The Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop will receive a special Drama Desk Award "for nurturing, developing and promoting new talent for the musical theater." This prestigious award will be presented to the Workshop during the 2006 Drama Desk Awards ceremony, set for May 21 at LaGuardia Concert Hall at New York's Lincoln Center.
Upon hearing the news, BMI President and CEO Del Bryant said, "We are thrilled to have been selected for this unique honor. It is a recognition that the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop has truly become part of the fabric of Broadway over the past 45 years. The real credit goes to Lehman for his inspiration and vision, and to the many talented composers, lyricists and librettists who have so generously given of their time and passion to nurture generations of emerging talent."
Deemed "the Harvard of musical theatre" by The New York Times, the Workshop was founded in 1961 by BMI, the performing right organization, and the late Lehman Engel, dean of American musical theatre, to create a setting where new writers could learn their craft. It is the birthplace of such classic musicals as A Chorus Line, Nine, Little Shop of Horrors, Beauty and the Beast and current Broadway favorite Avenue Q. The Workshop was also honored with the 2005 Drama League Award for Excellence in Musical Theatre and received the 2004 Broadway Theatre Institute Award for excellence in theatre education.
Tony Award-winning BMI composer Maury Yeston (Nine, Titantic), a longtime moderator of the Workshop who also cut his teeth with Engel, commented, "If you think about it, it may be the greatest impact that any corporation has had on American culture, certainly on the sector of that culture we call musical theater. In addition to its mission of training the next generation of Broadway creators in the art and craft of the musical, it has created a community among these creators. Because of the Workshop, these people know each other, work together and collaborate. The list is truly impressive: Jeff Marx met Bobby Lopez (Avenue Q), Howard Ashman met Alan Menken (Little Shop of Horrors, Beauty and the Beast), Lynn Ahrens met Stephen Flaherty (Ragtime, Once On This Island), and so many other teams. It's a nebula - a place where stars are born - where talent coalesces into new stars, and it's happening today, right now, making future stars."
The Workshop is supervised by BMI's Jean Banks, Senior Director of Musical Theatre, along with Artistic Coordinator Patrick Cook, who heads the Workshop Steering Committee. Other faculty members include Richard Engquist, Frank Evans, Frederick Freyer, Nancy Golladay, Alan Menken, Jane Smulyan, David Spencer and Yeston.
In addition to the special award presented to the Workshop, past and present members were also nominated for Drama Desk Awards, including alumni Michael John LaChiusa (Best Music and Best Lyrics for See What I Wanna See) and Michael Korie (Best Lyrics for Grey Gardens), and current Workshop member Ryan Cunningham for his I Love You Because lyrics.
Hosted by actor Harvey Fierstein for the third consecutive year, the annual Drama Desk Awards honor excellence in theater for Broadway, Off Broadway and Off-Off Broadway during the season. The ceremony will be taped and subsequently broadcast nationwide on PBS stations; in New York, the program will be shown on Thirteen/WNET and on NYC-25 TV. For the fourth year in a row, the awards ceremony will be webcast by TheaterMania.com.