Actors' Equity Association presented five recipients with the Kathryn V. Lamkey ("Kathy") Award during its annual Spirit, A Celebration of Diversity on March 12, 2018, at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier, in a ceremony hosted by Sharriese Hamilton. This year's recipients include Damron Russel Armstrong, Cynthia Levin, Rob Lindley, Doug Peck and Robert Schleifer.
Spirit is a co-production between Equity’s National Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Committee and the 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.
In 2016, Damron Russel Armstrong founded the Black Repertory Theatre of Kansas City, which strives to highlight neglected works of the black experience in the American theatre canon. BRTKC funds performing arts professionals who teach in urban school districts that lack programs of their own.
Cynthia Levin has been the producing artistic director of Kansas City’s Unicorn Theatre for 38 years. The theatre’s mission is to enhance the Kansas City community by developing and producing high-quality, thought-provoking plays that have never been seen in the region and to illuminate social issues by shining a light on minority stories which include race, religion and gender identity.
Rob Lindley is an actor-director whose credits include Candide, Fun Home and Oh, Coward!, for which he received a Joseph Jefferson Award. As a director of such works as Far From Heaven and Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill¸ Lindley insists on working on shows that shed light on racial issues. Doug Peck is a multi-genre musical director, pianist, conductor, orchestrator, arranger, vocal instructor and educator. Together, the two created the Chicago Sings series for Porchlight Music Theatre, which has afforded over a dozen artists of color their Porchlight debut, leading to appearances in mainstage Porchlight productions.
For the Chicago Humanities Festival, Lindley and Peck have produced and directed the annual William and Greta Flory concert, which has quickly become one of the most sought-out tickets of the Fall Festival and which has given more than fifty artists of diverse race, sexual orientation and sexual identity the opportunity to make their Humanities Festival debuts.
Born deaf, Robert Schleifer has not only acted in Chicago theatres for more than a decade, he has also assisted in an advisory capacity on sign language and deaf culture at such theaters as Actors Theatre of Louisville, Deaf West, the Goodman Theatre, Red Twist and Steppenwolf.
“My dream is to teach hearing and deaf students about acting and inspire them to consider acting as a career just as my teachers inspired me to think without limits,” Schleifer said. “I would love to have my students see my being deaf not as a disability but rather a unique ability to help them on their journey.”