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Eric McCormack & Co Present The Village Voice Obie Awards Tonight

Tonight's 57th Annual Village Voice Obie Awards will be presented by Eric McCormack, Grace Gummer, Hugh Dancy, Jonathan Pryce, Juliet Rylance, Justin Bartha, Leslie Odom Jr., Lily Rabe, Michael McKean, Tonya Pinkins, Topher Grace, and Tracee Chimo. The event will feature live performances from David PatRick Kelly of ONCE, Joshua Henry and Sumayya Ali of PORGY & BESS, and Ethan Lipton and His Orchestra of NO PLACE TO GO.

The Village Voice, the nation's largest alternative weekly newspaper, will host the 57th Annual Obie Awards tonight at Webster Hall in the East Village, at 125 East 11th Street.

For the past 57 years, the Village Voice Obie Awards, founded by Jerry Tallmer in 1956, have honored the best of Off Broadway and Off-Off Broadway. Structured with informal categories that change annually, the Village Voice Obie Awards recognize persons and productions of excellence. Unlike most theater awards, the Village Voice Obie Awards list no nominations publicly. In the conviction that creativity is not competitive, the judges may give several Obies in each category, and may even invent new categories to reward exceptional artistic merit.

The Voice'sarts and cultural editor, Brian Parks, chairs the 2012 Obie judges panel. His fellow Voice judges are the paper's esteemed critic Alexis Soloski and Obies Chairman Emeritus Michael Feingold - chief Voice theater critic, past Obies chairman, and two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist. The four guest judges are: Annie Baker, Best New American Play Obie winner in 2010 for her plays Circle Mirror Transformation andThe Aliens; Anne Kauffman, accomplished director and 2007 Obie winner for her direction of The Thugs;Jose Rivera, two-time Obie Award winner for his plays Marisol and References to Salvador Dali Make Me Hot; and HeLen Shaw, a theater critic for Time Out New York and past Obie judge. Her writing has also appeared in The Village Voice.

Many of the most celebrated names in theater, film, and television say their Obie Award was the first major recognition of their professional career. Past winners include such well-known stars as Al Pacino, Meryl Streep, Morgan Freeman, Denzel Washington, Felicity Huffman, Viola Davis, Kevin Kline, Nathan Lane, Tony Kushner, Kathy Bates, James Earl Jones, Edward Norton, and Sigourney Weaver, to name a few.

Because the Obies always strive to recognize artists of exceptional ability early in their careers, the award often serves to encourage, support, and in some sense nurture youthful talent. The Obies help shine an important light on theater artists who are breaking new ground, or just breaking through in their careers. In addition, the Obies honor those who have given years of service to the theater, with awards for Sustained Excellence and Lifetime Achievement.

The 2012 Obies will also honor the Off-Broadway theater community by presenting its annual theater grants, announced live at the ceremony.

The Obies are being generously sponsored by theater lovers Stella Artois, Pisco Porton, Ovelia Psistaria Bar, and Academy for Dramatic Arts.

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