By Darlene Donloe
The best in Los Angeles theatre was lauded this week at the 26th Annual NAACP Theatre Awards, held at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills.
The show, hosted by Wendy Raquel Robinson and Miguel Nunez, honored Joe Morton with the Lifetime Achievement Award.
“To say this leaves me speechless is an understatement,” said Morton. “Theater gives me a voice.”
Samuel Jackson and LaTanya Richardson Jackson
Actress LaTanya Richardson Jackson received the Trailblazer Award.
“Theater has always been a home for me,” said Jackson. “Because of the theater I know what true love is. That’s where I met my husband.”
Jackson is married to fellow actor Samuel L. Jackson who was in attendance to support his wife.
Rory Pullens, the executive director of Arts Education for Los Angeles Unified School District, received the Humanitarian Award. Pullens was honored for his focus on increasing access and equity to the arts for all students.
Singer Ledisi, who is currently the ambassador for the San Francisco Chapter of the Recording Academy, was awarded the Spirit Award.
Entertainer Obba Babatunde performed a spirited version of the classic Mr. Bojangles. There was also a performance by Black Lives Matter and a special performance by Tammi Mac, who presented a snippet from her award-winning show, Bag Lady.
Ron Hasson, president of the Beverly Hills/Hollywood NAACP and a national board member was in attendance to congratulate the nominees and the winners.
“There is always a need in Hollywood to have people of color see their heroes and sheroes,” said Hasson. “It is important to acknowledge those who have entertained us over the years.”
Miguel Nunez spoke about the importance of the event.
“Everybody likes to be recognized for the work they do,” said Nunez. “We don’t do it for the recognition, though. But, it’s still good to be recognized for your efforts.”
“It’s wonderful to be recognized by your peer group,” said actress Loretta Devine. “It gives you the incentive to keep working.”
“This kind of show is important because we are celebrating ourselves,” said singer Kenny Lattimore. “It’s important to celebrate the stories that come from us. We have beautiful stories. It’s most important for us to tell our stories so people can get to know us.”
Paul Jackson Jr. and his wife, Michaela
Musician Paul Jackson Jr. said the awards show was important because “it honors us.” “You can’t wait for someone else to pat you on the back. Pat yourself on the back. Tell someone, ‘I like what you're doing.’ Be encouraging to someone.”
“Anything that presents our culture in a positive light is good,” said director Kenny Leon. “We should always take time to celebrate ourselves.”
Herb J. Wesson, Jr.
"It's always important to recognize our own," said Herb J. Wesson, Jr., president, Los Angeles City Council, Council member, Tenth District. "We support the NAACP. One of the greatest organization around. This is an important event. We need this kind of show more than ever right now."
Wren T. Brown
Wren T. Brown, founder/producing artist director of the Ebony Repertory Theatre won an award for Best Producer – Equity for The Gospel at Colonus.
“In the words of Winston Churchill, 'what a great tragedy if one day you were figuratively tapped on your shoulder and was ill prepared,'” said Brown. “Ladies and gentleman I have been preparing for this role of producer all of my life. I mean that very earnestly. You don’t just learn it in a couple of years. It’s about understanding what it means to be sensitive to a musician, to an actor, to a singer, to a director, to a designer. It’s not just finding money to produce the effort. It’s about an accumulated entity of all of those dynamics coming together in such a way that you produce a professional opportunity. My definition as producer is the producing of opportunity. I’m so thankful I’ve been able to do that at the Ebony Repertory Theatre.”
Multiple theater award winners included Motown the Musical, The Gospel At Colonus, Dreamscape, Recorded in Hollywood, The Best of Enemies and Love Soul Deep.
Following is a complete list of winners:
Best Choreography – Equity
Motown The Musical – Patricia Wilcox and Warren Adams
Best Choreography – Local
Ucarmen – Lungelo Ngamlana
Best Costumes – Equity
Motown The Musical – Esosa
Best Costumes – Local
Detroit 67 – Michaela Mendiola
Best Director – Equity
Fences – Gregg T. Daniel
Best Director – Local
Dreamscape – Rickerby Hinds
Best Director of a Musical – Local
Recorded In Hollywood – Denise Dowse
Best Ensemble Cast – Equity
The Gospel At Colonus
Best Ensemble Cast – Local
Recorded In Hollywood
Best Lead Female - Equity
The Best Of Enemies – Tiffany Rebecca Royale
Best Lead Female – Local
Dreamscape – Rhaechyl Walker and Natali Micchiche
Best Lead Male – Equity
Satchmo at the Waldorf – John Douglas Thompson
Best Lead Male – Local
Dreamscape – John “Faahz” Merchant
Best Lighting – Equity
Fences – Karyn D. Lawrence
Best Lighting - Local
I And You – Jeremy Pivnick
Best Music Director – Equity
The Gospel At Colonus - Abdul Hamid Royal
Best Music Director – Local
Recorded In Hollywood – Stephan Terry
Best One Person Show - Local
Keena Unbranded – Keena Ferguson
Best Playwright – Equity
Motown the Musical – Berry Gordy
Best Playwright – Local
Changes – Wallace Demarria
Best Producer – Equity
The Gospel At Colonus – Wren T. Brown
Best Producer – Local
Recorded In Hollywood – Dolphins of Hollywood Productions, LLC and Racquel Lehrman, Theatre Planners
Best Set Design – Equity
Satchmo at the Waldorf – Lee Savage
Best Set Design – Local
Pieces – Helleaux Studio Design
Best Sound – Equity
Motown The Musical – Ethan Popp and Bryan Crook
Best Sound – Local
My Children! My Africa! – Warren Davis
Best Supporting Female – Equity
To Kill A Mockingbird – Earnestine Phillips
Best Supporting Female – Local
Love Soul Deep – Nadine Ellis
Best Supporting Male – Equity
The Best Of Enemies – Shon Fuller
Best Supporting Male – Local
The Conversation – Danny De Lloyd