kitt (musician) American composer and musician

Thomas Robert Kitt is an American composer, conductor, orchestrator, and musician. For his score for the musical Next to Normal, he shared the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Drama with Brian Yorkey. He has also won two Tony Awards and an Outer Critics Circle Award for Next to Normal, as well as Tony and Outer Critics Circle nominations for If/Then and SpongeBob SquarePants. He has been nominated for eight Drama Desk Awards, winning one, and a Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album for Jagged Little Pill in 2021.

Dan Moses Schreier is an American composer and sound designer. He is best known for his theatrical music work, on Broadway and elsewhere.

The Assembled Parties is a play written by Richard Greenberg. It relates the story of a Jewish family living on the Upper West Side of New York City over a twenty-year period, from 1980 to 2000. The play, which premiered on Broadway in 2013, received three Tony Award nominations, including for Best Play.

Between Riverside and Crazy is a 2014 play by playwright, screenwriter, director, and actor Stephen Adly Guirgis. The play won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, the 2015 New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Play, the 2015 Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Play, the 2015 Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding New Off-Broadway Play and the 2015 Off Broadway Alliance Award for Best New Play.


  1. 1 2 Calta, Louis (July 2, 1969). "Jones Is Named For Top Award By Drama Desk" . The New York Times . p. 34. Retrieved March 15, 2019.
  2. McKinley, Jesse. " Modern Millie Leads Drama Desk Awards" The New York Times , May 20, 2002. Retrieved June 8, 2009
  3. "Baylor's Traveling Lady Production Receives Drama Desk Nomination", Baylor University, April 28, 2006. Retrieved June 8, 2009
  4. 1 2 3 "A Brief History Of The Drama Desk Awards". DramaDesk. Archived from the original on October 14, 2015. Retrieved May 19, 2013.
  5. Zolotow, Sam. "Critics Hail Off Broadway Work: Elmer [sic] Rice Awards Are Presented by Drama Desk", The New York Times , May 19, 1964, p.42
  6. Riedel, Michael. "Backstage brouhaha at the Drama Desk Awards", Los Angeles Times , April 18, 2009
  7. "Nominating Committee & Current Members". Drama Desk. Retrieved August 24, 2016.
  8. "Bernadette Peters Drama Desk Awards and Nominations" dramadesk.org, accessed May 19, 2013
  9. Bacalzo, Dan. " Kristin Chenoweth Will Host Drama Desk Awards" playbill.com, March 29, 2008
  10. Bacalzo, Dan. " Title of Show Cast to Host 2008 Drama Desk Awarda" theatermania.com, April 22, 2008
  11. Gans, Andrew. "Harvey Fierstein to Host Drama Desk Awards" Archived May 25, 2014, at the Wayback Machine Playbill , March 25, 2009
  12. Gans, Andrew."Red, Memphis, Bridge, Fences and La Cage Win Drama Desk Awards" Archived March 2, 2014, at the Wayback Machine Playbill , May 23, 2010
  13. BBW News Desk. "2011 Drama Desk Award Winners Announced!" BroadwayWorld.com, May 23, 2011
  14. Gans, Andrew. "'Once', 'Tribes', 'Follies', 'Salesman', Audra McDonald, Danny Burstein and More Are Drama Desk Winners" Archived 2012-06-06 at the Wayback Machine Playbill , June 3, 2012
  15. Hetrick, Adam and Gans, Andrew. Billy Porter, Andrea Martin, Pippin, Matilda, Vanya and Sonia Win Drama Desk Awards" Archived June 5, 2013, at the Wayback Machine Playbill , May 19, 2013
  16. Gans, Andrew."Winners of 59th Annual Drama Desk Awards Announced; 'Gentleman's Guide' and 'All the Way' Win Top Prizes" Archived June 6, 2014, at the Wayback Machine , Playbill , June 1, 2014
  17. Gans, Andrew and Gioia, Michael. "Drama Desk Award Winners Announced; 'Hamilton' Wins Seven Awards", Playbill , May 31, 2015
  18. Gans, Andrew. "Vanessa Williams and Matthew Morrison Announce Drama Desk Nominations Today", Playbill , April 28, 2016
  19. Cox, Gordon (2017-06-05). "Drama Desk Awards 2017: Bette Midler, 'Oslo' Take Top Honors (Full List)". Variety. Retrieved 2017-12-05.
  20. BWW News Desk. "Save the Date! 2018 Drama Desk Awards Reserve The Town Hall". BroadwayWorld.com. Retrieved 2017-12-05.
  21. Gans, Andrew. "Michael Urie Will Return to Host 2019 Drama Desk Awards". Playbill. Retrieved April 28, 2019.
  22. "65th Annual Drama Desk Awards Take Place June 13". Playbill. Retrieved June 13, 2020.