The Early Obies
The Obie Awards are the highest honor paid to Off-Broadway productions. They have been compared to the Tony Awards given by the American Theatre Wing in recognition of major contributions to theater, although their scope is narrower, limited to productions on Off-Broadway stages in New York City.
The Obie Awards were from the outset not tightly bound by structured and immutable categories. They were designed to celebrate every aspect of dramatic production. The first Obie Awards in 1956 recognized achievement in the following categories: best new play, best production, best actress, best actor, best director, best musical, distinguished performances by actresses, distinguished performances by actors, sets (including lighting and costumes), and special citations given to theaters or acting companies.
From year to year, some categories were added while others were dropped, although what was included varied with every new group of awards the judges bestowed. In 1958, for example, when there was no prize for best director, four new categories appeared: best adaptation, best revival, best comedy, and best one-act play. These categories did not appear the following year, although in that year a new category, best revue, was added.
In 1969, all the categories that had been in place since 1956 were dropped. In that year individuals were simply recognized with a play title following their name: No accolade such as “distinguished play”...
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