The big winner at Monday's Obie Awards honoring the best of Off Broadway was 29-year-old playwright Annie Baker. Baker's plays Circle Mirror Transformation at Playwrights Horizons and The Aliens at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater both took home awards for Best New American play.
The Obies, which have no set award categories, also honored Sam Gold for his direction of both plays, and the ensemble cast of Circle Mirror Transformation for its performance. A rising star of the theater scene, Baker doesn't seem to be slowing down.
Here are the top 5 things to know about Annie Baker:
1. Baker says that she's going to move away from Shirley, Vermont, but the sleepy Northeastern town seems to keep pulling her back. Baker has set her first three hits in this fiction town, which is home to a small liberal arts college and bears more than a passing resemblance to her hometown of Amherst, Mass.
2. Perhaps because of her small town upbringing, Baker values empathy and earnestness rather than streams of clever repartee. Critics have praised her plays for their naturalism. She recently told TimeOut NY, "The tragedy of bourgeois society is that we're never that funny. People write these plays where everybody onstage is saying what we all would say - days later."
3. At 29, she's just finding her voice. "I'm still figuring out how to write plays," she told The New York Times in January. In Circle Mirror Transformation she mined gems from her experiences in small-town Massachusetts community theater. For the The Aliens she began to experiment with adding music into the texture of her plays.
4. She's found an able collaborator in realizing her words on the stage, director Sam Gold, and the dual Obies for both confirms it. It might help that they both live within a four-block radius in Park Slope and hold design meetings at their local coffee shop.
5. The next item on Baker's slate is Nocturama. The play, Baker's fourth, takes place in Shirley as well, but it strikes a darker note than her previous works. And guess who directed a recent reading of Nocturama at Manhattan Theater Club: Sam Gold.
Baker wasn't the sole award winner on Monday. Playwright Enda Walsh won an Obie for “The New Electric Ballroom,” and the actor and artist David Greenspan took home an award for sustained achievement.