The 2023 Obie Awards Announce Judges & Eligibility

The official 2023 Obie Awards season will include shows that have opened since the last Obies ceremony, beginning September 1, 2023 through August 31, 2024.

By: Jul. 12, 2023
The 2023 Obie Awards Announce Judges & Eligibility
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The American Theatre Wing (Heather Hitchens, President & CEO) has announced its 2023 panel of judges and eligibility details for The Obie Awards. Now in its 67th year, the annual event, celebrating the best of Off and Off Off Broadway, is co-chaired by Obie-winning director David Mendizábal and veteran theater critic Melissa Rose Bernardo.

New 2023 Obie judges are Dede Ayite, Obie-winning and Tony Award-nominated costume designer; Ty Defoe, writer and Grammy Award winner; Ann C. James, Broadway's first Black intimacy coordinator for Antoinette Nwandu's Pass Over; Florencia Lozano, actor, writer, performance artist; Dael Orlandersmith, award-winning playwright; and Carmelita Tropicana, Obie-winning downtown performance artist. Returning to the Obie panel are Wilson Chin, scenic designer for theater, opera, film, and television; and Obie-winning playwright Haruna Lee.

“Off and Off Off Broadway are the ground floor of innovation in the theatre and a critical content pipeline to Broadway and regional theatre,” said Heather Hitchens. “The theatres and theatre artists that make up Off and Off Off Broadway help define and support the social and economic infrastructure of our diverse New York City neighborhoods.”

Hitchens continued, “The Wing is thrilled to continue to honor and uplift the work of these theatres annually through The Obie Awards.  We could not do this without our esteemed panel of judges who go in search of excellence whether it be on an established Off Broadway stage or in a loft or in a basement.  They cover all five boroughs, and no stone goes unturned.”

David Mendizábal: “This year's judges represent some of the incredible talent that Off Broadway and Off Off Broadway has nurtured. With a diversity of perspectives in terms of form, aesthetics, and artistic medium, collectively, the judges' artistic achievements span decades as impactful New York theatermakers working in the American theatre.”  

Melissa Rose Bernardo: “By season's end, well over 300 Obie-eligible shows will have opened Off and Off Off Broadway. The range of art on display — from intimate one-person confessionals to splashy musicals, from cutting-edge revivals to bold new American plays — only gets wider and more impressive every year.”

The official 2023 Obie Awards season will include shows that have opened since the last Obies ceremony, beginning September 1, 2022 through August 31, 2023. Additional details for the 67th Obie Awards will be announced at a later date. In addition to in-person work, virtual, digital, and audio work that has taken or will take place during this time period will also be eligible for consideration.

The Obie Awards consider more than 300 productions each season. With the exception of Lifetime Achievement, Best New American Play, the Ross Wetzsteon Award Grant presented to a theatre that nurtures innovative new plays, and the Michael Feingold Award, which recognizes achievement in criticism, dramaturgy, translation, scholarship, mentorship, or education, or for a theatrical contribution that has not been historically acknowledged by major theatrical awards organizations. The Obie Awards have previously honored playwriting, direction, performance, and design. In addition, the panel of judges typically presents one or more special citations.

Work that was presented at an Off or Off Off Broadway theater and/or company, whether virtual/digital, audio, or in person, will be eligible for consideration. For questions and more information regarding Obie Award consideration, visit


Melissa Rose Bernardo is a critic at New York Stage Review. She has been covering theater for more than 25 years, reviewing for Entertainment Weekly and contributing to such outlets as, Playbill, and CBS’ Watch magazine. She is a proud graduate of the University of Michigan.  

David Mendizábal (they/he) is director, designer, one of the Producing Artistic Leaders of the Obie Award-winning The Movement Theatre Company, and a founding collective member and Associate Artistic Director of The Sol Project. Select directing credits include Sanctuary City (Berkeley Rep/Arena Stage), the bandaged place (Roundabout Underground/NYSAF), Notes on Killing Seven Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Board Members (Soho Rep/Sol Project, director and costume designer), Mushroom (People’s Light), This Bitter Earth (TheatreWorks Hartford), and Don’t Eat the Mangos (Magic Theatre/Sundance). David is a 2021 Princess Grace Award Honoraria Recipient in Theater. They were part of the inaugural Soho Rep Project Number One Residency, where they created and directed the short film, eat me! Alumnus of Ars Nova Vision Residency and Maker’s Lab, Drama League Directors Project, Labyrinth Intensive Ensemble, artEquity, NALAC, and Lincoln Center Theater Directors Lab. David was a participant in the TCG Leadership U: One-on-One program, where they served as the Artistic Associate at Atlantic Theater Company. BFA from NYU/Tisch @ Playwrights Horizons Theatre School. IG: @its_daveed |


Dede Ayite is a two-time Tony award nominated costume designer working in theater, opera and film. Her most recent Broadway credits include Topdog Underdog, American Buffalo, How I Learned to Drive, A Soldier’s Play, Slave Play and American Son. Her select Off-Broadway credits include Richard III, Merry Wives (The Public Theater); Seven Deadly Sins (Tectonic); By The Way, Meet Vera Stark, (Signature); Nollywood Dreams, School Girls… (MCC); Bella: An American Tall Tale (Playwrights Horizons); Toni Stone (Roundabout). Regionally, Ayite’s work has appeared at Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Steppenwolf, Arena Stage and more.  She has worked in television with Netflix, Comedy Central, and FOX Shortcoms. Ayite earned her MFA at the Yale School of Drama and has received a TDF/Kitty Leech Young Master Award, Obie, Drama Desk, Henry Hewes, Audelco, Lucille Lortel, Helen Hayes, Theatre Bay Area, and Jeff Awards. 

Wilson Chin. Broadway and Off-Broadway: Pass Over (Lortel Award nomination, Broadway and LCT3), Next Fall (Broadway and Naked Angels); Cost of Living, By the Water (Manhattan Theatre Club); Teenage Dick (Ma-Yi/Public); A Commercial Jingle for Regina Comet (DR2); Space Dogs (MCC); Sweat, Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, Pericles (Public Mobile Unit); Wild Goose Dreams (Public/La Jolla Playhouse); The Thanksgiving Play (Playwrights Horizons); My Mañana Comes (The Playwrights Realm); Too Much, Too Much, Too Many (Roundabout); The Jammer (Atlantic Theatre); Sakina’s Restaurant (Audible/Minetta Lane); Engagements (Second Stage); Informed Consent (Primary Stages). Opera: Lucia di Lammermoor (Lyric Opera of Chicago), Eine Florentinische Tragödie/Gianni Schicchi (Canadian Opera, Dora Award). Film/television: Pass Over (dir. Spike Lee), “Game Theory with Bomani Jones” (HBO), “Blindspot” (NBC). Eastern Region Board member of Local USA 829. Instagram: @wilsonchindesign 

Ty Defoe (Giizhig), indigiqueer/2S+ citizen of the Oneida/ Ojibwe Nations. A writer, interdisciplinary story artist, and Grammy Award winner. Ty aspires to an interweaving and glitterizing approach to artistic projects with social justice, indiqueering, and environmentalism. Ty’s global cultural arts highlights: the Millennium celebration in Cairo, Egypt; Ankara, Turkey, International Music Festival; and Festival of World Cultures in Dubai. Awards: Global Indigenous Heritage Festival Award, Jonathan Larson Award, First Peoples Cultural Capital Fellow, Helen Merrill Playwriting Award 2021, 2021 Interdisciplinary Artist Sundance Fellow, and finalist at the Cordillera International Film Festival for, We Will Always Be Here. Works created and authored: Trail and Tears (w/ Dawn Avery) River of Stone, Red Pine, The Way They Lived, Ajijaak on Turtle Island, Hear Me Say My Name, The Lesson (w/ Avi Amon and Nolan Doran), and Firebird Tattoo, among others.  Current release of VR and digital media projects ANAKWAD (w/ Dov Heichemer and _alpha), CIRCLE, and Strong Like Flower (w/ Katherine Freer). An artEquity facilitator, co-founder of Indigenous Direction (w/ Larissa FastHorse). Member of All My Relations Collective, GIZHIBAA GIIZHIG | Revolving Sky at Under the Radar's Incoming, The Public Theater.  Publications: Casting a Movement, Pitkin Review, Thorny Locust Magazine, Howl Round, and Routledge Press, The Methuen Drama Book of Trans Plays for the Stage. Degrees from CalArts, Goddard College, + NYU Tisch. Director: The Winer Bear (Perseverance Theater), Midsummer Night’s Dream (Arizona Shakespeare Company). Movement Direction: Mother Road, Dir. Bill Rauch (OSF), Manahatta, Dir. Laurie Woolery (OSF + Yale Rep), and Choreographer for Tracy Lett’s The Minutes, Dir Anna Shapiro (Broadway), Young Jean Lee’s Straight White Men (Broadway), appears on the Netflix show: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, animated series, Spirit Rangers.  Lives in NYC + loves the color clear. He|We,,  

Ann C. James has an extensive career in international stage direction and theater education. James recently made her debut as the first Black Intimacy Coordinator of Broadway for Antoinette Nwandu’s Pass Over. James serves as an intimacy and sensitivity consultant for Hamilton (USA) and Hamilton (UK), and serves as an Intimacy/Cultural consultant for the Broadway-bound productions Lempicka and Trading Places. In addition to her Broadway and West End credits, she has served as Intimacy Director and Sensitivity Specialist® for the provocative Off-Broadway productions of Moises Kaufman’s Seven Deadly Sins and Here There are Blueberries by Tectonic Theatre Project , Seize the King produced by Classical Theatre of Harlem , Twilight: Los Angeles,1992 and Dominique Morisseau’s compelling play, Confederates at Signature Theater and F*cking A at Fordham University. Her intimacy work has featured James as an expert voice for Theatre Communications Group, HowlRound, the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation, and Lincoln Center’s Director’s Lab West. Her company, Intimacy Coordinators of Color, has partnerships with Adelphi University, New York University, Columbia University, American Conservatory Theater, Brown University, Trinity Repertory Theater, A.R.T./New York, and The American Repertory Theater at Harvard. James is in the final year of her studies as America’s first MFA in Performance Pedagogy with an emphasis in Afrocentric Intimacy Pedagogy at Loyola Marymount University. 

Haruna Lee is a Taiwanese/Japanese/American theater maker, screenwriter, educator and community steward whose work is rooted in a liberation-based healing practice. They are committed to promoting arts activism and emergent strategies for the theater through ethical and process-based collaborations that challenge systems and legacies of power, while inviting the fullness of marginalized bodies and the complexity of lived experience to their practice. Recent plays include Suicide Forest published by 53rd State Press (Ma-Yi Theater Company and The Bushwick Starr), plural (love) (Soho Rep Writer/Director Lab; New Georges), and Memory Retrograde (UTR; Ars Nova; BAX). Lee is a recipient of an Obie Award for Playwriting and Conception of Suicide Forest, the Steinberg Playwright Award, the Ollie New Play Award, FCA Grants to Artists Award, the Mohr Visiting Artist Fellowship at Stanford University, a Keith Haring MacDowell Fellowship, the Map Fund Grant, and Lotos Foundation Prize for Directing. They were a member of the 2019 artEquity cohort, and is a co-founder and lead facilitator for the Women-Trans-Femme-Non Binary Asian Diasporic Performance Makers Potluck. They write for AppleTV+'s Pachinko, HBO Max’s The Flight Attendant, and are currently developing multiple projects or TV. They are a co-director of the Brooklyn College MFA Playwriting Program. 

Florencia Lozano is an actor, writer and performance artist. Theatre includes: Shuttle, Spindle, Needle (Clubbed Thumb), Rinse, Repeat (Signature), Devil Of Choice (Labyrinth) And She Would Stand Like This (Movement Theatre Co), Winners (EST), Red Dog Howls (NYTW) “Lady Macduff” (Shakespeare In The Park), Placebo (Playwrights Horizons), Privilege (Second Stage), Last Easter (MCC), “Where’s My Money?” (MTC/LAB), Dirty Story (LAB). TV includes: Bull, The Baker and the Beauty, Gossip Girl, Blue Bloods, Ugly Betty, Law and Order: SVU & CI, The Mysteries of Laura, Madame Secretary, Kevin Can Wait, The Blacklist and Enemy Within. “Lucia Rivera” on KEEP BREATHING “Claudia Messina” in NARCOS (both on NETFLIX) and “Tea Delgado” on ABC’s One Life to Live. Films include: LIFE AFTER YOU (which she also co-wrote and produced is currently available on all streaming platforms) FARAWAY EYES, THE MINISTERS, PERFECT STRANGER, and VERONIKA DECIDES TO DIE. Upcoming: CRYBABY BRIDGE. Florencia is a member of the LAByrinth Theater Company, LAB’s literary manager and a company member at The Ensemble Studio Theatre. Her play: underneathmybed was produced at the Rattlestick Playwrights’ Theatre and won HOLA’s (Hispanic Organization of Latino Actors) Best New Play Award in 2010. Her play BUSTED was produced by Daniel Talbot’s Rising Phoenix at CINO nights. Her new play PAPILUCHO is currently in development as is her exorcism stand-up performance event with Paul Luis Martinez called FUN WITH SHAME. Florencia got her MFA at NYU’s Graduate Acting Program and her BA at Brown University where she studied Comparative Literature. Her parents are immigrants from Argentina. She played Victoria Woodhull in Jocelyn Kuritsky's podcast A SIMPLE HERSTORY about all the women who have run for president of the United States. 

Dael Orlandersmith’s plays include Stoop Stories, Black n’ Blue Boys/Broken Men, Horsedreams, Bones, The Blue Album, Yellowman, The Gimmick, Monster, and Forever.  Ms. Orlandersmith was a Pulitzer Prize finalist and Drama Desk Award nominee for Yellowman and the winner of the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize for The Gimmick.  Dael is the recipient of a New York Foundation for the Arts grant, The Helen Merrill Award for Emerging Playwrights, a Guggenheim, along with several other awards and honors.  Her  play, FOREVER, was commissioned and performed at the Mark Taper Forum/Kirk Douglas Theatre  Fall of 2014, followed by performances at the Long Wharf Theatre Winter 2014/15, New York Theatre Workshop Spring 2015, and will run at Portland Center Stage Winter 2016.  Her play Until  the flood was  done  at St louis  Repertory fall of 2016. She  is  currently working on  two  commissions   for  Artists  Repertory  theatre  In Portland and Milwaukee  Repertory  theatre. ‘Until  the  Flood ‘ was  done   at Rattlestick Theatre in 2018 and  Milwaukee  rep .in  2019  it  was done  at Portland  center  stage / ACT  Seattle/   the  Arcola  theatre  in London/ The Galway  Arts   festival  at  the  Druid  theatre/ and   at the  Traverse  at Edinburgh   Festival…the play is scheduled   to  be  performed  in  Berlin   at  the  Schaubruhner  theatre in April of  2022   and  at the Spoleto  festival   In Charleston  SC  in  june  2022. Ms orlandersmith is  working  on a   Commission  for Rattle stick    theatre  called ’watching  the  watcher’..  and  has   two  plays  opening   at  Milwaukee  repertory  theatre  in 2022 -NEW AGE  - to be  directed    by  Jade king  Carroll   and  ANTONIO’S  SONG/I WAS  DREAMING  OF  A SON-  co  written  with  Antonio   Suarez Edwards  and  directed  by Mark  Clement.  She  is also  working  on a  new  work with writer/performer David Cale  called ‘  You  don’t  know the lonely  one’.  And is working on   a new piece  called  SPIRITAS’   In 2020  Ms Orlandersmith  received  the  Doris  Duke  award.

Carmelita Tropicana has been performing in New York’s downtown arts scene since the 1980’s, straddling the worlds of performance art and theater with irreverent humor, subversive fantasy, and bilingual puns. Her plays include Memorias de la Revolucion, Milk of Amnesia, With What Ass Does the Cockroach Sit? and Post Plastica. Tropicana is a LatinX Artist Fellow (2022), United States Artist Fellow (2021), a 2017 Guggenheim Fellow, a 2016 Creative Capital award recipient, and 1998/99 Obie recipient. Publications include Memories of the Revolution: The First 10 Years of the Wow Café Theater, (2015) edited with Holly Hughes and Jill Dolan and Carmelita Tropicana: Performing Between Cultures (2000). Tropicana was an original member of the WOW theater collective, and presently serves on the New York Foundation for the Arts board and Soho Rep. 


The Village Voice created The Obie Awards, at the suggestion of then editor Jerry Tallmer, soon after the publication's own inception in 1955, to encourage the newly burgeoning Off-Broadway theater movement and to acknowledge its achievements. The Obies are structured with informal categories to recognize artists and productions worthy of distinction in each theatrical year. Over the decades, The Obie Awards played a major role in the Voice's long history of championing work of innovative and exceptional quality Off- and Off-Off Broadway. The Village Voice put the new downtown theater movement on the map with its in-depth coverage, becoming a forum for conflicting viewpoints which helped generate excitement over new works and new approaches to theater-making. The Obies have become a theatrical tradition, a meaningful way to acknowledge the best artistic achievements of downtown theater. The list of actors, writers, directors, and designers who have received Obies at pivotal moments in their careers is a virtual who's who of contemporary theater. While the categories of the awards have continued to change almost annually, the creative spirit remains the same. The Obie Awards salute a theatrical movement that's as important and as vibrant today as it was in 1955.


Through a powerful suite of programs that address all aspects of The National Theatre ecology, ATW encourages the discovery of theatre by people of all ages, nurtures talent on stage and off, creates pathways for success for students and young professionals, and encourages the development of the art form itself by recognizing and supporting innovative and excellent work with awards and grants. Building a just, equitable, and inclusive American theatre is a guiding principle of all of ATW's work and programs. Visit to learn more about the extensive programming and grant opportunities for students, theatre professionals, and audiences. For the latest updates and news, follow the Wing on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter.