George C. Wolfe and Tony Kushnerat the New Dramatists luncheon
(Photo © Michael Portantiere)
George C. Wolfe and Tony Kushner
at the New Dramatists luncheon
(Photo © Michael Portantiere)
Less than 24 hours after winning an OBIE Award, New Dramatists had another reason to celebrate: The organization's 56th Anniversary Spring Luncheon was held today at the Marriot Marquis. The event, during which Tony Award-winning director George C. Wolfe was given New Dramatists' 2005 Career Achievement Award, was attended by more than 600 guests including such luminaries as Christina Applegate, Alec Baldwin, Walter Cronkite, Jim Dale, Ben Gazzara, Kathie Lee Gifford, Bill Irwin, Rita Moreno, Rosie Perez, Marian Seldes, and Barry and Fran Weissler.

Musical tributes to Wolfe, who recently left his position as artistic director of The Public Theater, were performed by Ann Duquesnay (Bring in 'Da Noise, Bring in 'Da Funk) and Chuck Cooper (The Life, Caroline, or Change). Actor Jeffrey Wright thanked Wolfe "for being a director, friend, mentor, mother, and father, not only for me but for many other artists." Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Tony Kushner launched into a hilarious comparison between Wolfe and George W. Bush before turning more serious and thanking Wolfe for his help and kindness when Kushner suffered a severe case of writer's block while working on Angels in America: Perestroika. Said the playwright, "He told me I needed to go on the journey I needed to go on, that it would take however long it would take, and that as my friend and my director, he would protect me."

Wolfe hasn't severed his ties with The Public; he will be directing this summer's Shakespeare in the Park production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. However, he said that he is planning to focus on filmmaking in Hollywood and returning to his roots as a writer.

New Dramatists presented a number of other annual awards this afternoon: the Charles Bowden Award to actors Vanessa Aspillaga, Nancy Giles, Mercedes Herrero, and T. Ryder Smith; the Frederick Loewe Award to the songwriting team of Michael Hollinger and Vance Lehmkuhl; the John Lippman New Frontier Award was given to playwright Julia Cho; and the Joe Callaway Award to playwrights Catherine Filloux and Arlene Hutton. Also, for the second year in a row, the Daryl Roth Creative Spirit Award was presented to the Play Time Project.