Honorees of the Theatre Communications Group’s annual gala: (L-R) Alia Jones-Harvey, Rick Kinsel, Danai Gurira, and Stephen Byrd. Photo credit: Jenny Anderson.
On Monday, November 14, theatre artists and sponsors gathered in New York City’s Edison Ballroom for the Theatre Communications Group’s annual gala and fundraiser. Hosted by Law & Order: SVU and As the World Turns actress Tamara Tunie, the night’s event featured performances from this season’s latest shows, and four honorees whose work embodies TCG’s core values of diversity, equity, and inclusion—including our own president, Rick Kinsel.
Rick accepted an honor on behalf of the Vilcek Foundation’s initiatives in theatre, which included the 2016 Vilcek Prizes in Theatre, and a grant made earlier this year to TCG Books, to support the publication of five anthologies of emerging playwrights that reflect the diversity of American theatre. He was introduced by playwright David Henry Hwang, who previously served on the selection panel of the Vilcek Prize in Theatre.
Rick Kinsel, president of the Vilcek Foundation. Photo credit: Jenny Anderson.
“Whatever one’s political views, we must agree that hatred of immigrants and people of color runs counter to America’s highest ideals,” David said. “Theatre Communications Group has demonstrated remarkable foresight by choosing to honor an organization whose mission has now become even more important to the success or failure of the American experiment.”
One playwright to be included in the TCG anthologies will be Danai Gurira, who was also accepting an honor that evening. Danai is perhaps most known for her Tony-nominated Broadway play Eclipsed, and for her starring role on AMC’s Walking Dead television series. Eclipsed, as with many of Danai’s other works, was lauded for its portrayal of stories not often heard in mainstream culture, especially those of African women.
The producers of Eclipsed, and the founders of FrontRow Productions, Alia Jones-Harvey and Stephen Byrd, were also the recipients of TCG awards that night, for their involvement in Eclipsed, as well as for the pair’s Broadway productions that include their trademark multiracial casting and stories. The company has produced several award-winning shows, including a production of Romeo and Juliet that reframes the classic as an interracial love story.
Tony-nominated playwright and star of hit television series The Walking Dead, Danai Gurira. Photo credit: Jenny Anderson.
The night’s program included performances from the upcoming Playwrights Horizon musical Bella: An American Tall Tale, and Soho Rep’s recent show Duat, presented by Sarah Benson, a Vilcek Creative Promise Prizewinner in Theatre.
A sense of urgency marked many of the comments throughout the night, as honorees and presenters spoke on theatre’s role in the recently changed political landscape.
“We have entered a moment in time where complacency is not an option,” said Danai. “Now is a time I feel called to do more than I had ever imagined. To put down the smart device and any other distraction guised as a necessity and get back to the bare essentials. Tell stories from the core. Tell stories that scare me to tell, that might come with consequences. Get voices out there—engage, ignite, advocate, agitate, be relentless and fearless, recognize this moment for what it is. A moment we will all be held accountable for by generations to come.”