Best of off-Broadway lauded by Lucille Lortel Awards on May 1

The 26th annual edition of the Lucille Lortel Awards will take place on May 1. Nominations for this highest honor for off-Broadway fare will be revealed on March 31 with the contenders feted at a reception on April 11.

The Lortels are handed out in a range of categories. Some are akin to those at the Tony Awards, which salute the best of Broadway, such as Best Play and Best Musical. Rather than separate musical and play performances as do the Tonys, the Lortels lump them together. They also do this with the various design and craft kudos.

However, while the Tonys have dropped their catch-all award for special theatrical event, the Lortels continue to salute solo shows as well as alternative theatrical experiences. 

These awards may also laud an individual for their lifetime of achievement, a group for their body of work, and a playwright with inclusion on the walk of fame outside the Lucille Lortel Theater in Greenwich Village.

These kudos are presented by the Off-Broadway League, a collection of producers who stage shows in smaller venues than those on Broadway. A successful off-Broadway run can lead to a transfer to Broadway and a chance to contend at the Tony Awards.

The Lucille Lortel Awards — named for the renowned actress turned producer — do what the Drama Desk Awards used to — celebrate the best of off-Broadway. While the Tony Awards, which date to 1947, salute Broadway, the Drama Desk kudos were begun in 1955 to honor the rest of the New York theater world. And for the first 14 years they did just that with winners coming exclusively from the burgeoning off-Broadway scene.

However, beginning with the 15th festivities in 1968, those appearing on Broadway became eligible for consideration and since then these awards have tilted towards those also competing at the Tonys, leaving the off-Broadway performers in the wings.

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