Actors' Equity Association's Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Committee, as part of Black History Month, presented the First Annual Extraordinary Excellence in Diversity on Broadway Awards to last season's 110 in the Shade and Les Misérables on Monday, February 25, 2008 at B. Smith's restaurant in midtown Manhattan.
The evening began with a tribute to Lena Horne. Pictures from her diverse career were displayed on the bar television screen for everyone to see. EEO Committee Co-Chair Julia Breanetta Simpson along with fellow Equity members and performers Allyson Tucker and Roosevelt Andre Credit sang selected songs from Ms. Horne’s most beloved career. EEO Committee Co-Chair Christine Toy Johnson then presented the awards to this year’s honorees.
In her remarks, Ms. Johnson said: "This past season, we were thrilled to see the kind of unique, diverse casting that we have been dreaming of for years: interracial families and diverse communities that reflected the true tapestry of America and represented the powerful ways that theatre can heal, by example of inclusion. Because of this, the Eastern Regional Equal Employment Opportunity Committee was inspired to create a new annual award: the Extraordinary Excellence in Diversity on Broadway Award. And because there were two productions that we felt especially exemplified the spirit behind this award, we are extremely proud to present two tonight: to the Roundabout Theatre Company's production of 110 in the Shade, and the 2007 revival of Les Misérables.
The Roundabout Theatre Company's Artistic Director, Todd Haimes, accepted the engraved crystal on behalf of 110 in the Shade.
"In 1985, there were alarming reactions to our interracial casting of Pygmalion," explained Mr. Haimes. "Twenty two years later, audiences and critics didn't give our interracial casting of 110 in the Shade a second thought. They were just seeing great actors - not great black or white actors. It is really nice to see how far we've come. I am deeply honored that Actors' Equity acknowledged Roundabout Theatre Company with their first Diversity Award for our production of 110 in the Shade. I'd especially like to acknowledge our director Lonny Price and our director of casting Jim Carnahan."
The Les Misérables award was accepted by Casting Director Tara Rubin on behalf of Cameron Mackintosh and General Manager Alan Wasser.
"When Cameron Mackintosh made the decision to bring Les Misérables back to Broadway we knew we had a great opportunity to showcase a new generation of performers who had grown up with the show," said Ms. Rubin. "We are very proud of the diversity of the cast and the enormous talents of the company. Diversity in casting is very important to casting directors so I am very proud to accept this award on Cameron's behalf."
Dan Gasby, owner of B. Smith's Restaurant, added: "We were so delighted and proud to help inaugurate the first ever Actors' Equity Association Awards for Extraordinary Excellence in Diversity on Broadway and the special salute of Lena Horne for Black History Month. It is through an effort like this, bringing together and celebrating culturally significant events, that makes Actors' Equity such a worthwhile and necessary organization."
Todd Haimes, Equity President Mark Zimmerman, Equity Executive Director John Connolly
EEO Committee Co-Chair Julia Breanetta Simpson with Lena Horne tribute performers Allyson Tucker and Roosevelt Andre Credit