On May 4, the 2014 Lucille Lortel Awards presented awards for outstanding achievement in the Off-Broadway community. The ceremony took place at the NYU Skirball Center hosted by actors Nick Offerman and his wife Megan Mullally. This annual event honors the contribution of talented actors, directors, choreographers, and other contributors that are heavily involved in theater.
Guests including Uzo Aduba, Nick Cordero, America Ferrera, Sam Gold, Carly Rae Jepsen, Andy Karl, Amanda Peet, Corey Stoll, Josh Lucas, Morgan Saylor, Adam Jacobs, Nikki M. James, Alex Timbers, and Lynn Cohen, were all eager to take their seats. The opening number of the evening was an upbeat performance by Tamika Sonja Lawrence accompanied by six dancers taking center stage. After the performance the happy couple Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally walked hand in hand on the stage welcoming everyone and preparing them for a night to remember.
Offerman and Mullally were the perfect hosts for evening not only because they made guests laugh every minute they stepped on stage, but because these two actors know all about the hard work that goes into a production of an Off-Broadway show. The couple is co-starring in the play "Annapurna." Throughout the ceremony, awards were handed out for categories like Solo Show, Outstanding Directors, Outstanding Musical, Alternative Theatrical Experience, and Lead Actors and Actresses in a Play and Musical.
The big winners of the night were for the plays "Here Lies Love," "Fun Home," and "Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812." A lifetime achievement award was also given to former actress and current producer, Robyn Goodman. Goodman has produced 50 plays and musicals in her career in theater. Richard Nelson is another important contributor to the Off-Broadway community, and was recognized for Playwrights Sidewalk Inductee. These two award winners provided the night's most compelling and heartwarming thank you speeches of the night.
When guests at the ceremony weren’t laughing at Offerman and Mullally’s jokes about the malfunctioning teleprompter, they were tapping their feet enjoying the fun jazz music played from the band located on the stage. Also located on the stage was a large digital screen that played musical presentations of the nominated plays "Fun Home," "Here Lies Love," and "Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812." The night included a special memoriam performance sung by Jonatha Brooke.
She gave a beautiful performance with guitar in hand singing the song "Sweetest Angel." The ceremony was sponsored by The Lucille Lortel Foundation, and The Theater Development Fund. After a fun-filled night of musical performances and awards the guests went to a post-ceremony reception at the Rosenthal Pavilion at the NYU Kimmel Center.
Here are some quotes from guests at the award ceremony:
Q: What do you think is the biggest difference between working off-Broadway vs. on Broadway?
Robyn Goodman (Recipient of Lifetime Achievement Award): I think there is more risk taking on Off-Broadway which makes it very exciting. I think the economic model is much lower and easier to handle, it lets young people try things. I think Off-Broadway is a younger form which is always exciting because the new voices are what bring the young people to the theater.
Q: What’s your advice for upcoming actors who are interested in working Off-Broadway?
Vincent Piazza (actor featured in Jersey Boys, Presenter for the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Play): Make sure no matter how many doors close just keep going! Anytime you get an opportunity to work on stage you are as much as a performer as you are a student. There is always something to learn.
Robyn Goodman: I had an acting teacher named Wynn Handman and he told me the secret to being a good actor is being “director proof”.
Q: What inspired you to start acting?
Sydney Lucas (Nominated for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Musical in "Fun Home"): I was just born to love acting. When I was four I asked my mom if I could please start acting and finally when I was six she said I could. Now I’m here and it’s been a crazy journey. My favorite actress is Kristen Wiig, she’s very funny, and Meryl Streep has been my role model.
Q: Which role have you been in that has made the biggest impact on you personally?
Fred Weller (Nominated for Outstanding Featured Actor In a Play): I did a play called "Take Me Out," it was pivotal in my career. I did it for 420 performances and I also got married during the course of the play. This role helped inform some of my major life decisions.
Lucas Steele (Winner of Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical in "Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812"): I played the character, Terry, in a musical Off Broadway called "The Kid." I just think it’s a timely piece and very important about what the play was saying. It’s about what’s going on in the world, how they consider love and what a family is.
Q: How did you get involved in directing?
Moritz von Stuelpnagel (Nominated for Award Outstanding Director for "Hand To God"): I was a designer at first and found it a little bit lonely and I wanted to be more collaborative. I also loved acting and yet on opening night I liked to sort of stand back and let other people take the credit. I’m happy to get the single line in the review. I just love storytelling and that’s why I love new plays. I also love hashing out new ideas with writers and take whatever impulses they have and help bring it in motion.
Q: What do you think is the most exciting experience about being an actor/actress?
Molly Ranson (Nominated for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play "Bad Jews"): Just the opportunity to convey stories that need to be told. It’s pretty exciting getting the chance to do that.
Q: When you’re not acting what do you like to do on your free time?
Phillip Ettinger (Nominated for Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play "Bad Jews"): I like to box and listen to alternative music. My all-time favorite band is Radiohead, and my favorite album by them is OK Computer.
Laura Garces contributed reporting