AUDELCOs: Celebrating the Black theater family

Linda Armstrong | 11/26/2015, midnight
Last Monday, Symphony Space was the place to be for members of the Black theater family
"Ain't Misbehavin'" Bill Moore photo

Last Monday, Symphony Space was the place to be for members of the Black theater family. It was a time to enjoy being around those who have a shared passion and admiration for what we bring to a stage. It was the 43rd annual AUDELCO Awards for recognition of excellence in Black theater. The event was hosted by the charming Kenny Seymour and the amazing Alyson Williams. Williams, though best known for her fabulous singing voice, proved to be quite humorous throughout the event. There was just a feeling of being relaxed and seeing your friends and theater family come out and acknowledge them for their love and dedication to their craft.

Celebrities filled the audience, including Eboni JoAnn, Cheryl Lee Ralph, Anthony Chisholm and many others. It was a who’s who of Black theater, and there was a lot of love in the room. The audience was treated to samples of what we had experienced during the theatrical season as performances were done by the cast of “Ain’t Misbehavin’”—who did a medley of numbers from the productions; Anthony Wayne, who dressed in a white suit, high red pumps and red lip stick, performed songs from “Mighty Real: The Fabulous Sylvester Musical,” and there was a performance of “Destruction” from the musical “Flambeaux.” Other singing performances came from Sandra Reaves-Phillips, and let me tell you, this lady—there to receive a Pioneer Award—definitely still has the pipes. She sang a song she created that inspires her, and she ended the awards by leading the audience in “Lean On Me.” Her vocal instrument is amazing!

The words, “and the VIV goes to,” followed by a drum roll, were exciting words to hear throughout the evening and the winners were elated. The award is named the VIV after AUDELCO’s late co-founder Vivian Robinson.

“Flambeaux,” presented by the Obsidian Media Group and Braata Productions, was the top winner of the night. It won six VIVs, including Musical Production of the Year; Best Director/Musical Production—Lawrence Floyd; Musical Director—Jeff Bolding; Best Choreography—Juson Williams; Outstanding Performance in a Musical/Male—J. Bernard Calloway and Outstanding Performance in a Musical/Female—Althea Alexis. Floyd explained, “‘Flambeaux’ was the little play that could.” All the award winners thanked the creative team behind the production.

“Our Lady of Kiebho” took the VIV on the dramatic side of the spectrum. It received Dramatic Production of the Year. Playwright Katori Hall won Outstanding Playwright; Matt Tierney won Sound Design and Emily Rebholz received Costume Design. Hall was humble as she expressed that whenever she comes to the AUDELCOs, she “gets bowled over that this is a family.” She thanked the director, actors, Signature Theater and the woman in the village of Kibeho, who shared this story with her.

“Ain’t Misbehavin’” from Irving Street Rep/Faison Firehouse and “Fences” from the Morningside Players received the VIV in a tie for Best Revival. Best Solo Performance was won by Keith Hamilton Cobb for his performance in “American Moor,” from Phoenix Theater Ensemble. S. Epatha Merkerson of “While I Yet Live” presented by Primary Stages won Best Lead Actress. John Douglas Thompson won Best Lead Actor for his role in “Tamburlaine, Part I and II” from Theater for a New Audience.