48th annual AUDELCOs go virtual Nov. 30

Linda Armstrong | 11/26/2020, midnight
The nominations for this year’s AUDELCO awards, which recognize excellence in Black theater, are out and they reflect the best ...
320: The company of for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf, written by Ntozake Shange and directed by Leah C. Gardiner, with choreography by Camille A. Brown, running at The Public Theater. Joan Marcus photo

The nominations for this year’s AUDELCO awards, which recognize excellence in Black theater, are out and they reflect the best and the brightest from the 2019-2020 theater season, which of course was abruptly ceased due to COVID-19. Prior to the pandemic the theater community managed to present 26 productions that made the nominations cut.

A stunning production presented by Page 73 Productions, “STEW,” tops the list with a record nine nominations. The play by Zora Howard is up for best play; playwright, Zora Howard; director of a play, Colette Robert; lead actress in a play, Portia; featured actress in a play, Toni Lachelle Pollitt and Nikkole Salter; lighting design, Stacey Derosier; set design, Lawrence E. Moton III and costume design, Dominique Fawn Hill.

Two very different productions tie with eight nominations. The Billie Holiday Theatre in Brooklyn presented a stirring drama called “Reparations.” This production left one stunned and speechless—it was writing at its best! It is up for best play; director of a play, Michele Shay; lead actor in a play, Kamal Bolden; featured actress in a play, Lisa Arrindell; lighting design, David Moodey; set design, Isabel Curley-Clay and Moriah Curley-Clay; costume design, Niiamar Felder; and sound design, David Wright. The marvelous, high-energy musical, “The Dark Star of Harlem: The Spectacular Rise of Josephine Baker,” presented by Glynn Borders and La Mama ETC is nominated for best musical; outstanding musical director, Mario E. Sprouse; director of a musical, Tai Thompson; choreographer, Kim Grier Martinez; lead actress in a musical, Iris Beaumier; featured actor in a musical, James A. Pierce III; set design, Joshua Warner and costume design, Raymond Pizarro.

Manhattan Theatre Club presented a very enthralling drama called, “The New Englanders” a play that came away with seven nominations. It was a fascinating story that dealt with the relationship between a biracial male couple and their daughter. It is nominated for best play; playwright, Jeff Augustin; director of a play, Saheem Ali; lead actor in a play, Teagle F. Bougere; lead actress in a play, Kara Young; lighting design, Alan C. Edwards; and sound design, Palmer Hefferan.

The Keen Company beautifully brought to life, “Blues for an Alabama Sky” and also earned seven AUDELCO nominations. It is nominated for best revival of a play; director of a play, LA Williams; lead actor in a play, John-Andrew Morrison; lead actress in a play, Alfie Fuller; featured actor in a play, Khiry Walker and Sheldon Woodley and costume design, Asa Benally.

The Public Theater, MCC Theater is nominated for six AUDELCOs for “The Wrong Man.” The musical is up for best musical; director of a musical, Thomas Kail; outstanding musical director, Alex Lacamoire; choreographer, Travis Wall; lead actor in a musical, Joshua Henry; and featured actor in a musical, Ryan Vasquez.

I have to admit when I heard that The Public Theater was going to do “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf” I was very excited and couldn’t wait. And the production was worth the anticipation, it was captivating. It is up for five VIV nominations for best revival of a play; outstanding musical director, Deah Love Harriott; outstanding musical composer, Martha Redbone; choreographer, Camille A. Brown and costume design, Toni-Leslie James.

One of the most brilliant playwrights that I have had the privilege to experience, Donja R. Love was produced by The New Group with his moving play, “One in Two,” the play also received five much deserved nominations for best play; outstanding ensemble performance, Jamyl Dobson, Leland Fowler and Edward Mawere; playwright, Donja R. Love; director of a play, Stevie Walker-Webb and lighting design, Cha See.

Five productions come in with four nominations each. “Broadbend, Arkansas,” presented by the Transport Group was a poignant musical that featured extraordinary and diverse performances by two cast members who portrayed so many different characters. It is nominated for best musical; director of a musical, Jack Cummings, III, lead actor in a musical, Justin Cunningham and lead actress in a musical, Danyel Fulton. “Bars and Measures” presented by Urban Stages is nominated for outstanding Ensemble Performance—Shabazz Green, Roderick Lawrence, Abraham Makany, Salma Shaw; outstanding musical composer, Justin Ellington; playwright, Idris Goodwin and sound design, David Lawson. “Leaving the Blues” presented by TOSOS is nominated for best play; lead actress in a play, Rosalind Brown; featured actor in a play, Benjamin Mapp and costume design, Ben Philipp. “a photograph/lovers in motion” gloriously presented by the Negro Ensemble Company is nominated for best revival of a play; outstanding ensemble performance—Nya Bowman, Imana Breaux, Marc Deliz, Mystie Galloway, Adrian Washington; outstanding musical composer, David Murray and choreographer, Leslie Dockery. “(A)loft Modulation” presented by the american vicarious is nominated for featured actor in a play—Charlie Hudson III and Elisha Lawson; set design, Troy Hourie; and sound design, Andy Evan Cohen.

Three nominations were garnered by four theater companies. Signature Theatre Company, presented a splendid, powerful revival of Anna Deavere Smith’s “Fires in The Mirror” and it is nominated for solo performance, Michael Benjamin Washington; lighting design, Alan C. Edwards; and sound design, Mikaal Sulaiman. WP Theatre presented the innovative, touching play “Where We Stand” and it has two nominations for its creator Donnetta Lavinia Grays for playwright and solo performance; Tamilla Woodard is nominated for director of a play. “Halfway Bitches Go Straight to Heaven” was a phenomenal production, presented by Atlantic Theater Company and LAByrinth Theater Company. It is up for best play; lead actress in a play, Liza Colón-Zayas; featured actress in a play, Patrice Johnson Chevannes.

“Sassy Mamas” presented by Black Spectrum Theatre Company is nominated for two AUDELCOs. Best revival of a play; and outstanding Ensemble performance—Jo Ann Cleghorne, Marlon Carter, Niambi Steele, Fulton Hodges, Gha’il Rhodes Benjamin, Travis Whitaker.

Eight productions received single nominations. “American Moor” presented by Red Bull Theater is up for best revival of a play. “Fear” presented by the Lucille Lortel Theatre has a lead actor in a play nomination for Obi Abili. “Run Boy Run & In Old Age” presented by New York Theatre Workshop is nominated for lead actor in a play, Chike Johnson. “Seared” produced by MCC Theater is up for featured actor in a play for W. Tre Davis. “The Black History Museum…According to the United States of America” presented by HERE and Smoke and Mirrors Collaborative is nominated for set design by D’Vaughn Agu. “The Young Man from Atlanta” presented by Signature Theatre Company is nominated for featured actress in a play, Harriet D. Foy. “TJ Loves Sally 4 Ever” presented by JACK is nominated for choreographer for Candace Taylor. “Thurgood” presented by Black Spectrum Theatre Co./bdouglaswade, Inc. is nominated for solo performance, Douglas Wade. “Scotland, PA” presented by Roundabout Theatre is up for lead actress in a musical, Taylor Iman Jones.

This year’s AUDELCO awards will honor many from the African American community with special awards. Kara Young will receive a Special Achievement Award. Outstanding Achievement awards will go to Blair Underwood and Tina Fabrique. Pioneer awards will be received by Oz. Scott and Vivian Reed. Well-deserved Lifetime Achievement awards will be given to Tony award winner Andre DeShields and new Heritage founder, Voza Rivers. The prestigious Legacy award will be presented to Vinnie Burrows and Robert Hooks.

The 48th Annual AUDELCO Awards will occur virtually on Monday, November 30, 2020 at 7pm. This free event will be streamed via Zoom and Facebook Live. To book your virtual seat and receive your link, RSVP at Eventbrite at https://bit.ly/AudelcoRSVP!