Elizabeth Van Dyke, Count Stovall and Rome Neal happily hold their Lifetime Achievement Awards. Credit: Tanja Hayes photo

The 50th annual AUDELCO Awards took place on Monday, Nov. 28 at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center and it was a testament to the magnificent productions that were part of the 2021-2022 theater season. It was an event to be cherished. The tone of love and devotion to Black theater was embodied by its co-hosts, actor, singer, dancer, choreographer Ty Stephens, and actress, singer and Tony Award winner, the one-and-only Lillias White. There is something so beautiful about being part of this annual theater family reunion.

Out of 23 categories, the VIV went to “Ella: First Lady of Song,” from Theatre for a New Audience. The production led the pack, winning five awards. The musical won best musical; director of a musical—Lee Summers; outstanding musical director—Dionne Hendricks; lead actress in a musical—Freda Payne (that’s right “Ms. Band of Gold herself”); and featured actress in a musical—Harriet D. Foy, who tied in that category with co-host White.

Tying with three AUDELCO Awards each were “Confederate” presented by Signature Theatre, which won outstanding ensemble performance—Elijah Jones, Kristolyn Lloyd, Andrea Patterson, Kenzie Ross and Michelle Wilson. It also received a well-deserved VIV Award for best playwright, Dominique Morisseau, and sound design for Curtis Craig and Jimmy Keys. “Black No More” presented by The New Group came away with lead actor in a musical, Brandon Victor Dixon; featured actress in a musical, again won by event co-host Lillias White; and featured actor in a musical, Ephraim Sykes.

Three productions earned two AUDELCO Awards: the phenomenal works “Wedding Band,” “Twelfth Night” and “Fat Ham.” “Wedding Band,” the Alice Childress’ play that finally got to see the light of day (thank God!), won best revival. It was a marvelous presentation by Theatre for a New Audience. And a lady who always brings her A-game to every role, Elizabeth Van Dyke, won featured actress in a play. “Twelfth Night,” presented by the incredible Classical Theatre of Harlem, garnered Carl Coefield the award for director of a play, and for the marvelous Kara Young, one of the most versatile actresses you will see on the stage, the VIV for lead actress in a play. “Fat Ham,” a presentation of The Public Theatre, was recognized for set design, Maruti Evans, and light design, Stacey Derosier.

Two outstanding productions tied for best play: New Federal Theatre’s “Gong Lum’s Legacy” and The Public Theater production of “cullud wattah.”

“I Just Want to Tell Somebody,” presented by Theater for a New City, earned Ronald Stevens the VIV for solo performance. “On Sugarland” presented by New York Theatre Workshop, earned recent “Where The Mountain Meet The Sea” star, Billy Eugene Jones, the lead actor in a play VIV. “Mandela,” a production of the East Harlem Repertory Theatre, earned James Garrett the VIV for featured actor in a play. “Oya,” a production of Black Spectrum Theatre in Queens, earned Dyane Harvey Salaam the VIV for best choreographer. “Richard III,” presented by The Public Theater, earned veteran costume designer DeDe Ayite the VIV in that category.

Anyone who knows about the AUDELCO Awards knows that they seek to honor our people on all levels. It does not just focus on what theater one has performed lately; it focuses on the accomplishments one has made over a marvelous lifetime. It is an organization that recognizes and holds up those in our community who are both here on earth and with the ancestors. Some of the stupendous acknowledgments included presenting Sidney Poitier posthumously with a Humanitarian/Civil Right Award and Bust. The Legacy Award went to the late Micki Grant and Vinnette Carroll posthumously for the 50th anniversary of their groundbreaking production “Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope.” 

Some of the heavy-hitters in the business were honored with Lifetime Achievement Awards: playwright Richard Wesley; actress, director and artistic director of New Federal Theatre, Elizabeth Van Dyke; veteran actor Count Stovall; and actor/singer/producer Rome Neal. The Board of Directors’ Legacy Award went to the lady who has been the voice for Harlem for decades, Jeanne Parnell, WHCR host of The Jeanne Parnell Show. Board of Directors’ Lifetime Achievement Awards went to veteran journalist Don Thomas, of the New York Beacon, and Harlem Assemblywoman Inez Dickens. Pioneers Awards were bestowed upon Ben Harney, director, actor; Peggy Alston, executive director of Brooklyn Restoration Youth Academy; and Jamal Joseph, New Heritage Theatre Co. Impact Repertory Theatre. Lazette McCants, a long-time original officer of AUDELCO, received one as well. 

Celebrating 30 years plus for the beloved film “The Five Heartbeats,” cast members received Outstanding Achievement Awards, including Harry Lennix, Leon, Michael Wright, Tico Wells and Carla Brothers. Special Achievement Awards went to veteran publicist Linda Stewart, It Is Done Communication and To Go Girl; Eric Lockley of The Movement Theatre Company and actor, singer, activist Anthony Wayne.The AUDELCO Awards are a cherished part of the Black Theater community. Visit www.audelco.org and become a member, it’s worth your time and attention. Let’s always make sure to participate in organizations that put our people and their accomplishments on a pedestal. After all, we deserve it! See you next year!

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *