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Mario Cantone Set to Host 2012 Lucille Lortel Awards; Laura Benanti, Christian Borle, et al. to Present!

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The Off-Broadway League today announced this year's host and several of the presenters confirmed to participate in the 2012 Lucille Lortel Awards for Outstanding Achievement Off-Broadway. The 27th Annual Lucille Lortel Awards will be handed out on Sunday, May 6, 2012 at NYU Skirball Center, beginning at 7:00pm EST. This year's ceremony will once again benefit the Actors Fund.

Mario Cantone is a celebrated New York stage actor and stand-up comedian who gained critical acclaim with his Tony®-nominated one-man show Laugh Whore. His additional Broadway credits include the Tony®-winning Assassins by Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman, Terrence McNally's Love! Valor! Compassion! and Shakespeare's The Tempest at The Public Theater. Off-Broadway credits include Rattlestick Theater's The Crumple Zone and The Taming of the Shrew for The Public Theater's New York Shakespeare Festival. He's perhaps most recognized for his role on HBO's Sex and the City, which he later reprised in the two big-screen films.

Presenters this year include Tony®-Award winner Laura Benanti, who will present the Lifetime Achievement Award to Richard Frankel and also perform; Academy Award winner Willem Dafoe, who will induct Richard Foreman onto the famed Playwrights' Sidewalk; and many more of the most acclaimed actors working today – from stages both on Broadway and Off, to screens both big and small.

This year, members of the general public are again welcome to attend the 7:00pm ceremony. Public tickets are $75.00 and are available by phone at 212.352.3101, online at www.nyuskirball.org and in person at the Skirball Center's Shagan Box Office, 556 LaGuardia Place (Tuesday – Sunday from 12 – 6pm).

Representatives of the Off-Broadway League, Actors' Equity Association, Stage Directors & Choreographers Society, the Lucille Lortel Foundation, in addition to theatre journalists and academics and other Off-Broadway professionals, serve on the Voting Committee. The Lucille Lortel Awards are produced by special arrangement with the Lucille Lortel Foundation. Additional support provided by Theatre Development Fund.

The Off-Broadway League's Lortel Awards Producing & Administration Committee (Terry Byrne, Denise Cooper, Margaret Cotter, George Forbes, Melanie Herman, Catherine Russell, Steven Showalter, and Carl D. White) produces the Lortel Awards Ceremony.

For updates, additional news and media releases, including a full list of this year's nominees, visit www.LortelAwards.org. Follow the Lortel Awards on Twitter at https://twitter.com/#!/LortelAwards and become a fan on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/LortelAwards.

Michael Heitzman (Director) is one of the songwriters of "Throw That Girl Around" from the Broadway musical Swing! His musical Bingo (The Winning Musical) had a successful Off-Broadway run and continues to have numerous productions nationally and internationally. It was honored with the 2007 Bay Area Critics Association Award for Best Musical. His critically acclaimed musical Vices: A Love Story was produced at the Caldwell Theatre where it was nominated for eight 2010 Carbonell Awards including Best New Work and Best Musical. Vices: A Love Story, the musical that Variety called "a minor miracle...a sensual celebration," has received multiple regional productions and is currently planning a New York City run. A 2009 Dramatist Guild Fellow, he and longtime writing partner Ilene Reid (www.heitzmanreid.com), are currently developing their original musical, Solana, with Indiana University Premiere Musicals as part of a two-year residency. In addition to having several TV and film scripts in development, he and Ms. Reid wrote for the NBC series "Just Deal" and their sitcom "Scott Free," developed with Barbra Streisand's Production Company Barwood Films and Kelsey Grammer's Production Company Grammnet, was purchased by Paramount Pictures. Michael Heitzman is a member of The Dramatists Guild, BMI and the Writer's Guild of America, East.

The Lucille Lortel Awards for Outstanding Achievement Off-Broadway were created in 1985 by the Off-Broadway League. The Lortel Awards recognize excellence Off-Broadway by honoring the invaluable contribution of artists to the theatre community. Representatives of the Off-Broadway League, Actors' Equity Association, Stage Directors & Choreographers Society, the Lucille Lortel Foundation in addition to theatre journalists and academics and other Off-Broadway professionals serve on the Voting Committee.

The awards may be given in the following categories: Play, Musical, Solo Show, Revival, Alternative Theatrical Experience, Director, Choreographer, Lead Actor and Actress, Featured Actor and Actress, Scenic, Costume, Lighting and Sound Design. The following honorary awards may also be given: Lifetime Achievement, Body of Work (awarded to an institution), the Edith Oliver Award for Sustained Excellence, Service to Off-Broadway Award and induction onto the Playwrights' Sidewalk in front of the historic Lucille Lortel Theatre in New York City. For more information, please see www.LortelAwards.org

Lucille Lortel Foundation was created by Lucille Lortel to foster excellence and diversity in the theatre, as well as to faithfully preserve the rich history and support the continued prosperity of Off-Broadway. The Foundation has several major programs, including its general operating support program that has provided millions of dollars to small to mid-size theatres in New York City, universities, and theatre service organizations. The Foundation created and maintains the Internet Off-Broadway Data Base (www.lOBDB.com). For a listing of all of the Foundation's programs, previous Lortel Award nominees and recipients, information on the Lucille Lortel Theatre and Playwrights' Sidewalk, and much more, please visit www.lortel.org

TDF, which recently received a 2011 Mayor's Award for Arts and Culture, is the largest nonprofit performing arts service organization in the United States, returning over $130 million to hundreds of productions annually through a variety of programs. It is dedicated to developing diverse audiences for live theatre and dance and strengthening the performing arts community in New York City. Created in 1968, TDF's programs have provided over 80 million people with access to performances at affordable prices. Best known for its TKTS Discount Booths, TDF's membership, outreach, access and education programs – as well as its Costume Collection – help to make the unique experience of theatre available to everyone. www.tdf.org/

The Actors Fund is a national human services organization that helps everyone – performers and those behind the scenes – who works in performing arts and entertainment, helping more than 12,000 people directly each year, and hundreds of thousands online. Serving professionals in film, theatre, television, music, opera, radio and dance, The Fund's programs include social services and emergency assistance, health care and insurance, housing, and employment and training services. With offices in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, The Actors Fund has – for nearly 130 years – been a safety net for those in need, crisis or transition. www.actorsfund.org

The Jack H. Skirball Center for the Performing Arts is the premier venue for the presentation of cultural and performing arts events for New York University and lower Manhattan. Led by executive producer Jay Oliva (President Emeritus, NYU) and senior director Michael Harrington, the programs of the Skirball Center reflect NYU's mission as an international center of scholarship, defined by excellence and innovation and shaped by an intellectually rich and diverse environment. A vital aspect of the Center's mission is to build young adult audiences for the future of live performance. www.nyuskirball.org

Photo Credit: Walter McBride/WM Photos

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