The Siegel Column – Race: Hollywood vs. NY Theater

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By Barbara & Scott Siegel

 

 

Whatever is ailing Hollywood in regard to race does not seem to be a problem for New York theater. On Broadway (and Off-Broadway), the number of shows that either star Afro-American actors and/or appeal to an Afro-American audience has grown exponentially this year. The Great White Way is anything but with a season that includes the revivals of The Color Purple and Hughie (with Forrest Whitaker as the star), an entirely revised version of Shuffle Along, and Eclipsed. Then, of course, there is the Broadway juggernaut, the racially diverse Hamilton.

 

The complaint in Hollywood is that when it comes to awards, the Oscars rarely nominate and/or reward anything except all-white fare even though there are plenty of movies that reach out directly to minority audiences. The exact opposite is going to happen during this year’s theater awards season; look for Hamilton, Shuffle Along, and The Color Purple to dominate at the Tony’s.

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Other award organizations like the Drama Desk, the Outer Critics Circle, The Lortel Awards, and The Obies will certainly have high profile Off-Broadway shows like The Royale (Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater at Lincoln Center) and Dot (The Vineyard) on their radar. And no doubt playwright Danai Gurira will receive double the attention at awards time with her two powerful, critically acclaimed shows Familiar (Playwrights Horizons) and Eclipsed, which began Off-Broadway at The Public and transferred within the same season to Broadway.

ECLIPSED PLAY ORIGINAL JOHN GOLDEN THEATRE 252 W. 45TH ST. toggle menu Large Logo John Owen Jones - Homepage Extra John Owen Jones - Homepage Extra toggle search form LATEST VAULT SHOWS JOBS DISCOUNTS TRAVEL LATEST NEWS RELATED An Exclusive Look at London’s Hand to God Opening Watch Stephen Colbert Dance Into Fiddler on the Roof (For One Night Only) Intiman Theatre Puts Black Female Writers Center Stage Steve Kazee to Star in Nancy Drew Spinoff Michael Polish Picked to Direct Mamet's Speed-the-Plow Film Last Undeveloped Theatre on 42nd Street Gets New Tenant 52 NEW STORIES ECLIPSED - CAST Person Placeholder Lupita Nyong'o as The Girl Pascale Armand Pascale Armand as Bessie Person Placeholder Akosua Busia as Rita Person Placeholder Zainab Jah as Maima Saycon Sengbloh Saycon Sengbloh as Helena Person Placeholder Ayesha Jordan as The Girl (Standby) ECLIPSED - PRODUCTION CREDITS Danai Gurira Danai Gurira Playwright Person Placeholder Liesl Tommy Director Person Placeholder Clint Ramos Scenic & Costume Design Person Placeholder Jennifer Schriever Lighting Design Person Placeholder Broken Chord Original Music and Sound Design Person Placeholder Cookie Jordan Hair, Wig and Make-up Design Person Placeholder Cookie Jordan Hair, Wig & Make-up Design Kyle Brown Kyle Brown Associate Director Person Placeholder Ryan Howell Associate Scenic Designer Person Placeholder Christopher Vergara Associate Costume Designer Person Placeholder Ben Green Associate Lighting Designer Person Placeholder Michael Prieto Associate Sound Designer Person Placeholder TJ Weaver Assistant Director Person Placeholder Aurora Productions Production Management Person Placeholder Diane DiVita Production Stage Manager Person Placeholder Gwendolyn M. Gilliam Stage Manager Rick Sordelet Rick Sordelet Fight Director Christian Kelly-Sordelet Christian Kelly-Sordelet Fight Director Beth McGuire Beth McGuire Voice and Dialect Beth McGuire Beth McGuire Voice & Dialect Coach Person Placeholder Jordan Thaler Casting Person Placeholder Heidi Griffiths Casting Tara Rubin Tara Rubin Casting Person Placeholder 101 Productions, Ltd. General Manager Person Placeholder Jennifer R. Graves Company Manager Person Placeholder DKC/O&M General Press Representative Person Placeholder Rick Miramontez Press Representative Person Placeholder Scott Braun Press Representative Person Placeholder Jaron Caldwell Press Representative Person Placeholder Michael Jorgensen Press Representative Person Placeholder SPOTCo, Inc. Advertising Person Placeholder The Pekoe Group Marketing & Social Media Stephen C. Byrd Stephen C. Byrd Producer Person Placeholder Alia Jones Harvey Producer Paula Marie Black Paula Marie Black Producer Carole Shorenstein Hays Carole Shorenstein Hays Producer Person Placeholder Alani La La Anthony Producer Person Placeholder Davelle Producer Person Placeholder Dominion Pictures Producer Person Placeholder Emanon Productions Producer Person Placeholder FG Productions Producer Person Placeholder The Forstalls Producer Person Placeholder Kenny Ozoude Producer Person Placeholder M.A.D. Theatricals Producer Person Placeholder Michael Magers Producer Person Placeholder Willette Murphy Klausner Producer Person Placeholder Randolph Sturrup Produced in association with Person Placeholder Marvet Britto Associate Producer Person Placeholder The Public Theater Original Production Oskar Eustis Oskar Eustis Artistic Director, The Public Theater Person Placeholder Patrick Willingham Executive Director, The Public Theater Playbill Sites Playbill Store Playbill Arts Playbill EDU Playbillder Playbill Travel Download Playbill Passport Contact Playbill Playbill Club Advertising Career RSS Contact Us FOLLOW PLAYBILL NOW GET IN THE CLUB. News and discounts delivered right to your inbox. COPYRIGHT 2016 © PLAYBILL INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. POWERED BY Brightspot Logo

Except for the highly touted Waitress, which many expect will yield, at least, a Tony nomination for Jessie Mueller, look for the acting categories at the Tony’s to be far more pepper than salt with Audra MacDonald (of course!) leading the way along with many of her compadres in Shuffle Along. Lupita Nyong’o who stars in Eclipsed, looks like a favorite to garner a Tony nomination, as does Cynthia Erivo who stars as Celie in The Color Purple. Hamilton will almost certainly win all the creative awards but its actors will also be well-represented among the nominees.

In fact, there are so many richly deserving people of color who are eminently worthy of nomination, that some will undoubtedly be snubbed because of the intense competition!

 

As different as Broadway is from Hollywood, in this regard, it is worth noting that there is also a great deal of difference in the theater’s current racial openness compared to its past. Time and again during the 1920s and every decade thereafter, there were valiant attempts to bring shows starring Black performers to Broadway. There was just enough success to make producers keep trying, but for every Shuffle Along, Blackbirds or Hot Chocolates revue, or even more contemporary shows like Ain’t Misbehavin’ to turn a profit, dozens of others sunk without a trace. Most of those shows, if they made it at all, did so as low budget, surprise hits. Not today: the 2015-2016 season’s most prominent shows, with big budgets, major league pedigrees, and most marketable stars are shows of color.

 

 

 

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