Joel Markowitz is a man passionately in love with theatre, its audiences and its artists. He has played a major role in the DC area theatre scene for more than 25 years. He founded the Ushers Theatre Group, played a crucial early role in DC Theatre Scene, and Maryland Theatre Guide, and founded and currently serves as publisher and editor of DC Metro Theater Arts.
On Monday, May 1, 2017, he will receive a special lifetime Gary Maker Award in a honor of his work at MetroStage in Alexandria, VA.
Markowitz’s award will be the finale of a gala cabaret hosted by MetroStage and organized by MetroStage Artistic Director Carolyn Griffin. Michael J. Bobbitt will be master of ceremonies; the entertainers have yet to be announced. Afterward, MetroStage will host a reception in the lobby, giving audiences a chance to visit with Joel.
The Maker Award, named after one of DC theater’s most enthusiastic and faithful audience members, goes annually to a member of the DC audience whose support of theater goes far beyond ordinary measures. Past winners include David Tannous, Alison Drucker and Tom Holtzman, Linda Bryce, Barbara Bear, David Kessler and Lisa Carr.
Under Maker Award rules, theater journalists are ineligible for the award. However, the Award Committee, made up of past winners as well as close friends of Gary Maker, elected to override the rule in order to bestow this lifetime award on Markowitz. “There’s no doubt that if Joel had done nothing but his work in organizing and running the Ushers, he would have been an early Gary Maker Award winner,” said Maker Committee Chair Lorraine Treanor.
Markowitz founded The Ushers, a DC theatergoing collective, in 1991. Originally, it was, as Markowitz put it, “an organization of friends helping friends.” They dined together; they partied together during the holidays; but mostly they went to theater. “Our goal was to help the little guy out – the little theater,” Joel said in a 2006 interview with DC Theatre Scene. “And we do help the little theaters get attention. We’ll volunteer to usher and we’ll get the word out when there’s a good show.” Eventually, he said, 500 people became “core members” of The Ushers.
Markowitz joined DCTS shortly after that interview, and, along with Ronnie Ruff and Lorraine Treanor helped to get this theater journal off the ground. Joel recruited some of DCTS’ early writers, including Rosalind Lacy and Steven McKnight, who continue to write for DCTS. Beginning with his column “Theatre Schmooze” he became a prolific writer, conducting hundreds of interviews.
After five years with DCTS, Joel left to help the fledgling Maryland Theatre Guide get off the ground. With Maryland Theatre Guide, Joel assumed editorial control and brought much of the initial staff on board. He also instituted some of the site’s regular features, including its “Quick 5” questions with significant theatre artists.
After a year with Maryland Theatre Guide, Joel, working with his brother Bruce Markowitz, decided to strike out on his own. They founded DC Metro Theater Arts, a broadly-based organization which covers professional and community theater, concerts and performing arts in DC, Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York.
Recently, Joel announced that he has Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), a very serious illness, characterized by the death of neurons which control voluntary muscles. A GoFundMe campaign is underway to raise money for the considerable medical expenses he is facing.
Tickets to the Joel Markowitz cabaret and award ceremony are available on a Pay What You Wish basis (minimum suggested donation of $25) all of which will go to a Go Fund Me campaign to help Joel fight this disease.