A Comprehensive Guide to the 2024 Theatre Awards Season!

Zach Dulli Archive

by Zach Dulli, The Scene

For more than a hundred years, theatre awards have stood as pivotal landmarks in the performing arts landscape, celebrating the pinnacle of theatrical achievement. From the dazzling spectacle of the Tony Awards to the prestigious Del Hughes Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in the Art of Stage Management, these accolades honor the exceptional talent, relentless dedication, and meticulous craft of those who bring the magic of live theatre to life. As the 2023-24 Broadway Season draws to a close, The Scene delves into the illustrious realm of Broadway’s most esteemed theatre awards, offering a sneak peek into the excitement and anticipation of the upcoming awards season!

The Tony Awards

The Tony Awards were established in 1947 by the American Theatre Wing. They were named in honor of Antoinette Perry, a renowned actress, director, and producer who co-founded the organization. These awards, with their 26 competitive categories and special awards, including the Regional Theater Award and the Isabelle Stevenson Award for humanitarian efforts, are a testament to the outstanding achievements in Broadway productions. The nominees, selected by a rotating group of up to 50 theater professionals, are voted upon by more than 800 theater professionals, press agents, and a handful of critics. Since 1956, the Tony Awards have been broadcast on network television, solidifying their status as the most prominent awards ceremony in the industry.

  • The 2023-24 Tony Award nominations will be announced at 8:30 AM EST on Tuesday, April 30. You can watch the nomination announcement live on CBS Mornings.
  • The 77th Annual Tony Awards will be broadcast live on CBS from The David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York City on Sunday, June 16, 2024.
  • Learn more about The Tony Awards.

The Pulitzer Prizes in Drama

Founded in 1917 by Columbia University, the Pulitzer Prizes include a prestigious annual accolade for an original play by an American playwright that must have premiered in New York or regionally within the previous year. While the Pulitzers are predominantly recognized for journalism, the award for drama holds a special place of reverence among American dramatists despite its notable New York City bias. Rarely is the prize awarded to shows that haven’t graced the stages of New York.

The selection process involves a unique panel each year, consisting of four theater critics and a theater academic whose recommendations can be, and sometimes are, overridden by the Pulitzer Board. This practice has sparked controversy, such as in 1963 when Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” was bypassed,” leading to no drama award being issued. A similar scenario unfolded in 2010 when the board dismissed all jury recommendations and independently selected a winner. Remarkably, several of America’s most iconic plays and musicals, including “The Glass Menagerie,” “A Raisin in the Sun,” “The Crucible,” “Oklahoma,” “West Side Story,” and “Sweeney Todd,” have never been honored with this prize. Despite these controversies and omissions, the Pulitzer Prize in Drama remains one of the most esteemed accolades for American playwrights, second only to the Tony Awards.

The Drama Desk Awards

Established in 1949, the Drama Desk Awards are an esteemed annual celebration recognizing exceptional performances across Broadway, Off-Broadway, and Off-Off-Broadway productions. Unique among New York’s theatre awards, the Drama Desk’s voting body consists entirely of theatre critics and journalists. In a progressive move aligning with trends like those set by the Outer Critics Circle, the Drama Desk Awards adopted gender-neutral acting categories in 2023. Instead of traditional distinctions like “Outstanding Leading Actor in a Play” and “Outstanding Leading Actress in a Play,” the awards now feature two “Outstanding Leading Performer in a Play” categories.

One of the key strengths of the Drama Desk Awards is their inclusive approach, placing Broadway, Off-Broadway, and Off-Off-Broadway shows in the same competitive categories. This inclusivity shines a spotlight on lesser-known works, offering them well-deserved recognition. Despite this inclusivity, the awards historically tend to be dominated by Broadway’s heavier hitters. For example, in 2022, only one of the eight acting awards was won by an Off-Broadway performer. An exception occurred in 2015 when “Hamilton” broke records with 13 nominations and won seven awards, including Outstanding Musical, demonstrating the potential for Off-Broadway productions to triumph.

  • Nominations for the 68th Annual Drama Desk Awards will be made live on NBC’s New York Live on Monday, April 29 at 11:30 AM EST.
  • The 68th Annual Drama Desk Awards will be held on Monday, June 10, 2024, at The Skirball Center for the Performing Arts.

The Outer Critics Circle Awards

Founded in 1950 as an alternative to the New York Drama Critics Circle, the Outer Critics Circle Awards are organized by a diverse group of theater critics and journalists from national, out-of-town, and online publications. The awards celebrate outstanding achievements in both Broadway and Off-Broadway performances. The annual awards ceremony is an exclusive event, open only to members and award recipients, and is typically characterized by its understated nature.

The New York Drama Critics’ Circle Awards

Established in 1935 as a counterpoint to the Pulitzer Prize, the New York Drama Critics’ Circle consists of twenty-five esteemed critics originally from major New York publications. This illustrious body convenes annually for a single decisive day to honor the season’s best play, best foreign play, best musical, and a few special citations encompassing productions from across all New York theaters, including Off-Broadway. The selection process is celebrated for its transparency, with detailed publication of each critic’s vote in every voting round.

Over the years, the Circle has adapted its membership criteria to address the evolving landscape of journalism, accommodating the challenges of job losses, eliminated positions, and closures within the industry. This flexibility ensures the Circle continues to reflect the current state of theatrical criticism in New York.

The Theatre World Awards

Initiated in 1945, the Theatre World Awards annually celebrate twelve remarkable performers (six men and six women) who make their New York stage debut that year. Esteemed as one of the most heartfelt and significant recognitions in the theatre industry, the award is cherished by recipients, both for its prestige and the deep connection it fosters among honorees. Notable past winners often reflect on the award’s impact and take pride in welcoming the newest members into this distinguished circle.

Each year, the awards also honor two seasoned artists with the Dorothy Loudon Award for Excellence in the Theater and the John Willis Award for Lifetime Achievement.

The Lucille Lortel Awards

Founded in 1985 by the Off-Broadway League, the Lucille Lortel Awards pay tribute to exceptional achievements in Off-Broadway theater. Named in honor of the renowned actress Lucille Lortel, the awards particularly celebrate theatrical excellence beyond the Broadway stages. Each year, the awards spotlight new talent by awarding a star to an emerging playwright on the Playwrights Sidewalk in front of the Lucille Lortel Theater in the Village.

The determination of nominees and winners involves a diverse committee consisting of representatives from the Off-Broadway League, Actors’ Equity Association, Stage Directors & Choreographers Society, United Scenic Artists, and the Lucille Lortel Theatre Foundation, along with theater journalists, academics, and other professionals tied to the Off-Broadway scene.

  • Nominations for the 39th Annual Lucille Lortel Awards for Outstanding Achievement Off-Broadway were announced on April 4, 2024.
  • Discover the 2023-34 Lucille Lortel Awards Nominations.
  • The 2024 Lucille Lortel Awards will be presented at the annual awards ceremony on Sunday, May 5, 2024, at 7:00 p.m. EST.

The Obie Awards

Since their inception in 1955 by the cultural editor of the Village Voice, the Obie Awards have been a cornerstone in celebrating outstanding achievements in Off-Broadway and Off-Off Broadway theatre. Although the Village Voice has since ceased publication, the American Theatre Wing now administers these prestigious awards. Unique in its format, the Obie Awards eschew traditional nominees, opting instead to directly honor winners in a bid to emphasize artistic excellence over competition. Judges are given the flexibility to introduce new categories to recognize exceptional artists and productions appropriately.

The Drama League Awards

Dubbed “the oldest theatrical honors in America,” the Drama League Awards have been a significant part of the theatrical landscape, annually recognizing excellence in five competitive categories along with a selection of special awards. Recently, they have expanded their scope to include two additional competitive categories: outstanding direction of a play and outstanding direction of a musical. Although there’s been some debate over the exact founding date, the Drama League has notably distinguished itself by acknowledging digital theater during the pandemic, a time when other award bodies did not adapt as quickly.

Despite their pioneering efforts, the Drama League Awards tend to attract less spotlight than other major theatrical awards. The awards feature a unique structure with a single performing category, “Distinguished Performance,” which sees about 60 nominees vying for just one accolade. Furthermore, the voting process is open to anyone who purchases a membership, regardless of their expertise or experience in theater.

The Off-Broadway Alliance Awards

Introduced by the Off-Broadway Alliance in 2011, the Off-Broadway Alliance Awards shine a spotlight on exceptional performances within Off-Broadway productions. While the Off-Broadway League, responsible for the Lucille Lortel Awards, coexists with the Alliance, distinctions between the two organizations remain somewhat ambiguous. As a more recent addition to the theatrical landscape, the Alliance operates with a less transparent awards process, relying on a rotating committee comprised of unnamed members from within the Alliance.

The Chita Rivera Awards

Presented by the NYC Dance Alliance Foundation, the Chita Rivera Awards celebrate outstanding achievements in dance and choreography across Broadway, Off-Broadway, and film. Originally established in 1982 as the Fred Astaire Awards, the accolade was later renamed the Fred and Adele Astaire Awards. In a tribute to the legendary Tony-winning performer, the awards were renamed eight years ago to honor Chita Rivera.

  • The nominations for the 2024 Chita Rivera Awards will be announced on Monday, April 29, 2024.
  • The 2024 Chita Rivera Awards ceremony will take place on Monday, May 20, 2024.
  • Learn more about the Chita Rivera Awards.

The Del Hughes Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in the Art of Stage Management

The Del Hughes Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in the Art of Stage Management is a prestigious accolade awarded to individuals who have significantly advanced the field of stage management throughout their careers. Named in honor of Del Hughes, a legendary stage manager known for his extensive work on Broadway, the award is bestowed annually by the Stage Managers’ Association. It celebrates the exceptional achievements of stage managers who exhibit remarkable talent, dedication, and innovation in their craft. Recipients of this award are among the most accomplished and respected in the industry, having profoundly impacted the theatrical world with their adept coordination of complex productions and their significant contributions to the art of stage management.


While this guide highlights many of the major theatre awards presented annually, it’s essential to acknowledge that there are many other prestigious theatre awards presented across the country that celebrate exceptional theatre artists. Among these, notable regional theatre awards include The Arizona Theatre Awards of Excellence, The Barrymore Awards for Excellence in Theater, The Big Easy Awards for Excellence in Music, Theater and Classical Arts, The Elliot Norton Awards, The Helen Hayes Award, The Henry Awards, The Joseph Jefferson Awards, The Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award, The NAACP Theatre Awards, The Ovation Awards, and The Suzi Bass Awards. These accolades recognize and honor the diverse and rich contributions to the theatrical landscape throughout various regions.

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