Two School of the Arts Alumni Win Obie Awards

BY Jane Marchant, May 25, 2016

Two School of the Arts Theatre alumni were named winners at the 2016 Obie Awards in May: Rachel Chavkin (Directing, ’08) and Maha Chehlaoui (Acting, ’99).

Chavkin received a Direction Obie for The Royale, a play about an African-American boxer set deep in the midst of Jim Crow in 1905, and produced at the Lincoln Center Theater/Newhouse Theater. This is the third Obie Award for the Drama Desk and Lucille Lortel Award nominated director, writer, dramaturg, and Artistic Director of TEAM. Since its founding in 2004, Chavkin has directed/co-authored all of the TEAM’s work, includingRoosevElvis (which completed a sold-out run as part of PS122’s COIL Festival), and Mission Drift, created by the company (which also saw a sold-out run at London’s National Theatre).

Winning an Obie Grant for her leadership of Noor Theater, Founding Executive Director Chehlaoui brings almost 15 years of experience producing, directing and performing in New York's Middle Eastern community. Considered by many a founder of and driving force behind the creation of today's cohesive Arab-American performing arts community, she is a skilled leader and communicator that has led many projects to successful completion, including Nibras' Sajjil: Record, the hit play Live! With Pascale and Chantal, several New York Arab-American Comedy Festival events, and more.

“We are really proud and thrilled to have been awarded,” explains a statement on Noor’s website. “We share this award with our incredible community of artists. Thank you for your generosity and talent - you are the reason we exist. And to our supporters and audience members - thank you for cheering us along and showing up to our work.” The $4,000 prize will help Noor continue its mission to create a theater space “where people can talk, and understanding can grow.”

Founded by the Village Voice newspaper sixty-one years ago, the Obies recognize excellence in Off-Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway productions. The honors are designed to have flexible categories with multiple winners, if necessary, so that every person and production the judges consider as deserving of an award can get one.

"The categories for the awards change almost annually, but the spirit remains the same," the awards organization said in a statement on its website. "The Obie Awards continue to salute a theatrical movement that's as important, vibrant, and dynamic as it was in 1955."

The 2016 OBIE Awards judging panel was led by longtime OBIE Committee Chairman Michael Feingold and included Obie-winning actress Quincy Tyler Bernstine, Obie-winning director Oliver Butler, Obie-winning costume designer Clint Ramos, Obie-winning actress Juliet Rylance, Variety senior critic Marilyn Stasio, and theatre critic Michael Sommers.  

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