2019 – 16th Street Theater, Coterie Theatre, Dobama Theatre and Cheryl Lynn Bruce

On March 11, 2019, Actors’ Equity awarded four recipients with its Kathryn V. Lamkey (“Kathy”) Awards during the annual Spirit: A Celebration of Diversity event. This honor takes place in Chicago and is presented by Equity’s Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Committee in collaboration with Chicago Shakespeare Theater.

The Kathy, named for former Central Regional Director Kathryn V. Lamkey, recognizes theatre companies, individuals, producers and organizations that provide ongoing opportunities for underrepresented members in the Central Region. This year’s event was hosted by Wydetta Carter, James Holbrook and Robert Schleifer.

The four recipients included three institutions, one of which was 16th Street Theater in Berwyn, Illinois, which was created in 2007 with a focus on the playwright and giving voice to the community. “And they are proud to be Illinois’ most affordable and inclusive Equity venue,” Mark David Kaplan, a Central Region and EEO committee member who helped plan the event, said. 

Another was Cleveland’s Dobama Theatre, which was originally founded in 1959 with the intent of producing plays of consequence not previously offered in the area. As of the 2014-15 season, it was the Liaison Area’s only full time Small Professional Theatre.

The third theater to be recognized at this year’s Spirit festivities was the Coterie Theatre of Kansas City. “For 40 years, the Coterie Theatre has continued to challenge audiences, provide educational outreach programs, and open lines of communication between races and generations,” Kaplan said. “They recently marked the milestone of serving over 100,000 students and families in a single season.”

The Kathy Awards also recognized one individual: Chicago-based director/actor/playwright Cheryl Lynn Bruce. “Cheryl Lynn has spent her career developing works that highlight the underrepresented individual,” Kaplan said. “Besides being an award-winning storyteller and activist, Cheryl Lynn is a founding Chair of our Central Region EEO Committee and – with E. Faye Butler – helped to create the Spirit Celebration in its earliest inception.”

Butler felt that the evening not only succeeded in its mission of celebrating diversity and allowing underrepresented members to network but exceeded it. “It gets better and better every year,” she said, and emphasized the storytelling role food played in the celebration. “This started out as a social event just to lift one another’s spirits. We used to do our own baking, so we baked desserts that would represent cities from all over the region. We also had heavy hors d’oeuvres that were ethnically diverse – pan pizzas, empanadas, street tacos, sushi, an international mix of food from around the world.”

The Spirit celebration was catered by The Hearty Boys, a company that includes actors and Equity members like co-founder Steve McDonagh and has its own show on the Food Network. “We try to incorporate or union members any way we can,” Butler said.