Red Carpet Coverage: The 61st Annual Obie Awards
Last night, Pop-Culturalist had the pleasure of attending The 61st Annual Obie Awards at Webster Hall. Hosted by Orange Is The New Black star Lea DeLaria, the award show celebrated the best of Off-Broadway productions and the creative teams behind them. As stars such as Obie presenter Carrie Preston (True Blood, The Good Wife) and Waitress‘ Keala Settle arrived on the red carpet, we asked them a couple of questions.
PC: The Obie Awards celebrates the best of Off-Broadway. What has been your favorite Off-Broadway show this season?
Carrie Preston: I really liked John. I thought it was really cool and innovative and interesting.
PC: What does theatre mean to you?
Carrie Preston: Well, I got my start doing theatre. I’m a theatre baby by heart so that conversation between a live audience and an actor and a playwright is unlike anything else. You can feed off each other and the audience, which is something that is age-old, ancient. It’s something that I think continues to grow.
Keala Settle: Everybody has an opportunity to do every kind of theatre, film or television possible. They create these masterpieces with a budget of five cents or five million dollars, whatever the case may be. They tell stories in the best ways they can and I love that. I’ll celebrate that until I’m six feet under.
PC: What are you most excited about tonight? Who are you excited to see?
Carrie Preston: I’m excited my friend Lea DeLaria is the host so it will be fun to see what she’s going to do with these awards and I get to present! I’m happy to be able to do that. I’m excited about the award I get to present today.
Keala Settle: I wanna see the opening number from the Orange girls because I’m celebrating Kimiko Glenn, my girl. I’m also very excited for Leslie [Odom Jr.] and Justin [Paul] and Benj [Pasek]. There are quite a few people I’m excited to see!
Also in attendance was Ben Platt of Dear Evan Hansen along with composers and playwright of the show Justin Paul, Benj Pasek and Steven Levenson. We asked them a few questions about Dear Evan Hansen and how being a part of the theatre industry changed their lives.
PC: What has been the most rewarding part about Dear Evan Hansen transferring to Broadway?
Ben Platt: I think it’s been being able to be in the New York theatre community which is obviously the theatre community that we all most strive to be a part of and want to be a part of and yet being in a place where you feel open enough to continue to tweak and mold so audiences can understand that it’s still a work that we’re trying to find and yet we can have it be so close to this big New York City community. Also, the way the way it’s been received by the Off-Broadway community has been so wonderful and more than we could have asked for.
Justin Paul: We learned a lot with premiering the show in DC and so was having had that first experience of watching the show in front of an audience and seeing what they respond to. It was really rewarding to get a second crack at it now that we have had that lab test sort of experiment of seeing what the audience responds to so we could shape the show around those interests. It’s been great to do it at Second Stage with a brand new audience.
PC: What does theatre mean to you? What does being part of the industry represent?
Ben Platt: It’s close to everything. My family means a lot to me but next to that, I’d say theatre means the most. It’s where I’ve always felt the most at home and where I’ve been able to find who I am and where I’ve found a way to connect to people that I would have otherwise don’t think ever would have. I tend to be a rather shy person and I don’t really know that I’d be able to share myself the way that I do if I hadn’t grown up in the theatre so I think it’s incredibly beautiful. I think it’s a place to go and and be changed which there are so few of those places left I think with all of the sort of hyper-technology and everything is so at your fingertips so there’s not a lot of experiences where you go and really feel an emotional shift so I think that’s never to be discounted.
Steven Levenson: For me, I’ve always loved music and I always loved stories so I think early on I discovered musical theatre and it was this sort of crazy thing where I was suddenly like, “Wow, I can have music but also tell a story at the same time” […] Music is as important as the lines and the lyrics so it’s a really wonderful art form to be in.
Benj Pasek: Dear Evan Hansen is the kind of show that we wanted to write for who we would have been as high schoolers and the kind of show we would have wanted to watch back then. It’s really gratifying to us that the thing that has resonated for all of us and what we wanted to put into our artistic piece is resonating with everybody who has been watching it as well. It’s an amazing experience.
The four went on to winning Obie awards for their work in Dear Evan Hansen and Ben Platt performed “Waving Through A Window”, one of the songs of the show. The other performances of the night were by Hamilton‘s Leslie Odom Jr. and the cast of Orange Is The New Black, including Waitress‘ Kimiko Glenn.
Award season is in full swing in New York City as stars and fans join forces to celebrate the best of the best. While the Obie Awards recognize Off-Broadway achievement, the Tony Awards celebrate the magic of Broadway and are on June 12th.