This year, Actors' Equity Association honored Ron Himes, Esther Grisham Grimm and Emjoy Gavino with the Kathryn V. Lamkey ("Kathy") Award during its annual Spirit, A Celebration of Diversity on March 24, 2017, at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier.
The event is presented annually by the National Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Committee. The Kathy, as named after longtime Central Regional director, Kathryn V. Lamkey, is intended to honor theatre companies, individuals, producers and organizations that provide ongoing opportunities for underrepresented members in the Central Region. This year's recipients have demonstrated a dedication to the tenets of this award. Himes is the founder and producing director of the St. Louis Black Repertory Theater; Grimm is the executive director of 3Arts; and Gavino, whose husband accepted the award on her behalf, is the founder of the Chicago Inclusion Project.
"The spirit of diversity was truly flowing in the room," said 1st Vice Chair of the EEO Committee E. Faye Butler. "The recipients are truly trailblazers this year: Ester Grimm, for all the work she does to support artists in achieving their dreams that make a difference in the community; Ron Himes, who for over 30 years has maintained a theatre that allows artists to express their culture and spiritual works in a safe and nurturing environment; Emjoy Gavino, who in a short span of time put her energy into asking the questions many diverse artists are afraid to ask and finding solutions. Bravo to all our amazing recipients."
The St. Louis Black Repertory Theater, founded in 1976, is the largest professional African American theatre company in the nation. The company is committed to producing shows by primarily African American and third world playwrights.
The mission of the Chicago Inclusion Project is "to encourage inclusive theater experiences that illuminate our shared human story by bringing together Chicago artists and audiences normally separated by physical ability, gender identity and ethnic background, providing inspiration and resources for the Chicago community to embrace inclusive programming in the arts."
3Arts, according to its website, "works to sustain and promote artists in the Chicago metropolitan area. Our focus on women artists, artists of color and artists with disabilities stems from the need for a diversity of voices and visions to be supported if our city is to prosper and inspire."
Equity member Robert Schleifer, a deaf actor and former recipient of a 3Arts grant, proudly presented the award to Grimm as an ASL interpreter spoke his comments aloud to the audience.
“Each year the Spirit Awards celebrate diversity, inclusion and community in such an inspiring and joyous way," said Christine Toy Johnson, chair of the EEO Committee. "Thank you to our members in the Central Region for making this evening one of the crowning jewels of our events, and to all the honorees for their great contributions to the theatre.”