Special Tony Awards will be given to the Broadway Advocacy Organization, and the Broadway shows “David Byrne’s American Utopia” and “Freestyle Love Supreme,” as part of the 74th annual Tony Awards ceremony, which is set to take place on Sept. 26, some 15 months after they were originally scheduled.
If nearly everything else about the 74th annual Tony Awards is unusual, Special Tony Awards are given out each year, separate from the 25 competitive awards.
The Broadway Advocacy Coalition was founded in 2016 by a group of Broadway actors and activists “to answer a question: How can the arts play a more meaningful role in creating a just world?” One of its earliest actions was a series of discussions and performances called Broadway for Black Lives Matter. Here is Brandon Victor Dixon speaking and performing on December 4, 2016, part of the third such event BAC held in collaboration with Columbia Law School:
A month later, co-founder Amber Iman explained the group’s origins
The Coalition stepped up its activism in the wake of the murder of George Floyd murder, last June holding a three-day online forum Broadway for Black Lives Matter Again,
Next Tuesday, June 29th, it will be presenting “What Now? Part 2: From Ally to Action.”
The coalition has presented an “unparalleled platform for marginalized members of our theater community and tools to help us all do better as we strive for equity,” according to a statement by Charlotte St. Martin, the president of the Broadway League, and Heather A. Hitchens, the chief executive of the American Theater Wing, the two organizations that present the Tonys.
The Tony administration committee also gave Special Tonys to two Broadway shows that it felt deserved recognition although they did not fit into any of the competitive categories. “Freestyle Love Supreme” is the name both of the show and the hip-hop improv group that Lin-Manuel Miranda co-founded in 2003. with fellow Wesleyan University alumni. As I wrote in my review, ” it is hard not to be dazzled by the verbal dexterity of the cast as they create a series of rapped improvisations, in response to solicited suggestions from the audience. The rap songs — some so elaborate that they’re more like rap scenarios — are accompanied by spontaneous musical compositions.”
“David Byrne’s American Utopia,” is an energetic live concert which I saw on HBO at the height of the pandemic “during a period when its main theme — a celebration of the need and the pleasures of connecting — felt both resonant and wistful.
Both shows are scheduled to return to Broadway for limited runs — “David Byrne’s American Utopia” on September 17, 2021, “Freestyle Love Supreme” on October 7, 2021.
The nominees for the 74th annual Tony Awards, for work performed on Broadway between April 26, 2019, and Feb. 19, 2020, will be honored during a ceremony that will be split in half — with all but four of the awards given on on Paramount+, a paid subscription streaming service, followed by a CBS broadcast.