Gabriel Byrne, Jonathan Groff et al. Set to Present at Theater World Awards; John Lloyd Young & More to Perform Today

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Theatre World Awards for Outstanding Broadway or Off-Broadway Debut performances during the 2010-2011 theatrical season will be presented by former Theatre World Award winners, including: Tammy Blanchard (Gypsy, 2003), Gabriel Byrne (A Moon for the Misbegotten, 2000), Zoe Caldwell (Slapstick Tragedy, 1966), Billy Crudup (Arcadia, 1995), Blythe Danner (The Miser, 1969), Edie Falco (Side Man, 1998), Tovah Feldshuh (Yentl, 1976), Jonathan Groff (Spring Awakening, 2007), RoseMary Harris (The Climate of Eden, 1953), and Andrea McArdle (Annie, 1977). There will also be performances by former Theatre World Award winners, including: Karen Akers (Nine, 1982), Ernestine Jackson (Raisin, 1974), and John Lloyd Young (Jersey Boys, 2006).

The previously announced Kevin Kilner was forced to withdraw due to a scheduling conflict; last night, the late breaking presenters announced were Jonathan Cake (Medea, 2003), Jason Danieley (Candide, 1997), and John Leguizamo (Special Award, 1993).

The Theatre World Awards presentation will be held at Jujamcyn's August Wilson Theatre, 245 West 52nd Street (home of Jersey Boys), in an invitation-only ceremony, today, June 7, 2011 from 2:00 to 3:45 p.m. Peter Filichia will host, Barry Keating will direct, Mary K. Botosan and Erin Oestreich are the event's producers. There will be a tribute to John Willis, founder of the Theatre World Awards, who died last summer. It should also be noted that John Lloyd Young will be returning to the stage where he originated the role of Frankie Valli and in the process won the Tony, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, and Theatre World Awards. Broadway veteran musical director Henry Aronson will serve in that capacity for the event.

Broadway caricaturist Justin "Squigs" Robertson has designed an exclusive poster for this year's Theatre World Awards (which will also serve as the program cover for the ceremony), featuring all of the 67th Annual Award winners in a collage. There will be a limited run of posters available for purchase at the ceremony.

As previously announced, the 2010-11 Theatre World Award winners are: Ellen Barkin, The Normal Heart; Desmin Borges, The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity; Halley Feiffer, The House of Blue Leaves; Grace Gummer, Arcadia; Rose Hemingway, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying; John Larroquette, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying; Heather Lind, The Merchant of Venice; Patina Miller, Sister Act; Arian Moayed, Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo; Jim Parsons, The Normal Heart; Zachary Quinto, Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes; and Tony Sheldon, Priscilla Queen of the Desert. The first annual Lunt-Fontanne Award for Ensemble Excellence will be presented to the cast of The Motherf**cker With a Hat: Bobby Cannavale, Chris Rock, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Annabella Sciorra, and Yul Vázquez. Also presented at the TWA ceremony will be the third annual Dorothy Loudon Award for Excellence presented to Seth Numrich of War Horse.

First presented in 1945, the prestigious Theatre World Awards are the oldest awards given for Broadway and Off-Broadway debut performances, and are among the oldest honors given to stage performers. The Theatre World Award winners (including the Lunt-Fontanne Award for Ensemble Excellence) have been chosen by the Theatre World Awards voting committee, currently comprised of David Cote (Time Out New York and NY1), Joe Dziemianowicz (New York Daily News), Peter Filichia (The Star-Ledger and Theatermania), Harry Haun (Playbill), Matthew Murray (Talkin' Broadway), Frank Scheck (New York Post), and Linda Winer (Newsday). The Lunt-Fontannc Award is bestowed upon an outstanding Broadway or Off-Broadway ensemble by the Theatre World Awards, and is sponsored by Aaron Frankel in devoted honor of Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne. The Dorothy Loudon Award for Excellence has been chosen by the Trustees of the Dorothy Loudon Foundation, Lionel Larner, Executive Director.

The Theatre World Award Board of Directors is: Barry Keating (President), Erin Oestreich (Vice-President), Jon Lonoff (Treasurer), Cara Lustik (Secretary), Mary K. Botosan, Vern T. Calhoun, Dorothy W. Kopelman, Tom Lynch, Kati Meister, Sal Scamardo, and Jane Stuart.

For more information about the Theatre World Awards (including a listing of past recipients) please visit: theatreworldawards.org. The TWA Board also encourages theater lovers to "LIKE" the Theatre World Awards fan page on Facebook.

The Theatre World Awards are presented annually to six actors and six actresses in recognition of their outstanding debut performances in a Broadway or Off-Broadway production. The ceremony is an invitation-only event followed by an afternoon party to celebrate the new honorees and welcome them in to the Theatre World family. In what has become a highly entertaining and often touching tradition, former winners serve as the presenters, who often relieve moments from past ceremonies and share wonderful stories rarely heard at other theatrical award ceremonies. "With little pomp and no commercials, it's the best awards show you may never see - since it's by invitation only" (New York Post).

In 1944, three young men who loved theatre, Daniel Blum, Norman McDonald, and John Willis, came up with the idea of a yearly celebration that would acknowledge "Promising Personalities," twelve debut performances by actors appearing on Broadway. In the beginning, the awards ceremony was a simple cocktail party among friends in Daniel Blum's sumptuous apartment. In the first two years alone, Betty Comden, Judy Holliday, and John Raitt were honored, joined the following year by Barbara Bel Geddes, Marlon Brando, and Burt Lancaster.

At the 1949 party, Carol Channing won. A couple of years later she said to other winners who were all attending a cocktail party prior to the one at Daniel's, "We'd better get over to Daniel's and support that Award because otherwise, no one is gonna know who we are sixty years from now!"

As Off-Broadway became a potent force in New York theatre life, performances there became eligible for recognition as well as those on Broadway. It wasn't until 1969 that the award became known officially as the Theatre World Award. The first awards were in the form of a framed certificate and then a plaque (often fondly referred to as the ‘cheese board') followed by a bronze Janus Award, sculpted by internationally recognized sculptor Harry Marinsky. 2010 marked the debut of the new crystal Janus Award. As John Lloyd Young remarked in the 2006 ceremony "Janus, the Roman god of transitions and new beginnings - I think that seems very suitable for all of us winning the Theatre World Award."

Upon Daniel Blum's death in 1964, John Willis inherited the entire responsibility for the Award. For the next 30 years, with an occasional assistant, he single-handedly kept the Theatre World Awards alive by hosting the annual party, often with Carol Channing acting as the sole presenter as late as 1971. Robert Morse, Colleen Dewhurst, Julie Harris, and RoseMary Harris later followed as hosts. At the 1976 ceremony, John invited twelve former winners to each present the award to a newcomer. And thus began the ritual of presenters entertaining the audience with anecdotes about how they won or what the award had come to mean to them.

The contribution the Award has made to the theatre is incalculable. Winners throughout the years acknowledge that of all the awards, the Theatre World Award is the one they most cherish because it is not competition, but rather recognition - given freely at a time when any kind of encouragement is most welcome.

The Theatre World Awards are now voted on by a committee, which includes Peter Filichia and six other New York theatre critics. The Board of Directors is continuing the mission of John Willis, working year round to raise funds and awareness. The Awards are administered by a Board of Directors, who also serve as the producers and directors of the annual non-profit event. Each year, previous winners, producers, and friends of the awards generously contribute time and funds, without whom, the ceremony would not be possible!

Founder John Willis, passed away at age 93 only a few weeks after attending the 2010 Awards Ceremony. In a remembrance read at his memorial from RoseMary Harris, she stated: "The Theatre World Award he bestowed to ‘newcomers to Broadway' was like a benediction; a sign, that somehow, someway, one was on the right path." The goal of the TWA Board of Directors that John founded is to continue his legacy of encouraging promising talent in an often challenging business.

At the same time that Blum and Willis created this award, they also began the Theatre World publication. It evolved into the most comprehensive annual pictorial and statistical record of the American theatre. It includes not only the Broadway, Off-Broadway, and Off-Off-Broadway season, but that of the regional theatres, major theatrical awards, and complete coverage of the Theatre World Awards ceremony as well. Theatre World Volume 66: 2009-2010 with over 900 photos is currently available at all booksellers and online.

Photo Credit: Walter McBride/WM Photos

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