by Sam Maher

There’s a whiplash-inducing amount of awards during the NYC theater season, which is every Spring. You’ve got Off-Broadway’s vastly underrated Lortel Awards, the Obies, the Drama League Awards, the OBA Awards, the OCCs, and then the Drama Desk Awards leading up to the Tonys. The 2018 Tony Award nominations will be announced on Tuesday, May 1 and the Drama Desk nominations are often a forecast of what to expect.

However, there’s plenty of Off-Broadway (and beyond) shows in Drama Desk categories as they celebrate excellence in *all* of NYC theater...which is especially remarkable this year, as the official 2018 Broadway season is generally agreed upon to be quite lackluster. That being said, there are indeed some gems on Broadway this year...and it's great to see the Drama Desks recognizing them.

Ten 2018 Drama Desk Nominations You Should Pay Attention To:

1. Jocelyn Bioh. She was nominated as both a playwright AND as actress! She wrote the superb School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play , which is up for Outstanding Play and she was nominated for her performance in Signature Theatre's In The Blood. NYC theater thrives on artists like Jocelyn Bioh, so it's really exciting to see her celebrated from all angles. Oh, and the entire cast of School Girls was awarded a special Drama Desk Ensemble Award for their portrayals. Good thing it's coming back to NYC this October! Don't sleep on tickets this time.

The cast of Jocelyn Bioh's  School Girls; Or The African Mean Girls Play.  Photo: Joan Marcus

The cast of Jocelyn Bioh's School Girls; Or The African Mean Girls Play. Photo: Joan Marcus

2. Ethan Slater. Ethan is most certainly giving one of the best 55 performances of the season, if not THE best, as our hero in SpongeBob it's very alarming that the Drama League snubbed him by not including him as one of their 55 Distinguished Performance nominations. Doesn't matter, though, because the Drama Desks have him in the Outstanding Actor in a Musical category, and the show itself got 11 nominations total, including a nomination for director Tina Landau. Her direction of SpongeBob will make you full-on believe in magic again, so you can imagine we say YeeeesssssBroadway to Tina's Drama Desk nomination.

Ethan Slater as  SpongeBob SquarePants . Photo: Joan Marcus

Ethan Slater as SpongeBob SquarePants. Photo: Joan Marcus

3. KPOP all over the place. Yas, yas, and more yas to the 7 nominations for this ridiculously good musical (it was #7 in our Top 10 Favorite Theater of 2017 list for a reason!), including Outstanding Director of a Musical for Teddy Bergman. At this point, the show is swimming in so many award nominations that it would be silly for a producer not to pick it up for future life. It was awesome, plain and simple!

Jason Tam in  KPOP . Photo: Ben Arons

Jason Tam in KPOP. Photo: Ben Arons

4. Ashley Park. She was nominated twice and there's a world in which she can WIN twice because she was nominated for Outstanding Actress in a Musical for KPOP and Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical for Mean Girls! There's a reason we put her in our 2018 40 under 40!

Ashley Park (brunette, center)  in  Mean Girls . Photo: Joan Marcus

Ashley Park (brunette, center)  in Mean Girls. Photo: Joan Marcus

5. Miles For Mary. Okay, it's only April...but Miles For Mary is my favorite show of the year so far (I saw SpongeBob last year!). This hilarious Off-Broadway knockout got a nomination for director Lila Neugebauer as well as for Outstanding Play. This show was straight up theatrical electricity and DEFINITELY needs a future life. Ahem, Yes...Broadway?

Miles For Mary.  Photo: The Mad Ones

Miles For Mary. Photo: The Mad Ones

6. Lesli Margherita. I Escaped To Lesli Margheritaville with her because, well, she's just the best! This future sitcom star (she's in LA shooting a pilot as I type!) was nominated for her performance as Cindy Lou Who In Who’s Holiday, for which she was also nominated for a Lortel. Lesson? Cast Lesli Margherita in everything.


7. Kenita R. Miller. Her performance in Once On This Island will invigorate your soul and break your heart at the same time. It's great to see that awards committees are paying attention to her. She's definitely a force to be reckoned with!

Kenita R. Miller in  Once On This Island . Photo: Joan Marcus.

Kenita R. Miller in Once On This Island. Photo: Joan Marcus.

8. Miss You Like Hell. Both 40 Under 40 star Gizel Jimenez and co-star Daphne Rubin-Vega were nominated for their performances in this awesome Off-Broadway musical. And both the music and the book were nominated as well. This one runs through May 13 at the Public Theater, so you still have a chance to see it in all it's Drama Desk-nominated glory!

Gizel Jimenez and Daphne Rubin-Vega in  Miss You Like Hell . Photo: Joan Marcus

Gizel Jimenez and Daphne Rubin-Vega in Miss You Like Hell. Photo: Joan Marcus

9. Juan Castano. Sometimes, there are performers rocking it so hard that you have to skip any sort of nominations and give them a special award. Juan will be awarded the Sam Norkin Award because his "varied performances this season in Oedipus El ReyA Parallelogram, and Transfers not only make a complex statement about American life but also indicate great things to come for this talented performer." I agree...and you will, too, when you see him in action in Transfers, which plays through May 20 at MCC Theater.

Juan Castano in  Transfers . Photo: Joan Marcus

Juan Castano in Transfers. Photo: Joan Marcus

10. James McArdle. Everyone is buzzing about Andrew Garfield and Nathan Lane's performances in Angels in America, and deservedly so, but the sleeper hit performance of the season is James McArdle's deliriously good performance of Louis. Awards categories involving multiple Angels nominations will be close calls as the show excels in just about every single way possible. It's awesome, though, to see James get some recognition for his EXTREMELY good performance just in case the actual awards end up in this hands of his co-stars.

James McArdle in  Angels in America.  Photo: Brinkoff & Mögenburg

James McArdle in Angels in America. Photo: Brinkoff & Mögenburg

Michael Urie will host the 2018 Drama Desk Awards for the third year in a row on June 3 (which is the Sunday before the Tony Awards).