For the first time in its 85 years, the annual awards ceremony of the New York Drama Critics Circle was open to the public, as part of Wednesday evening’s Stars in the House YouTube livestream. The winners (which were announced this year on April 16th) were each introduced by a presenter who praised their work.
Watch the hour-long ceremony below, with Circle president Adam Feldman providing the applause as:
John Mulaney introduces David Byrne, accepting the special citation for the Broadway production of American Utopia
Mulaney calls American Utopia “the greatest live show of any kind I’ve ever seen,” which tells the story of Byrne’s move from isolation to community, and which Mulaney says he saw seven times “and I wasn’t comped once.”
Byrne thanks the critics for giving him the award, and his collaborators and says: “It’s hard to imagine what the old world was like now that we’re in a newer world, and someday we’ll be in an even newer world, where we will have learned things and we will recapture some of what we used to be, and will become something better and different in this newer newer world, which we’re all looking forward to, wondering when that is going to happen. But it will. I’m sure it will.”
Heidi Shreck introduces Deirdre O’Connell, accepting her award for career excellence, including her performance in Dana H.
Shreck on O’Connell: “She brings a ferocious intellect and a sometimes frightening depth of feeling to every character she inhabits…Every character she pays is a volcano of contradictory impulses, just like a real human being” She praises the actress’ devotion to Off-Broadway and to the life of an artist.
O’Connell: “I’m so lucky to be around at this moment in our crazy art form, when the challenges are so lush and varied and the writers and theater makers are so fearless and curious, and the audiences have such an appetite for the rich and the strange.” She admits that she’s at times wanted to drop out of acting — and thanks the Actors Fund for paying her rent at times — but she’s glad she’s stayed with it. She vividly describes the usual “strange, intense and not exactly functional relationship” between actor and critic.
Jeremy O. Harris introduces Michael R. Jackson, accepting the best musical award for A Strange Loop
Harris on A Strange Loop: “It’s ironic praising this musical at a moment when theater can only be experienced digitally, because for the three years I’ve known of ‘A Strange Loop,’ the dropbox that Michael sent me back in 2017 with the demo tracks and script attached have been my favorite musical..It’s one of the funniest pieces I’ve ever seen and one of the most heartbreaking.”
Jackson: “I feel like I’m on an episode of Quantum Leap and I’m transporting between different dimensions…whenever we get to the other side of whatever this is, I feel like theater will still be home for me.”He thanks all the people who helped turn into theater something that had been “gestating inside of me for over 20 years as a black, queer boy growing up, coming of age, trying to figure out who he was, where he belonged, figuring out how to be an artist..”
Michael Shannon introduces Will Arbery, accepting the best play award for Heroes of the Fourth Turning.
Shannon on Arbery’s plays: “They challenge you on a cellular level as you’re watching them. They invade you and they make you think about things that could recode the way you move through the world.”
Arbery: “This play was always an exercise in love, which is difficult and thorny and not always pretty.” He then quotes an essay about his play from Playwrights Horizons dramaturg, and then thanks Playwrights Horizons for taking a risk on a play “that everybody else thought was too dangerous…they make a writer unafraid of the sound of their own voice.”
Brian Stokes Mitchell, the chairman of the Actors Fund, accepts the award to the New York theater community for perseverance in the face of loss during the COVID-19 pandemic: “It seems like a terrible time to be an artist, given what we’re going through, but it’s also a spectacular time…People are hungry for the work of artists right now…We do what we do because we’re compelled to do it. It’s what we do and it’s who we are….I am so proud of our community and how it has stepped forward with art, and love, and generosity, and that miracle of collaboration.”
Check out my guide to New York Theater Awards 2020