By AARON KRAUSE
“I never thought I would see something like this for us black theater performers,” someone wrote in the online comment section while watching the inaugural, virtually-presented Antonyo Awards. It celebrates the successes of black theater artists on Broadway and off-Broadway.
Someone else commented that he/she was “so happy to be watching this celebration of the incredible black artists in this community. You are all amazing; this is long overdue.”
Yet another person thanked Antoyo Awards presenter Broadway Black. The organization fosters and inspires artistic diversity and excellence in theater. While Broadway Black presented the brand-new ceremony on Friday, June 19, the anniversary of the end of slavery in 1865, members of the public voted on the winners.
They included the “Best Musical” recipient: Tina: The Tina Turner Musical.” It’s a jukebox show telling the true story of Tina Turner’s rise to “Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll.” Meanwhile, the “Best Play” honoree was Aziza Barnes’ BLKS. It chronicles a day in the life of four young black women in New York City.
The night’s big winner was The Public Theater’s Off-Broadway production of For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/when the rainbow is enuf. The piece, which tells the stories of seven women who’ve suffered oppression in a racist and sexist society, earned five wins. The honors included Best Revival and Best Featured Actor (Okwui Okpokwasili).
Also, Adrienne Warren won “Best Actor in a Musical” for her work in Tina as the titular character. Warren also recently received the Drama Desk Award for the bio-musical.
And another artist on a hot streak is Michael R. Jackson. His “Best Book” Antonyo Award recognized his work on the musical A Strange Loop. It’s about Usher, a black, queer writer. He works a day job he hates while writing his original musical: a piece about a black, queer writer, working a day job he hates while writing his original musical. Jackson’s Antonyo Award came after he received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and several other awards for the same musical.
Other accolades went to: Loy A. Webb (the Lorraine Hansberry Award), Donja R. Love (the Langston Hughes Award), Dharon E. Jones (the Welcome Award), Chuck Cooper (the Lifetime Achievement Award), and the National Black Theatre (The Doors of the Theatre Are Open Award).
The inaugural ceremony’s overall tone was celebratory. Songs included “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” which many call “The Black national anthem.” While the ceremony was mostly upbeat, it also included a time to memorialize black artists who recently died. In addition, presenters and others stressed the need for justice following the recent killings of African Americans.
In fact, Broadway Black founder Drew Shade said, “Attacks on black bodies have been going on without consequence for far too long. Broadway black will continue to elevate and celebrate our blackness.”
Such recognition matters, suggested a commenter in the chat area before the ceremony opened.
“Y’all I’m crying,” the person wrote. “This is so beautiful. I’ve read so many articles in years past that said black people don’t come to the theater. Look at everyone watching tonight. When we are included, we show up!”
A complete list of winners appears below.
Tina: The Tina Turner Musical
BLKS by Aziza Barnes
For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/when the rainbow is enuf
Best Actor in a Musical on Broadway
Adrienne Warren, Tina: The Tina Turner Musical
Best Actor in a Play on Broadway
Audra McDonald, Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune
Best Actor in a Musical Off-Broadway
LaChanze, The Secret Life of Bees
Best Actor in a Play Off-Broadway
Danielle Brooks, Much Ado About Nothing
Best Featured Actor in a Musical on Broadway
Celia Rose Gooding, Jagged Little Pill
Best Featured Actor in a Play on Broadway
Chalia La Tour, Slave Play
Best Featured Actor in a Musical Off-Broadway
Jasmine Cephas Jones, Cyrano
Best Featured Actor in a Play Off-Broadway
Okwui Okpokwasili, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/ when the rainbow is enuf
Best Solo Performance
Michael Benjamin Washington, Fires in the Mirror
Michael R. Jackson, A Strange Loop
Best Original Score
The Secret of Life Bees
Lileana Blain-Cruz, Anatomy of A Suicide
Camille A. Brown, for For Colored Girls Who Have Committed Suicide/when the rainbow is enuf
Best Lighting Design
Allen Lee Hughes, A Soldiers Play
Best Scenic Design
Lawrence E. Moten III, Native Son
Rucyl Frison, Anatomy of a Suicide
Toni-Leslie James, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/when the rainbow is enuf
Best Hair & Wig Design
Nikiya Mathis, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/when the rainbow is enuf
Skinfolk: An American Show
Best Quarantine Content
Daniel J. Watts, The Jam IG Live