By AARON KRAUSE
He is entering his 50th and final season as TheatreWorks Silicon Valley’s Artistic Director and has garnered many awards for his work with the Bay Area company.
And to top off Robert Kelley’s five decades at its helm, one of the longest of any professional regional theater, the founding artistic director recently learned that TheatreWorks will receive the 2019 Regional Theatre Tony Award.
The American Theatre Critics Association (www.americantheatrecritics.org) annually recommends a company for the prestigious honor, which comes with a $25,000 grant. Based on the association’s recommendation, the Tony Awards Administration Committee selected TheatreWorks for the award.
In a joint statement, Charlotte St. Martin and Heather Hitchens, presidents of The Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing, respectively, said: “We are thrilled to present the 2019 Regional Theatre Tony Award to TheatreWorks Silicon Valley. The work they produce celebrates the human spirit, they have helped develop hundreds of vibrant new plays and musicals that are now being performed in theaters across America, and they have pioneered education programs that inspire thousands of students each year, creating future generations of creative artists and enthusiastic audiences.”
For his part, Kelley hailed the honor as “a testament to the passion and imaginative spirit of the artists whose work has been presented on TheatreWorks’ stages.
“There is a joy here, a warmth to the creative process that many have found inspiring. For me, that joy has been worth a lifetime. We dedicate this award to the many thousands of brilliant theatre artists and fiercely committed staff, trustees, and community supporters who have shared our work for half a century.”
During that time, TheatreWorks Silicon Valley has developed and presented 69 world premieres (with the 70th coming up this season) by new and veteran artists. In addition, the company has mounted 167 regional premieres and hundreds of works developed through TheatreWorks’ New Works Initiatives.
For instance, the company’s New Works Festival and Writers’ Retreat programs attract nationally renowned authors and composers. They have included Rajiv Joseph, Stephen Schwartz, Beth Henley, Paul Gordon, Marsha Norman, Henry Krieger, Duncan Sheik, Jules Feiffer, Joe DiPietro, and Andrew Lippa.
Meanwhile, TheatreWorks has “developed scores of works which have gone on to regional, Off-Broadway, and Broadway productions,” according to a press release.
Also, the company offers programs which reach about 25,000 students annually with in-class workshops, student matinees, summer camps, the Young Playwrights Project, and the “Oskar” school tour. It addresses issues such as bullying, stress and inclusion. In addition, the Children’s Healing Project at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital serves children in long-term care and their siblings, while a newly-piloted theater program serves children at Ronald McDonald House.
Kelley founded TheatreWorks Silicon Valley in 1970. It has “become one of the nation’s leaders in cultivating and producing new musicals and plays,” according to press material.
On its website, https://theatreworks.org, the company describes its mission as celebrating “the human spirit through innovative productions, new works, and education programs inspired by and engaging our diverse Silicon Valley community.”
The company is one of California’s largest theaters, with 40 permanent staff members, a 30-member Board of Trustees, more than 8,000 subscribers, and an annual budget of $8 million.
And with its the 2019 Regional Theatre Tony Award, TheatreWorks joins the following previous recipients of the honor:
2018: La Mama Experimental Theatre Club — New York, N.Y.
2017: Dallas Theater Center
2016: Paper Mill Playhouse – Milburn, N.J.
2015: Cleveland Play House
2014: Signature Theatre Company – New York, N.Y.
2013: Huntington Theatre Company – Boston, Mass.
2012: Shakespeare Theatre Company – Washington, D.C.
2011: Lookingglass Theatre Company – Chicago
2010: Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center – Waterford, Conn.
The American Theatre Wing’s 73rd Annual Tony Awards, hosted by James Corden, will air on the CBS Television Network from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday, June 9, live from Radio City Music Hall in New York City. The Tony Awards honor theater professionals for distinguished achievement on Broadway.
You can find a list of all the nominees in each category here.