The Drama Desk Awards – the Biggest Adversary of the Tony Awards

The Drama Desk Awards are one of the most important annual awards that recognize theater productions in New York City. The awards are the result of years of hard work and dedication by actors, writers, directors, producers, actors “associations, designers, editors, musicians, composers, choreographers, sound designers, and more. Here are the history and development of the Drama Desk Awards.

The Manhattan Theatre

The history of the Manhattan Theater dates back to the mid-18th century. The theater district in Manhattan is the largest in the United States. There used to be more theaters on Broadway than there are today, more than 1,000 in New York City alone. 

Thomas Kean and Walter Murray were the men behind the Manhattan Theater. it was able to accommodate 280 guests. It was used mainly for plays by William Shakespeare and operas. 


More theaters were built in the area. The manhattan theater fell into disrepair after the American Revolutionary War and then again during World War II. 

The Bowery Theatre was built in 1826. It is where the Blackface Minstrels performed, and the Park Theatre was built in 1798, accommodating up to 2,000 visitors. The Niblo Garden is located on Prince Street near Broadway and offers both musical and non-musical pieces. 

 In the 1840s, P.T. Barnum built a theater in Lower Manhattan. The Astor Theatre was built in 1849 for his son-in-law, the first mayor of New York City, John F. Kennedy. 


At that time there were great divisions between the classes of theatre-goers. It often led to riots, and at times there was a great division of classes among theatre-goers. 

The lower classes often attended a variety of shows at theatres on the Bowery. The middle class attended theatres that performed musicals and other musicals. Upper-class citizens supported cheaper real estate. So Manhattan theaters began to look more like Broadway, like the Astor Theatre, which consisted mainly of opera. 

The development of transport has helped to reduce poverty in the region and has allowed for more cartridges, including for women, as well as better access to health care, education and housing. 


Burlesque shows were introduced along with Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic opera. Soon theatres began displaying white lights and signs, leading to the nickname “The Great White Way.” With the development of cinematic art, the theatre scene continued to grow in the course of the 20th century. 

The Broadway Theatre Company

America was introduced to the world’s first professional theater company, the Broadway Theatre Company. In the late 1970s, a new group of actors, writers, directors, actors, and writers came together to discuss issues related to the theatre industry. 

The group wanted to raise public awareness of theatre and met to discuss and develop strategies for continuing to publicize theatre themes through the media. 

The Vernon Rice Awards

 In 1955, they decided to hold an annual ceremony to honor playwrights, actors, and actresses who performed in lesser-known theaters. The Vernon Rice Awards have renamed the Drama Desk Awards for the 1963-1964 season. They decided to name the prize after Vernon R. Rice, the New York Post’s theater critic who led the coverage of the New York theater scene. 

In 1974, the organization became a non-profit organization and the following year, nominees and winners were announced for the first time. 


The Drama Desk Awards organization has over 100 members, including active members who vote and participate in elections. Members are volunteers and are not paid. The officers and members of the nominating committee meet monthly to discuss which plays should be nominated. 

The organization also sponsors a monthly conference for theater professionals to discuss a variety of topics. The organization hopes to highlight the best in theater, as well as other arts and entertainment in New York City. 


In recent years, the organization has been criticized for focusing more on plays on Broadway. Мembers say they continue to honor the tradition of the Drama Desk Awards and the entire Manhattan theater. Additionally, the annual awards for best play and musical, drama in New York City, there were several categories for nominees, including the Broadway Theatre Awards and the Tony Award for best musical, as well as several other awards.


A virtual version of the Drama Desk Awards aired on Saturday, June 13, and featured a number of prominent actors who won the Desk Drama Award. 

The ceremony, hosted by Frank DiLella and featuring a number of Broadway and Off-Broadway actors and a special guest host, can be seen in full here. The Tina Turner musical won two awards and we can’t wait to see it back in action! The biggest winners of the night were two-time Drama Desk Drama Award winners “Thelma & Louise,” who took home five awards, as well as a $5,000 cash prize and a gold medal for best musical.

Here you can read more on The Tony Awards!

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