56TH ANNUAL DRAMA DESK AWARDS
TO BE TELEVISED NATIONALLY ON OVATION
CREATING LARGE NATIONAL FOOTPRINT FOR THE AWARDS AND ALL OF NEW YORK THEATER
Drama Desk Awards Ceremony To Be Held As Gala Awards Dinner at
NYC’s Hammerstein Ballroom
Harvey Fierstein, Co-Star of La Cage Aux Folles,
To Host Awards Ceremony And Cablecast
New York, NY, February 24, 2011 – The 56th Annual Drama Desk Awards announced a series of major changes designed to enhance the visibility and outreach of the Drama Desk Awards nationwide while, at the same time, creating a large national footprint for all segments of New York theater. The changes include a television broadcast deal with Ovation; moving the awards ceremony from a concert hall to a prestigious ballroom in Midtown Manhattan; presenting the awards at a gala sit-down dinner in an elegant setting, hosted by a major Broadway star; adding musical numbers from nominated New York stage productions; changing the day of the annual Drama Desk Awards from its traditional Sunday time-slot to a Monday night when most Broadway and Off Broadway shows are dark; and adding major media partners. The changes were announced at a news conference held today (Thursday, February 24, 2011) at Inc Lounge in the Time Hotel, 224 West 49th Street, by Robert R. Blume, who has been Executive Producer of the annual Drama Desk Awards since 1999.
Mr. Blume said that the 56th Annual Drama Desk Awards, one of the most prestigious awards in the theater industry, will be held on Monday, May 23, 2011, at 8 PM at a gala sit-down dinner in the spacious Hammerstein Ballroom at the Manhattan Center located at 34th Street and 8th Avenue, a departure from its usual Sunday night celebration held annually since 1999 at the LaGuardia Concert Hall at Lincoln Center. There will be a gala sit-down dinner, prepared by celebrity chefs, during which the awards will be presented to outstanding productions and creative talent for the 2010/2011 season.
The Drama Desk Awards Ceremony will be filmed in HD for a television special that will be given two primetime airings plus four additional national broadcasts on Ovation between June 2 and June 15, 2011.
Harvey Fierstein, co-starring currently in La Cage Aux Folles at the Longacre Theater, will be the host of the awards ceremony and the TV special. The television deal was structured by Mark Stroman, former Senior Vice President, National Promotions, Fox Broadcasting Company, who negotiated on behalf of the Drama Desk Awards. The TV special will be produced by the multi award-winning independent production company Heflin Filmworks (America’s Most Wanted: America Fights Back, Manhunters). Lance Heflin will be the producer of the TV special and Mark Stroman will serve as the TV Executive Producer. Terry Rohnke (Saturday Night Live) will be the television director. Marilyn Munder is the Talent Consultant. Step Forward Entertainment Group Ltd. (Talent Management and Production) is the executive producing company for the Awards; Mr. Blume is managing partner, Princess Rivera serves as Associate Producer for Television Projects and Allison H. Cohen is Staff Administrator.
“This is the most exciting announcement I have made since becoming Executive Producer of the Annual Drama Desk Awards in 1999,” said Robert R. Blume. “In the 13 years since, my team and I have diligently worked to enhance the visibility and importance of the Drama Desk Awards. We have made giant strides in that direction but none bigger than the ones we are announcing here today. We are delighted to welcome television marketing executive Mark Stroman and Lance Heflin of Heflin Filmworks to our team, and we are excited that the Drama Desk Awards will be seen nationally on Ovation.”
Isa Goldberg, the recently elected President of the Drama Desk, said, “We are thrilled to have the honor of celebrating this season with our awards ceremony at the Hammerstein Ballroom, especially with the incomparable Harvey Fierstein as our host. With our media partners, TheaterMania and The Broadway Channel, and the broadcast of our awards on Ovation, we will achieve our aim of furthering the dialogue about theater in New York to audiences all over the nation.”
Kris Slava, SVP, Programming, Ovation, noted, "The Drama Desk Awards has always been a great hidden gem, but this year they have kicked the show into overdrive and it's going to surprise a lot of people. It's the perfect show for the Ovation audience and we are thrilled the Drama Desk has chosen us as its exclusive television media partner."
Mark Stroman, Senior VP at McGee Entertainment, who structured and negotiated the contract between the Drama Desk Awards and Ovation, said, “The Drama Desk Awards/Ovation deal equals Partnership in Success. This deal affords growth and success focused on the brilliance of what the storied history of the Drama Desk Awards affords New York Theater’s biggest, brightest and most creative artists. It is a top priority for Ovation as it continues to celebrate New York Theater’s contributions to culture in America with Off-Broadway, Off-Off-Broadway, and the mainstream Broadway productions that continue to delight millions worldwide. Ovation’s amazing support and celebration of theater is maximized by this new arrangement with the Drama Desk Awards and continues and supports Ovation’s brand strategy for growth in distribution and its support for the arts, like no other network in America.”
It was also announced that TheaterMania.com would be returning as a lead media partner and that The Broadway Channel would coming aboard as a new media sponsor.
“TheaterMania is pleased once again to partner with the Drama Desk Awards in recognition of New York’s finest theater talent on and Off Broadway,” said TheaterMania.com CEO Gretchen Shugart, “This event fits perfectly with our mission to support all theater in this great city and beyond. We look forward to sharing the industry’s excitement in the beautiful Hammerstein Ballroom. We will also provide ticketing services for this industry event through OvationTix and publicize and promote all the excitement, including the red carpet, back stage and event coverage on TheaterMania.com.”
Matthew Hege, Vice President, The Broadway Channel, said, “The Broadway Channel is excited to be a part of this year's Drama Desk Awards. We will have our very own Maribel Aber host her What’s Hot on Broadway show from the Red Carpet at the Hammerstein Ballroom, showcasing all the stars and all the awards glamour. The Broadway Channel will also provide extensive promotional coverage of the Drama Desk Awards and Ovation television special prior to the event and the broadcasts.
Christopher Raphael, veteran Broadway Event Planner, has been retained as Gala Event Producer to oversee the production of special events for the 56th Annual Drama Desk Awards. He will also serve as coordinator between the Drama Desk Awards and Mark Stroman and Heflin Filmworks, creating special events and activities promoting the awards ceremony, seeking branding opportunities for the Drama Desk Awards, and assemble a Gift Giveaway Lounge at the awards ceremony and gala dinner.
Jeff Kalpak, who has directed the awards ceremony for the past 15 seasons, will serve in the same capacity this year for the live event. Lauren Class Schneider, who has produced the Drama Desk Awards for the past 14 years, will return as Consulting Producer. Harvey Fierstein, who, in addition to writing the script for Broadway’s hit musical La Cage aux Folles recently joined the cast of La Cage, which won the Drama Desk Award as “Outstanding Musical Revival” last season, will host the awards ceremony for the fifth time. He previously hosted in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2009. Veteran theater general manager Manny Kladitis will be the general manager of this year’s Drama Desk Awards event.
It was also announced that the Drama Desk Awards has engaged Pitbull Interactive.com, an innovative company headed by David Risley, to create two new interactive websites for the Drama Desk Awards – www.DramaDeskAwards.com and www.DramaDeskAwardsGala.com. The home page on both sites will feature prominent links to the official site for the Drama Desk organization – www.dramadesk.com/org. The new sites will be activated shortly. Pitbull Interactive will also place Drama Desk Awards pages on Facebook, YouTube, FourSquare, Twitter and other viral media outlets.
Mr. Blume also identified other key members of his 2011 team: Les Schecter, who has been associated with Mr. Blume on the Drama Desk Awards since 1999, will continue as an Associate Producer as well as Director of Public Relations and Marketing of the live event. His company, LS Communications, will be responsible for publicizing and marketing the television highlight special on Ovation.
Red Carpet Productions and its principal Renee McCurry join the Drama Desk Awards team as an Associate Producer, along with Joseph Callari, a partner with Mr. Blume and Frank Firorucci in Global Arts, a project of Eightonal Coalition, Inc., the 501(c)3 not-for-profit entity for the Drama Desk Awards.
About The Drama Desk
The Drama Desk was founded in 1949 to explore key issues in the theater and to bring together critics and writers in an organization to support the ongoing development of theater in New York. The organization began presenting its awards in 1955, and it is the only critics organization to honor achievement in the theater with competition between Broadway, Off Broadway and Off-Off Broadway productions in the same categories.
The Board of Directors of the Drama Desk is composed of: Isa Goldberg (Syndicated columnist, Stamford Advocate/Greenwich Times, Albany Times Union, Greater Philadelphia Newspapers, Middletown Times Herald Record and Pocono Record; Contributing columnist, Financial Times and Jerusalem Post), President; Leslie (Hoban) Blake (Contributing Writer, TheaterMania.com; Recurring Guest Critic, Two on the Aisle, MNN), Vice President; Charles Wright (A&E Television Networks; Essayist & Editorial Board member, Best Plays Theater Yearbook (published annually by Limelight Editions), Treasurer & 2nd Vice President; Richard Ridge (Broadway Beat TV), Secretary; Arlene Epstein (Theater critic, arts columnist, South Shore Record/Herald Community Newspapers; LIherald.com; Elysa Gardner (Theater critic, USA Today); Randy Gener (Senior Editor, American Theatre; Founding Critic, New York Theatre Wire; Editorial Board, Critical Stages/Scènes critiques, www.criticalstages.org); John Istel (Free Lance Arts Editor and Writer; Contributing Editor, Best Plays); David Kaufman (Free Lance; Author); Sam Norkin (Free Lance artist; past Drama Desk president); and William Wolf (wolfentertainmentguide.com)
Randie Levine-Miller is Special Events Director for the Drama Desk.
Ovation is the only multi-platform network devoted to arts culture. Ovation gives its viewers access to the artists who define our cultural landscape through its one-of-a-kind mix of hand-picked documentaries, series, movies, and specials. The channel reaches a national audience of 43 million households through carriage on cable systems, DirecTV (channel 274), Dish Network (channel 157) and Telco systems nationally. Ovation is also available in HD and VOD (both in standard and high definition). Ovation extends its linear channel experience for viewers online via its popular website, www.ovationtv.com. In addition to offering contests, trivia, facts and supplemental video online, the network has created an award-winning online community (www.ovationtv.com/community) for everyone from passionate artists to curious creatives who want to share their work and their thoughts. To date, over 150,000 pieces of original art have been uploaded to the site by members.
About Heflin Filmworks (LHeflin)
LHeflin is the brainchild of award-winning executive producer Lance Heflin who brought his talent, experience and passion for justice to America’s Most Wanted: America Fights Back. Under Heflin’s direction, AMW has been responsible for the capture of more than 1,000 fugitives around the world, including 17 of the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Criminals. In 1995, Heflin co-founded an independent production company, Straight Shooter Productions where he created the internationally syndicated show Manhunter as well as the nationally syndicated program America’s Most Wanted: Final Justice. Before arriving at AMW, Heflin worked on various CBS news programs, including Sunday Morning, CBS Evening News and 48 Hours. He received four Emmy Awards during his term there. He worked in Miami as an investigative reporter for WPLG-TV, twice winning the prestigious Dupont-Columbia Award for Excellence in Broadcast Journalism, and is a two-time winner of the Robert F. Kennedy award.
For over ten years, TheaterMania.com has connected the theater community to the public as the leading online resource for consumers to find shows, save money, and buy tickets to over 4,500 shows nationwide. TheaterMania.com publishes comprehensive show listings, editorial content, and video coverage for over 40 markets and widely distributes free email newsletters and special offers. In addition, TheaterMania.com offers online marketing programs for performing arts organizations, and provides technology to power ticketing, fundraising, and CRM through its proprietary software, OvationTix.
The Broadway Channel
The Broadway Channel is a full-service multimedia company that produces and distributes video and television programming for Broadway, Off-Broadway, Broadway on Tour, Las Vegas, Performing Art Centers and Regional Theatres nationwide. The Broadway Channel family of programming includes Broadway Previews, OFF, Broadway on Tour, Broadway Profiles and What’s Hot on Broadway. The Broadway Channel’s digital network provides daily programming on a dedicated channel into over 36,000 Manhattan hotel rooms. The Broadway Channel network airs theatrical programming into many media outlets including TIVO, YouTube, Sprint TV, Apple’s iTunes, Dishonline and JetBlue Airways.