The Drama League Awards, created in 1922, honor distinguished productions and performances both on Broadway and Off-Broadway, in addition to recognizing exemplary career achievements in theatre, musical theatre, and directing. Each May, the awards are presented by The Drama League at the Annual Awards Luncheon with performers, directors, producers, and Drama League members in attendance. The Drama League membership comprises the entire theater community, including award-winning actors, designers, directors, playwrights, producers, industry veterans, critics and theater-going audiences from across the U.S.
The Drama League Awards are the oldest awards honoring theater in North America. The awards were established in 1922, and formalized in 1935. Katharine Cornell was the recipient of the first award in 1935, for Distinguished Performance. Seven competitive awards are presented: Outstanding Production of a Play, Outstanding Production of a Musical, Outstanding Revival of a Play, Outstanding Revival of a Musical, the Distinguished Performance Award, and, as of 2022, Outstanding Direction of a Play and Outstanding Direction of a Musical. The Distinguished Performance Award is presented to one performer every year, and the recipient can only receive the award once in his or her career. The Drama League also bestow three special honors at the awards ceremony: Distinguished Achievement in Musical Theater, Unique Contribution to the Theater, and The Founders Award for Excellence in Directing. The award statues are designed by New York firm Society Awards.
Additionally, an honorary award may be given in the following categories:
The Distinguished Performer Award was first presented in 1935, to Katharine Cornell for Romeo and Juliet. The first recipient of the Founders Award for Excellence in Directing was Daniel J. Sullivan in 2000. Actor Yul Brynner was the first recipient of the Distinguished Achievement in Musical Theatre award in 1985. The Unique Contribution to the Theatre Award was first bestowed in 1982 to the New York Production of Nicholas Nickelby: Bernard Jacobs, Gerald Schoenfeld, James M. Nederlander, Elizabeth McCann, and Nelle Nugent.
List of winners, 1935 through 2014.