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.

2024Sarah Paulson
2023Annaleigh Ashford
2022Sutton Foster
2021No Award Given
2020Danny Burstein
2019Bryan Cranston
2018Glenda Jackson
2017Ben Platt
2016Lin-Manuel Miranda
2015Chita Rivera
2014Neil Patrick Harris 
2013Nathan Lane
2012Audra McDonald
2011Sir Mark Rylance
2010Alfred Molina
2009Geoffrey Rush
2008Patti LuPone
2007Liev Schreiber
2006Christine Ebersole
2005Norbert Leo Butz
2004Hugh Jackman
2003Harvey Fierstein
2002Liam Neeson
2001Mary-Louise Parker and Gary Sinise
2000Eileen Heckart
1999Kathleen Chalfant
1998Brian Stokes Mitchell
1997Charles Durning and Bebe Neuwirth
1996Uta Hagen
1995Cherry Jones
1994Sam Waterston
1993Stephen Rea
1992Glenn Close
1991Stockard Channing
1990Robert Morse
1989Pauline Collins
1988John Lithgow
1987James Earl Jones
1986Bernadette Peters
1985Sir Derek Jacobi
1984Jeremy Irons
1983Kate Nelligan and Edward Herrmann
1982Milo O’Shea
1981Sir Ian McKellen
1980Roy Scheider
1979Frances Sternhagen
1978Frank Langella
1977Sir Tom Courtenay
1976Eva Le Gallienne
1975John Wood
1974Christopher Plummer
1973Sir Alan Bates
1972Dame Eileen Atkins and Claire Bloom
1971Sir Anthony Quayle
1970James Stewart
1969Alec McCowen
1968Zoe Caldwell
1967Rosemary Harris
1966Richard Kiley
1965Sir John Gielgud
1964Sir Alec Guinness
1963Charles Boyer
1962Paul Scofield
1961Hume Cronyn
1960Jessica Tandy
1959Cyril Ritchard
1958Ralph Bellamy
1957Eli Wallach
1956David Wayne
1955Viveca Lindfors
1954Josephine Hull
1953Shirley Booth
1952Julie Harris
1951Claude Rains
1950Grace George
1949Robert Morley
1948Dame Judith Anderson
1947Ingrid Bergman
1946Louis Calhern
1945Mady Christians
1944Lynn Fontanne
1943Alfred Lunt
1942Judith Evelyn
1941Paul Lukas
1940Paul Muni
1939Raymond Massey
1938Sir Cedric Hardwicke
1937Maurice Evans
1936Helen Hayes
1935Katharine 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. 

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.

2024 Daniel Aukin, Stereophonic
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.

2024 Maria Friedman, Merrily We Roll Along
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.

2024 Jessica Lange
2023 The Drama Book Shop: Thomas Kail, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Jeffrey Seller, and James L. Nederlander
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