Alana Arenas and Ben Platt


The Actors’ Equity Foundation’s 2016 Clarence Derwent Awards for most promising female and male performers on the New York metropolitan scene have gone to Alana Arenas (Head of Passes) and Ben Platt (Dear Evan Hansen). 


Alana Arenas was recognized for her performance as Cookie in the Public Theater production of Head of Passes (she was awarded the Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Featured Actress). Arenas, an ensemble member of Steppenwolf Theater Company since 2007, has performed regionally in numerous productions, and Off Broadway as well.


“I really want to say thank you to the Actors’ Equity Foundation and our union,” she said. “As an actor, you really appreciate that you have an advocate. I’ve come to really understand that I have accomplished nothing by myself, and I’m so thankful for the people that God has gifted me. To be acknowledged and to receive your vote of confidence, I do not take that lightly.”


Ben Platt was recognized for his performance as Evan in Dear Evan Hansen (Second Stage Theatre). Platt got his start in a national tour of Caroline, or Change at age 11 before snagging the breakout role of Benji in Pitch Perfect. After starring in the national tour of The Book of Mormon, Platt made his Broadway debut as Elder Cunningham in 2014.


“All I ever wanted was to be part of theatre community,” he said, accepting the award. “I hope that I can do good on this promise. I know that this award is for the most promising performer; I will do good on this promise.”


Established in 1945 by Clarence Derwent, distinguished actor and president of Equity from 1946-1952, the award is the oldest on Broadway.  Past recipients include Nina Arianda, Annette Bening, Kristin Chenoweth, Morgan Freeman, Allison Janney, Frances Sternhagen, Christopher Walken, Fritz Weaver and in 2015, Phillipa Soo and Josh Grisetti.

Award winner Ben Platt with Benj Pasek

photo Susan Stripling

Award winner Alana Arenas (center),  flanked by Melissa Robinette, VP Actors Equity Foundation, and Dev Kennedy, AEA Central  Region VP.