The League of Professional Theatre Women is a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to “increase the visibility of and promote opportunities for women in all aspects of professional theatre.” The League includes members from actors to administrators, agents to choreographers, producers to journalists, playwrights to directors and designers and everything in between. The over 500 members represents a diversity of theater professionals in the not-for-profit and for-profit sectors.
Each year the League hosts an award ceremony to recognize women whose outstanding efforts in their careers and in ancillary efforts outside the theatre community have been noted. There is also a reception afterward (a “Big Mingle”), where women may network and share updates about their latest productions on or Off Broadway. This year’s event like last year’s was held on the Irene Diamond Stage of the Perishing Square Signature Center.
The award ceremony was hosted by the funny and brilliant actor Kristine Nielsen, known for her Tony-nominated role in Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, the outrageous and fun Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, and Dog Opera for which she received an Obie Award. She is also known for the films The Savages, Small Time Crooks and Morning Glory. The versatile actor towers in comic roles with unusual and innovative twists, roles that reveal humor arising out of great depth and profound characterization. However, this evening she reflected her lighter shades of comedy as she introduced the presenters who then introduced the award recipients.
Ruth Morley was a costume designer for theatre and film who also served on the LPTW Board of Directors. An award was designated in her honor for an outstanding female theatre designer in the field of costumes, scenery, lighting or special effects. Anna Louizos who is currently represented in Cinderella on Broadway and who was nominated for Tonys for her work on In the Heights and High Fidelity presented the Ruth Morley Design Award (Morley did the costume designs for Taxi Driver, Annie Hall, Tootsie, Ghost and Kramer vs. Kramer to name a few) to Donyale Werele, the Tony Award winner for Peter and the Starcatcher. Werle, who makes every effort towards sustainability and being green in her set designs, shared a humorous story of how Anna Louizos mentored her and always exemplified knowing the “right action to take.”
One of the leaders of the nonprofit theatre movement in the United Sates was stage and artistic director Josephine R. Abady. The LPTW Board designated The Josephine Abady Award to recognize a emerging woman theatre artist who has created work of cultural diversity. Dael Orlandersmith, Obie award winner for Beauty’s Daughter and Pulitzer Prize Finalist in Drama for Yellowman (she recently premiered Forever, her amazing solo show, in LA) presented the award to this year’s recipient, Sandra A. Daley-Sharif, Obie Award Winner for 48 Hours in Harlem.
The Lucille Lortel estate gave the LPTW a bequest in 1999 to establish an annual fund to be given to an “aspiring woman in any discipline of theatre who is showing great creative promise and deserves recognition and encouragement.” Ellen McLaughlin, actor and playwright of Septimus and Clarissa and many others plays, who also originated the role of the Angel in Tony Kushner’s Angels in America, presented the award to Rachel Dickstein, Artistic Director of Ripe Time, the collaboratively created dance-theater piece.
Kathleen Chalfant has a long career in theater, film and television. She was a Best Actress Tony nominee for Angels in America: Millennium Approaches (1993). For the Off Broadway production of Wit, she won the Outer Critics Circle, Drama Desk, Obie and Lucille Lortel awards. She won a second Obie for her 2003 performance in Talking Heads. She has done stints in House of Cards and Law and Order and has many other television and film credits to her name. Sybille Pearson, a playwright, musical theater lyricist and librettist is a full-time professor at the Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program at Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. A longtime friend, Pearson presented Chalfant with the LPTW’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
Each year after the Award Ceremony and Big Mingle, the LPTW completes its online auction to raise funds for the organization. Auction Chair Katie Finneran (Noises Off, It’s Only a Play) is a vibrant supporter of LPTW primarily because she believes it is through the organization’s voice that equality will be brought to all phases of the theater community.
The networking, mentoring and involvement of the members of the League of Professional Theatre Women are a crucial way to help promote good will in the theatre community. It is also a way to revitalize the collaborative spirit which is vital to the creation and innovation that spur on one of the foremost entertainment industries in the country, live theatre. Raising money for the organization’s initiatives is paramount in keeping live theatre flourishing. The fundraising effort, which was open to the public as well, closed its auction site at midnight. The auction was a successful conclusion to an uplifting, fun and productive evening at the Pershing Square Signature Center.[amazon template=iframe image&asin=1559362634]