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66th Drama Desk Awards Shines Light On Brilliant Black Theatre Actors & Creatives

ES Staff  |  Stage Scoop

The Drama Desk has always been an inclusive organization, and this practice is still present today. Renee Elise Goldsberry served as the event's host, and the intimate setting at Sardi's fostered a sense of theatrical community and love.

Everyone who saw Ruben Santiago-Hudson in his autobiographical play Lackawanna Blues loved seeing him win best actor in a play. He said, "I just wanted to say thank you to Nanny and all the women of color who are the backbone of our communities but seldom get recognized. Everyone has someone in their lives that just gives everything they have and asks for nothing in return, and I don't want people to forget about her or that person. In the most difficult moments I witnessed, I said let me show some love because the people needed it. I presented this play to encourage people to band together and support one another."

The prize for best actress in a play went to Phylicia Rashad for Skeleton Crew, and she deservedly won. Jaquel Spivey won outstanding actor in a musical for A Strange Loop. For the musical Paradise Square, Joaquina Kalukango got the award for finest actress. "I've always loved to tell stories, ever since I can remember," a visibly moved Kalukango added. She added that was worried because this was her first time serving as a musical director. She expressed gratitude to the audience, her son, 5, and the incredible cast.

For his performance in Clyde's, veteran actor Ron Cephas Jones was named best supporting actor.

Jocelyn Bioh received the award for outstanding adaptation for the Merry Wives staging at the Public Theater Delacorte. In response to a question about how she managed to adapt a funny new interpretation of Shakespeare's play, Bioh explained the procedure, saying that it typically takes 18 months. "Writing Merry Wives had to be completed in eight weeks, which was really terrifying. I simply had to jump in. I'm delighted it came to me when I wasn't frightened to do it in my professional life. It prepared me for the fast-paced world of television after working on School Girls. In particular, Black women must be the focal point of my work," said Bioh.

Bill T. Jones, Garrett Coleman, Jason Oremus, Gelan Lambert, and Chloe Davis' Paradise Square team won the prize for best choreography. Coleman, Lambert, and Davis were on hand to accept. "We are adamant about remembering our forefathers by imitating their gestures and sounds. expressing the truths of living, including their vulnerability." According to Davis, we dance to both celebrate our brilliance and to encourage others to do the same.

Jason Michael Webb and David Holcenberg, who shared the honor of best orchestration for MJ, were also present to claim their prize. With pleasure, Webb said, "Just to congratulate each other is fantastic. Receiving this medal is such an encouragement and so essential after being in a lockdown for a few years."

Bill Sims Jr. received the award for outstanding music in a play posthumously for Lackawanna Blues, and Santiago-Hudson was heartfelt and kind in sharing how Sims supported the production's Broadway debut.

The Harold S. Prince Lifetime Achievement Award was given to the late Alice Childress in recognition of her contributions to theater. This prize was givenwith great honor. She had two plays this season: Wedding Band: A Love Story in Black and White in Brooklyn and Trouble in Mind on Broadway.

Three African Americans, Adrianna Hicks, Brittney Mack, and Anna Uzele, as well as Andrea Macasaet, Abby Mueller, and Samantha Pauly, are part of the original ensemble of six divas for SIX, which won a special Ensemble Award.

The Special Award was given to costume designer Dede Ayite by director Saheem Ali. Ayite's work has most recently been seen in the Delacorte Theatre production of Merry Wives, as well as on Broadway in Chicken and BiscuitsSlave PlayAmerican Buffalo, and How I Learned To Drive. Speaking of Ayite, Ali said, "My pal is one of our industry's most in-demand costume designers. She performs locally in both major and small opera houses as well as on Broadway, Off-Broadway, and Off-Off-Broadway. Dede will go anywhere her career requires her to. She is concerned about the work and the contributors. She pays close attention to the smaller details of any play, drawing on the dramaturgy and the narrative. She will also ask me questions about the script, so I may ask the playwright them.”

Ayite offered her fourteen years of experience as a costume designer with modesty. She remarked, "As an artist, it's a daily question of why and what moves me, as well as of access; when I first started, the window of access to work felt extremely tiny. I simply wanted the chance to make art, but I wasn't sure if I would have it. It's very overwhelming to look back on the years and see how I was able to build up as I sit here today and reflect on how one tiny chance led to another and helped me to grow. It's extraordinary to be able to make a life doing this.”

With plays by and showcasing African Americans, this season's theater was incredibly inclusive. Check out a play today. Don't forget to support theater now that it's back!