On Tuesday, July 28, the Dramatists Guild held their very first virtual awards ceremony, presented in collaboration with The Dramatists Guild Foundation (DGF) and The Lillys. The event celebrated theatremakers coming together to lift each other up even in these most uncertain of times.
The first DG award of the evening, The Lanford Wilson Award for an early career playwright of note, was presented by DG Awards Committee Member Jireh Breon Holder to Madhuri Shekar. In her pre-recorded video speech, Shekar held up her baby, Vikram, clad in a shirt that was inscribed with the phrase Make Theatre Happen. "It makes me feel seen," she said of receiving the honor, "and that helps me to keep going."
Next, Lydia Diamond received the Horton Foote Award, presented by Foote's daughter, actor Hallie Foote. This particular award is designated to go to a writer whose body of work "seeks to plumb the ineffable nature of being human." Diamond especially appreciated being recognized in such a capacity. Plumbing the ineffable nature of being human is "what I've been trying to do, and will continue to do, for the rest of my career," she vowed in her acceptance speech.
The realities of the pandemic, and how dramatists have been effected, was omnipresent during the ceremony, but perhaps no more so than in DG Council Member Kia Corthron's speech. Corthron is an accomplished playwright and novelist, whom award presenter and fellow DG Council Member Chisa Hutchison refered to as her "personal shero." Yet upon receiving this year's Flora Roberts Award, in recognition of distinguished work in the theatre, Corthron acknowledged that the award was "a godsend because what little money I was making this year was mostly tied up in spring conferences that got cancelled."
DG Council Member Michael R. Jackson was the only dramatist to receive two DG awards at this year's ceremony. (Erika Dickerson-Despenza was also a multi-award winner this year; she received one from The Lillys and one from the DGF.) His musical A Strange Loop garnered him both The Frederick Loewe Award, presented by his former graduate school teacher and fellow DG Council Member Kirsten Childs, and the Hull Warriner Award, presented by last year's winner, Heidi Schreck. Jackson focused on the communal aspect of theatre in his acceptance speeches. "Theatre for me is an institution that brings people together," he said when receiving the Hull-Warriner Award. "I look forward to continuing to work with the Dramatists Guild to help protect the rights of other writers, and to continue to tell stories that bring people together across race, gender, class, ability, and so forth."
Additional DG members received awards from the Lillys and the DGF. Antionette Nwandu received The Lilly's Stacey Mindich Go Write a Play Award, while Childs received The Lilly's Stacey Mindich Go Write a Musical Award. Donnetta Lavinia Grays, Stacey Rose, and DG Council Member Nikkole Salter were among the recipients of The Lilly's Stacey Mindich Go Work On Theater Award. Natyna Bean was a recipient of the Lilly Award in Honor of Lorraine Hansberry. DG Council Member Emily Mann received The Lilly's Lifetime Achievement Award for her work as a dramatist and director. Bess Wohl received the DGF's inaugural Georgia Engel Comedy Playwriting Prize. Khiyon Hursey recieved the DGF's Stephen Schwartz Award. Julia Meinwald, Benjamin Velez, and Erika Dickerson-Despenza shared the DGF's Thom Thomas Award. Dickerson-Despenza also received The Lilly's Williamstown Theatre Festival Commission.
The full awards ceremony is available to view via our DG Youtube Channel. Click here to subscribe and watch the event that one DG member described as "life-affirming magic and light!"