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The Drama Desk Awards: A Lunch Interview

- Backstage with the Playwrights

Drama Desk Awards
Lunch Interview with:
William Wolf, President, Drama Desk
William Wolf Features, Inc.
Robert R. Blume, President, Blume Media Group
Producer, Drama Desk Awards
Les Schecter, President, LS Public Relations
Assoc. Producer/Publicist, Drama Desk Awards
(Drama Desk Awards Website)

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
August 6, 2008

(See 53rd Drama Desk Awards 2008)
(See Post-Drama Desk Awards Reception)

I caught up with William Wolf, Drama Desk President, Robert R. Blume, Drama Desk Awards Producer, and Les Schecter, Drama Desk Awards Associate Producer and Publicist, for a lunch interview about the Drama Desk Awards.

REZ: What fascinates me the most about the Drama Desk Awards is the fact that Off-Broadway and Off-Off Broadway shows are eligible in all the same categories as are the Broadway shows.

WW: Yes, there are no separate Awards. The philosophy behind this is that theatre is theatre, and one should not differentiate.

REZ: William, how did you arrive at this point, through the theatre community, as the President of the Drama Desk?

WW: I wrote on theatre and film for many years and joined Drama Desk in the 1960’s. I wrote film reviews for Cue Magazine then and for syndicated entertainment groups. Now I own my own syndicated company, Wolf Entertainment Guide.

REZ: And Robert, I understand you’ve been producing the Drama Desk Awards for many years.

RRB: Yes, this is my 10th year producing the Drama Desk Awards, since 1999. My philosophy is to make the Drama Desk Awards impressive, but also like a home for the theatre family. Whether the theatre is downtown or uptown, the theatre community is communal. I wait until the nominations are announced, because nobody knows prior to that, who the nominees will be. Then I can book presenters from that list. Plus, I have to wait for the musicals to be nominated to book the musical numbers. I can also book a non-nominee to be the host entertainer. This year the Drama Desk Awards lasted about two and one quarter hours. Last year the show went on for three hours, too long.

Also, I make all the arrangements for the Before-Party and After-Party, for the night of the Awards.

WW: The Drama Desk Awards are very stable and have existed for a long time. They were founded in 1949, and the Awards were presented since 1955, when they were called the Vernon Rice Awards, after the theatre critic of the “New York Post” and former President of Drama Desk. The public is aware of our high standards, as we take everything into consideration in our Award choices.

RRB: We’ve been having the Award ceremonies at La Guardia High School since 1999, and we collaborate with Les, who has worked extensively with Lincoln Center.

LS: La Guardia High School was once called High School of Music and Art. It’s now part of Lincoln Center, and this great theatre is also used by many organizations. One of the features of Drama Desk Awards, is that we give scholarships to graduating seniors, who will go on to musical or dramatic theatre study. The High School chooses the winners, and we offer two awards at $2500 each. There are other scholarships donated by our members, such as a “Shining Star” Award. Sometimes our scholarship presenters are actors whose own children are attending La Guardia, like Sandy Duncan.

REZ: So, I was wondering, what was the funniest thing that has happened at a Drama Desk Award ceremony?

WW: One year, Harvey Fierstein (“Hairspray”) and Antonio Banderas (“Nine”) shared an award for best actor in a musical. Harvey stood behind Antonio, who was tiny in comparison, and made some funny gestures. Then, at the end, Harvey lifted Antonio and carried him off.

By the way, we also give Ensemble Awards, like this year’s Awards to “The Dining Room” and “The Homecoming”. Also, if we give an Award to a show when it’s Off-Broadway, then it’s not eligible again for an Award, when it arrives on Broadway. But, if there’s a new leading actor, or supporting role, that person becomes newly eligible, as that’s a new element.

REZ: Do you hear from the winners, about how the Award has spurred them to more success?

WW: We heard from Laura Benanti, who said she was thrilled to be honored.

REZ: How do you arrange seating for all the guests of the nominees?

RRB: We try to make room for the families of nominees. We know it’s important to the nominees.

REZ: Les, what was your road to the Drama Desk events, through your publicity channels?

LS: I’ve done bi-coastal marketing for television series, PBS, ABC News, Miss Universe, Nature shows, and many Broadway shows, as well.

REZ: Robert, what’s coming up, via your Media Group?

RRB: Watch for the Lunar New Year!

REZ: Thanks so much for joining me today. This was a pleasure.

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For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at