“I just love the Obies,” announced poised co-host Charlayne Woodard at the 2003 Obie Awards, Monday May 19. “Because the whole room is a winner!” With the emphasis on creativity over competition, more than a few recipients acknowledged a distinctly warm theater-family feeling at Webster Hall. “I’m so grateful to live and work with this amazing community,” affirmed Take Me Out‘s Denis O’Hare. And what a family. From singing penguins and polar bears (Cynthia Hopkins and friends), to a bow-tied and crooning Bill Irwin (“I want to prove to you all that Irish people also has jazz”), to the foot-stompin’ country ballads of Jason Petty and the Hank Williams: Lost Highway company, this exuberant and far-flung clan turned the evening into their splendid reunion.
Proud New York native Mos Def made a point of thanking the entire borough of Brooklyn, while Deborah Warner and Fiona Shaw were among many to applaud the Brooklyn Academy of Music (“your national theater”) for bringing their Irish Medea to these shores. (Presenter Eddie Izzard commended the European tragedians with speculation that Euripides wrote the first “snuff play.”) The Blacks‘s Ty Jones and J. Kyle Manzay back-flipped their way to the podium—”We were basically hating white people the whole time we were doing this show and now we have an award for it!” Not to be outdone, the radiantly beautiful Rosemary Harris hoisted herself from her front-row seat onto the stage to accept her award for All Over from its author, Edward Albee. Jaws dropped for unexpected honors: dramaturg-agent Morgan Jenness said awarding her for supporting writers is “kind of like the moon getting a citation for shining.”
Not all the feting was fuzzy: Talking Heads‘s Christine Ebersole cautioned that “we’re all a big family because we all have the same Big Brother now” and invited George and Rummy to come up from Washington to see “anything” Off-Broadway. Dramatist-actor David Greenspan, reflecting on his She Stoops to Comedy‘s success, summed up the spirit of the evening: “We had so much fun doing this,” he said, “and fun is no small thing.” Playwright Mac Wellman held up his Lifetime Achievement award, cast his eye over the room, and declared: “May no good come of any of this—and that should be the motto of our theater.”