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The New York Innovative Theatre Awards Announce Recipients of 2020-21 Honorary Awards

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Awards include: The Caffe Cino Award, The Ellen Stewart Award, The Artistic Achievement Award, The Outstanding Stage Manager Award and more.

The New York Innovative Theatre Awards Announce Recipients of 2020-21 Honorary Awards

The New York Innovative Theatre Awards, which for the past 17 years has celebrated New York City's independent theatre artists by honoring those who have achieved artistic excellence in the Off-Off Broadway/Indie theatre realm, has announced the recipients of the 2020-21 Honorary Awards. The Honorary Awards and recipients are Caffe Cino: The Parsnip Ship; Ellen Stewart: The Indie Theatre Fund/IndieSpace; Artistic Achievement: Penny Arcade/Steve Zehentner; Outstanding Stage Manager: Rachel April; Doric Wilson Independent Playwright: Chris Weikel; Indie Theatre Champion Awards: Randi Berry; Episcopal Actors Guild; Ximena Garnica, JACKNY; Latinx Playwrights Circle; Aimee Todoroff. You can read more about the awards and the recipients at NYITAwards.com

The Caffe Cino Award, named in honor of the legendary Caffe Cino, is presented to an Off-Off-Broadway theatre company that consistently produces outstanding work. This year's recipient, The Parsnip Ship, is a podcast play company that amplifies bold artists for audiences who crave accessible stories and storytellers through live events and audio podcasts, creating communities in person and digitally. Launched in Spring 2015, The Parsnip Ship re-imagines the concept of the radio play by specifically focusing on stories that differ in form, content, and plot by underproduced playwrights. During this crisis, The Parsnip Ship held many weekends of virtual deep-work sessions known as the 'Parsnip Pop-up', often co-hosted with other theatre companies. It was a way for folks to get work done during a very isolated time without feeling so alone, and a way to hold each other accountable for their work goals during that session.

The Ellen Stewart Award, named in honor of LaMaMa's Ellen Stewart, is presented to an individual or organization demonstrating a significant contribution to the Off-Off-Broadway community through service, support and leadership. This year's award recognizes Indie Theatre Fund/IndieSpace. This organization was born from a deeply rooted connection to the indie theater company and frustration with systemic inequities that kept the entire community from thriving. They provide radically transparent, responsive and equity-focused funding, real estate programs, professional development, and advocacy to individual artists, theater companies, and indie venues. IndieSpace and The Indie Theater Fund are YOUR service orgs and they continually grow each and every day as a response to what the community needs.

The Artistic Achievement Award is presented to artists who have made a significant artistic contribution to the Off-Off-Broadway community. This year we recognize Penny Arcade and Steve Zehentner, who's work is designed to "assuage sorrow, break down isolation, create community and to support individuality." Together, they have created experimental theatre and long form performance art which examines the borders between theatre and performance with multilayered soundtracks and often employ video both live and pre-recorded. The work is diaristic, journalistic and is "cultural critique you can dance to!"

The Outstanding Stage Manager Award honors the living link between artistic conception/inspiration and practical implementation - stage managers. Rachel April exemplifies professionalism and care in her work. She was outstanding at gracefully navigating both the artists' and producers' needs.

The Doric Wilson Independent Playwright Award, named in honor of playwright and activist Doric Wilson, is presented to a playwright whose work has been produced Off-Off-Broadway and embodies the daring spirit of Doric Wilson. This year's recipient, Chris Weikel, creates work that consists of theatricality, magical realism, and a decidedly queer sensibility. His latest work, Nelly is "messy, and in most commercial settings utterly un-produceable. It has sixteen characters (twelve actors with doubling), multiple locations, dueling time periods, eighteenth century drag, red-coated soldiers, go-go boys, ballads, pop music, and poetry. I love the independent theater community because most of the people I collaborate with could give a rat's ass [about the current fixation] for single set, six character plays."

And introducing our first ever recipients of The Indie Theatre Champion Awards:

  • Randi Berry - Randi Berry is an indie theater maker/actor/writer/producer turned service org Executive Director of the IndieSpace Fund and Independent Theatre Fund. While the ITF has done wonderful work for our community for many years (see the Ellen Stewart Award), Ms. Berry became even more of an Indie Theatre Champion during the past horrific months. She tackled Covid head on by being the first to hand out grants to artists in need, offered advice to theatre venues navigating landlord negotiation, worked with others to create the CSF to support additional emergency funding, and more. She also joined the fight against white supremacy and helped to create the "Big Learn" to support racial equity training, while financially supporting other organizations as they did their own training. Ms. Berry used the network she had built over the years to reach out and help indie artists either directly, or by putting them in touch with others who could help. She has no ego involved when trying to help; she is not concerned with being recognized - which makes us all the happier to make sure she receives some!
  • Episcopal Actors Guild - Founded in 1923, the mission of the EAG has always been to provide emergency aid and support to professional performers of all faiths who are undergoing crisis. EAG is a nonsectarian charitable membership organization who's mission was put to the test these past many months, and they rose to the challenge - working to help theatre artists both fiscally and directly from their pantry. They created "Sustainable Conversations," a monthly virtual forum that provides a sustainable, safe space for conversations centered on race and racism in America and the arts. This forum is free and open to the public, and has tackled topics such as racism in casting, pay inequality in theatre, George Floyd, AAPI hate crimes, and Racism in Housing.
  • Ximena Garnica - Working with other community leaders, Ximena Garnica created the Cultural Solidarity Fund. The CSF works in tandem with arts organizations and funders to provide emergency grants to artists and cultural workers left behind by other forms of COVID-19 relief. On behalf of her community, Ms. Garnica has attended City forums, reached out to politicians and agencies to gather information, and shared that with indie theatre members. She is a tireless advocate for ensuring independent artists of color are not excluded from arts funding and arts support, as well as reimagining our arts ecosystem in a more equitable way for all.
  • JACKNY is a Brooklyn based, OBIE-winning performance-meets-civic space. JACKNY presents over 100 theater, music and dance performances a year and holds community conversations on issues of importance to the community, such as their series called REPARATIONS. This series is JACK's effort to address head-on the challenge of racial discrimination and includes community conversations, artistic performances, panel discussions and interactive workshops curated with neighbors and members of the artistic and activist community in New York. JACKNY's hands-on and direct manner of promoting awareness and progress have been of great benefit to the indie theatre community.
  • Latinx Playwright Circle - LatinX Playwright Circle aims to build a network of LatinX playwrights nationwide in order to promote, develop and elevate their work while making their plays accessible to theater makers looking to find the next generation of American Storytellers. Their unique contribution to our community during these trying times was the formation of weekly virtual dance parties that allowed weary hearts and souls the chance to simply let loose, unwind and step away from the madness for a brief time.
  • Aimee Todoroff - Through her work with the League of Independent Theatre, Aimee Todoroff fought tirelessly for space, grants, safety and political acknowledgement for indie theatre artists. LIT's mission is to advocate politically for independent theatre artists, but Ms. Todoroff ramped up that mission gloriously right when we needed her the most. She listened to her community, took on dozens of layers of bureaucracy, and taught politicians why paying heed to artists was not only the right thing to do, but was beneficial to their own positions, and the needs of this city ... our city.

Each year, the New York Innovative Theatre Awards gathers to recognize some of the best and brightest from the independent theatrical community, as individuals, companies and productions. This year, they are unable to celebrate productions as theatre spaces were, sadly, all dark due to Covid. However, the Co-Executive Directors, Cat Parker, Akia Squitieri, and Jazmyn Arroyo, remark, "We are happy to honor those who have contributed to the community over the years and, for the first time, those who stepped up to help during the crises of our time: the pandemic and the fight against white supremacy: our Indie Theatre Champions!"

NYIT Awards will be honoring these recipients in person (hopefully) and via live-stream on November 14th, from the Kraine Theatre. More information on that event will be available soon. Please see the website and social media for more information: nyitawards.com.


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