The Tony Awards, long delayed by the pandemic, announced the first recipients on Tuesday, honoring the Broadway Defense Coalition, an organization started five years ago by a group of actors and others as a tool to work to dismantle racism through drama and storytelling.
The other recipients were “David Byrne’s American Utopia,” an intricately choreographed concert by the Talking Heads singer, and “Freestyle Love Supreme,” a mostly improvised hip-hop musical that was created, in part, by Lin- Manuel Miranda. The accolades, known as Special Tony Awards, were presented to three recipients who Tony’s board said deserved recognition even though they didn’t fit into any of the competition’s categories, according to a press release.
The recipients were announced more than a year after the date originally scheduled for the ceremony. During the coronavirus pandemic, the ceremony was suspended indefinitely. The awards show – a star-studded show that will celebrate Broadway’s comeback – now airs on CBS in September, when Broadway shows are expected to hit theaters almost in full force. Most of the rewards, however, will be handed out right before that, in a ceremony that will air only on Paramount +, ViacomCBS’s subscription streaming service.
The Broadway Advocacy Coalition Award shows how deeply the American theater industry has been affected by the mass movement for racial justice sparked by the police murder of George Floyd last year.
In a statement, Charlotte St. Martin, president of the Broadway League, and Heather A. Hitchens, executive director of the American Theater Wing – the two organizations that present the awards – said the coalition had provided a “platform unprecedented for marginalized members of our theater community and tools to help us all do better in our fight for equity.
Among the projects of the organization is Theater of change, a social justice methodology – developed with Columbia Law School – that brings together Broadway artists, legal and political experts, and people whose lives have been shaped by forces such as criminal justice, immigration and systems education to collaborate on storytelling as a means of advocating for “just policies.”
This year’s ceremony for the Tonys, officially known as the Antoinette Perry Awards, will be the 74th such event and will recognize work performed on Broadway between April 26, 2019 and February 19, 2020.
All 41 Broadway theaters have been closed since March 12, 2020; Right now, the first scheduled performances are for “Springsteen on Broadway,” the rock legend’s autobiographical show, which is due to open this Saturday at the St. James Theater. As of now, the next show scheduled to open is “Go over», A play about two black men trapped on a street corner on August 4 at the August Wilson Theater.
“American Utopia,” which opened on Broadway in October 2019, plans to resume performances on September 17. “Freestyle Love Supreme,” which opened the same month, is set to replay in front of a live audience on October 7th.