For the first time in its storied history, New York City’s annual Obie Awards will consider virtual, digital and audio productions, the event’s organizer, the American Theater Wing, . The move comes in response to the challenges Off- and Off-Off-Broadway artists and groups have had to face through the coronavirus pandemic. Due to some of the strictest lockdown restrictions in the country, many New York theater companies .
“We wanted to make sure that the work that did happen was eligible,” Heather Hitchens, the CEO and president of the American Theater Wing, told . “The Obies respond to the season, and to the evolving nature and rhythms of theater.”
The American Theater Wing hasn’t decided on an exact date for this year’s show, but Hitchens told The Times she expects it will take place sometime in November and involve an in-person presentation. In addition to expanding the mandate of the Obies to honor online productions, judges will consider projects staged between July 1st, 2020 and August 31st, 2022. That's because the most recent Obie Awards took place in 2020. The American Theater Wing is also responsible for the Tony Awards, and 2022 will mark the first year that the organization will have staged the Obies on its own.
It’s hard to say what the future will bring, particularly in the middle of a constantly changing pandemic, but the American Theater Wing’s decision to consider online productions could open the door for the Obies to consider shows staged outside of New York City.