Awards History

Audra McDonald Receives Drama League Award against a purple curtain


Distinguished Performance Award

Originally known as the Delia Austrian Medal, the Distinguished Performance Award is the oldest and most exclusive theatrical honor in North America. First presented to Katharine Cornell in 1935, the Award is bestowed each season on a single performer from dozens of nominees chosen from the season’s Broadway and Off-Broadway productions.

2023 Annaleigh Ashford
2022 Sutton Foster
2021 No Award Given
2020 Danny Burstein
2019 Bryan Cranston
2018 Glenda Jackson
2017 Ben Platt
2016 Lin-Manuel Miranda
2015 Chita Rivera
2014 Neil Patrick Harris 
2013 Nathan Lane
2012 Audra McDonald
2011 Mark Rylance
2010 Alfred Molina
2009 Geoffrey Rush
2008 Patti LuPone
2007 Liev Schreiber
2006 Christine Ebersole
2005 Norbert Leo Butz
2004 Hugh Jackman
2003 Harvey Fierstein
2002 Liam Neeson
2001 Mary-Louise Parker and Gary Sinise
2000 Eileen Heckart
1999 Kathleen Chalfant
1998 Brian Stokes Mitchell
1997 Charles Durning and Bebe Neuwirth
1996 Uta Hagen
1995 Cherry Jones
1994 Sam Waterston
1993 Stephen Rea
1992 Glenn Close
1991 Stockard Channing
1990 Robert Morse
1989 Pauline Collins
1988 John Lithgow
1987 James Earl Jones
1986 Bernadette Peters
1985 Sir Derek Jacobi
1984 Jeremy Irons
1983 Kate Nelligan and Edward Herrmann
1982 Milo O’Shea
1981 Sir Ian McKellen
1980 Roy Scheider
1979 Frances Sternhagen
1978 Frank Langella
1977 Tom Courtenay
1976 Eva Le Gallienne
1975 John Wood
1974 Christopher Plummer
1973 Sir Alan Bates
1972 Dame Eileen Atkins and Claire Bloom
1971 Sir Anthony Quayle
1970 James Stewart
1969 Alec McCowen
1968 Zoe Caldwell
1967 Rosemary Harris
1966 Richard Kiley
1965 Sir John Gielgud
1964 Sir Alec Guinness
1963 Charles Boyer
1962 Paul Scofield
1961 Hume Cronyn
1960 Jessica Tandy
1959 Cyril Ritchard
1958 Ralph Bellamy
1957 Eli Wallach
1956 David Wayne
1955 Viveca Lindfors
1954 Josephine Hull
1953 Shirley Booth
1952 Julie Harris
1951 Claude Rains
1950 Grace George
1949 Robert Morley
1948 Dame Judith Anderson
1947 Ingrid Bergman
1946 Louis Calhern
1945 Mady Christians
1944 Lynn Fontanne
1943 Alfred Lunt
1942 Judith Evelyn
1941 Paul Lukas
1940 Paul Muni
1939 Raymond Massey
1938 Sir Cedric Hardwicke
1937 Maurice Evans
1936 Helen Hayes
1935 Katharine Cornell

Outstanding Production of a Play

First bestowed in 1996, the Outstanding Production of a Play Award recognizes a full production. 

Outstanding Production of a Musical

First bestowed in 1996, the Outstanding Production of a Musical Award recognizes a full production. 

Outstanding Revival of a Play and Outstanding Revival of a Musical

First bestowed in 1996, the Outstanding Revival Award now recognizes a full production of a Musical and a Play. 

2022 Musical: Into The Woods Play: A Doll’s House
2022 Musical: Company Play: Take Me Out
2021 No Award Given
2020 Musical:¬†Little Shop of Horrors Play:¬†A Soldier’s Play
2019 Musical: Kiss Me, Kate Play: The Waverly Gallery
2018 Musical: My Fair Lady Play: Angels In America
2017 Musical: Hello, Dolly! Play: Jitney
2016 Musical: The Color Purple Play: A View From The Bridge
2015 Musical:¬†The King and I Play:¬†You Can’t Take It With You¬†
2014 Musical: Hedwig and the Angry Inch Play: The Glass Menagerie 
2013 Musical:¬†Pippin¬† Play:¬†Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
2012 Musical: Follies Play: Death of a Salesman
2011 Musical: Anything Goes Play: The Normal Heart
2010 Musical: La Cage Aux Folles Play: A View From The Bridge
2009 Musical: Hair, The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical Play: Blithe Spirit 
2008 Musical: South Pacific Play: Macbeth 
2007 Musical:¬†Company Play:¬†Journey’s End
2006 Musical: Sweeney Todd Play: Awake and Sing!
2005 Musical: La Cage Aux Folles Play: Twelve Angry Men
2004 Musical: Assassins Play: Henry IV
2003 A Day In The Death of Joe Egg
2002 The Crucible
2001 One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest
2000 Kiss Me, Kate
1999 Death of a Salesman
1998 Cabaret
1997 Chicago
1996 A Delicate Balance

Outstanding Direction of a Play

In 2022, The Drama League first presented competitive awards for direction, to more fully illuminate its mission as the nation’s preeminent career development home for directors.

2023 Anne Kauffman, The Sign In Sidney Brustein’s Window
2022 Kate Whoriskey, Clyde’s

Outstanding Direction of a Musical

In 2022, The Drama League first presented competitive awards for direction, to more fully illuminate its mission as the nation’s preeminent career development home for directors.

2023 Lear deBessonet, Into The Woods
2022 Marianne Elliott, Company

Founders Award for Excellence in Directing

In 2000, the Drama League intensified its educational focus on the art and craft of theatrical direction, creating a new award to honor the lifetime achievements of directors.

Distinguished Achievement in Musical Theater

First bestowed in 1985, the Distinguished Achievement in Musical Theatre recognizes performers, composers, lyricists, choreographers, and directors whose careers have defined the utmost standard of excellence in musicals.

Contribution to the Theater Award

First bestowed in 1982, the Contribution to the Theatre Award recognizes singular achievement by individuals, organizations, or partnerships that have made an indelible impact upon professional theatre in New York City.

2023 The Drama Book Shop
2022 Billy Crystal
2021 The Entertainment Community Fund
2020 Terrence McNally
2019 Taylor Mac
2018 The National Endowment for the Arts
2017 William Berloni
2016 Deaf West Theatre
2015 WNET: Neal Shapiro and David Horn
2014 Key Brand Entertainment/Broadway Across America: John Gore
2013 Madison Square Garden Entertainment & The Rockettes
2012 Rosie O’Donnell
2011 Whoopi Goldberg
2010 Macy’s Parade and Entertainment Group
2009 Dame Angela Lansbury
2008 La MaMa ETC: Ellen Stewart
2007 Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS
2006 Marian Seldes
2005 The Billy Rose Collection
2004 City Center Encores!
2003 Roundabout Theatre Company: Todd Haimes
2002 Julia Hansen
2001 Steppenwolf Theatre Company: Terry Kinney, Jeff Perry, Gary Sinise
2000 Actors Theatre of Louisville: Jon Jory
1999 Sir David Hare
1998 The Brooklyn Academy of Music: Harvey Lichtenstein
1997 Jason Robards
1996 The 42nd Street Development Project; The New 42nd Street; The Walt Disney Company, Inc; Livent, Inc.
1995 Manhattan Theatre Club: Lynne Meadow and Barry Grove
1994 Arthur Miller
1993 Lucille Lortel
1992 Playwrights Horizons
1991 Neil Simon
1990 Sir Rex Harrison
1989 New York Shakespeare Festival: Joseph Papp
1988 Yale School of Drama/Yale Repertory Theatre: Lloyd Richards
1987 Jose Quintero
1986 Athol Fugard
1985 The Royal Shakespeare Company: Terry Hands
1984 Al Hirschfeld
1983 Young Playwrights Festival: Stephen Sondheim
1982 New York Production of Nicholas Nickelby: Bernard Jacobs, Gerald Schoenfeld, James M. Nederlander, Elizabeth I. McCann, Nelle Nugent

The Gratitude Award

After 2020, the Gratitude Award became an official award to thank undersung heroes of the New York theater community. 

Unique Awards for 2021

Due to the COVID-19 restrictions, The Drama League honored digital and socially-distanced productions with a distinct set of awards. 

Outstanding Digital Theater,
Individual Production

The Great Work Begins: Scenes from Angels in America

Outstanding Digital Theater,
Collection or Festival

Theater in Quarantine

Outstanding Interactive or
Socially-Distanced Theater

7 Deadly Sins

Outstanding Audio Theater

Chonburi International Hotel and Butterfly Club

Outstanding Digital Concert 

Take Me to the World: A Sondheim 90th Birthday Celebration