The Drama Desk Awards are presented annually and were first awarded in 1955 to recognize excellence in New York theatre productions on Broadway, Off-Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway. Broadway productions were excluded until the 1968–69 award season.

The awards are considered a significant American theatre distinction.


The Drama Desk organization was formed in 1949 by a group of New York theater critics, editors, reporters and publishers, in order to make the public aware of the vital issues concerning the theatrical industry. They debuted the presentations of the Vernon Rice Awards. The name honors the New York Post critic Vernon Rice, who had pioneered Off-Broadway coverage in the New York press. The name was changed for the 1963–1964 awards season to the Drama Desk Awards.

In 1974, the Drama Desk became incorporated as a not-for-profit organization. In 1975, the Drama Desk announcement of winners included the nominees as well.

The Drama Desk has more than 100 members, including theatre critics, reporters and editors who cover New York theater and vote on the awards. Membership consists of two categories: active (voting) membership and participating membership.

All of the Drama Desk officers and nominating committee members perform their various services for the organization on a voluntary basis. The nominating committee generally meets twice a month to discuss the many eligible shows members are responsible for seeing. They then nominate the productions on which the entire membership will vote. What sets the organization apart is that the awards are voted on "by media people only without any vested interests in the results", according to the organization.

Previous winners include Bernadette Peters, Dustin Hoffman, Al Pacino, and Catherine Zeta-Jones, among many others.

The Drama Desk Awards have contributed to the ongoing success of major stars, playwrights and designers, while also identifying newcomers. The Drama Desk was the first New York theater organization to give awards to talents such as Edward Albee, Wendy Wasserstein, and George C. Scott. Plays like Driving Miss Daisy, Other People's Money, Steel Magnolias, and The Boys in the Band built momentum with the help of Drama Desk wins.

In keeping with its original mission, the organization sponsors guest panel luncheons with theater professionals. Panels address topics of current interest: covering the season on Broadway, Off-Broadway, and Off-Off-Broadway, with the aim of prompting informative and stimulating discussion.

Award Catagories[]

Performance Categories[]

  • Outstanding Actress in a Play
  • Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play
  • Outstanding Actress in a Musical
  • Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical
  • Outstanding Actor in a Play
  • Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play
  • Outstanding Actor in a Musical
  • Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical
  • Outstanding Solo Performance

Show and Technical Categories[]

  • Outstanding Musical
  • Outstanding Revival of a Musical
  • Outstanding Director of a Musical
  • Outstanding Book of a Musical
  • Outstanding Music
  • Outstanding Music in a Play
  • Outstanding Lyrics
  • Outstanding Orchestrations
  • Outstanding Choreography
  • Outstanding Scenic Design of a Musical
  • Outstanding Lighting Design for a Musical
  • Outstanding Sound Design in a Musical
  • Outstanding Play
  • Outstanding Revival of a Play
  • Outstanding Director of a Play
  • Outstanding Scenic Design of a Play
  • Outstanding Costume Design
  • Outstanding Lighting Design for a Play
  • Outstanding Sound Design in a Play
  • Unique Theatrical Experience
  • Outstanding Revue
  • Outstanding Projection Design

Special Awards[]

  • Drama Desk Special Award
  • Best Ensemble