In 1956, Village Voice editor Jerry Tallmer decided that there needed to be an award to honor and encourage the talent operating on the "fringes" of Broadway. And so the Obie Awards were established to recognize performers and shows Off and Off-Off Broadway.

The 47th annual Village Voice Obie Awards are to be given out on Monday, May 20 at 8pm. Just to prove how hip the Obies are, the ceremony will be held at one of the Village's most celebrated clubs: Webster Hall. Among the theater luminaries scheduled to present awards are Rinde Eckert, Elizabeth Franz, Ellen McLaughlin, Richard Maxwell, Mary-Louise Parker, Suzan-Lori Parks, Ching Valdes-Aran, and George C. Wolfe. There will be performances by The Builders Association and Antony And The Johnsons.

As compared to the traditional competitive structure of most awards, the Obie categories are more informal, with the purpose of recognizing all of the people and productions that have distinguished themselves during a particular season. Past winners include many fledgling artists who went on to attain world reknown, such as Dustin Hoffman, Meryl Streep, James Earl Jones, and Edward Albee.

The Obies award not only recognition but also grant money to deserving theater groups in financial need. The Vineyard Theater, Dixon Place, and Theater for a New Audience have all benefited from this assistance in the past.

For the first time ever, the ceremony will be broadcast live on WBAI Radio 99.5 this year.