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Tony Awards

Special Tony Awards Announced to BAC, Freestyle Love Supreme, American Utopia

The Tony Awards Administration Committee announced on June 22 that the American Theatre Wing’s Tony Awards will present a trio of Special Tony Awards for the 2019–2020 Broadway season. The three recipients of the 2020 Special Tony Awards will be the anti-racism advocacy organization Broadway Advocacy Coalition; and two shows from 2019–2020 that are set to return to Broadway this fall: David Byrne’s American Utopia and Freestyle Love Supreme.

Special Tony Awards are presented to outstanding productions, artists, and organizations that do not fall into any of the competitive categories. The Tony Awards are presented by The Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing.

“In what has been such an unusual year in theatre, we are thrilled to be presenting these Special Tony Awards to three such deserving recipients,” said Heather Hitchens, CEO and President of the American Theatre Wing, and Charlotte St. Martin, President of The Broadway League, in a statement. “The Broadway Advocacy Coalition has provided an unparalleled platform for marginalized members of our theatre community and tools to help us all do better as we strive for equity. The two productions we are honoring, David Byrne’s American Utopia and Freestyle Love Supreme, take theatre to the next level, delivering outside-of-the-box presentations that have gone beyond the stage and brought theatre into the homes of millions of people around the world.”

The Broadway Advocacy Coalition is an arts-based advocacy nonprofit dedicated to building the capacity of individuals, organizations, and communities to use storytelling to dismantle the systems that perpetuate racism. Founded in 2016 by several Black members of the Broadway community as a direct response to the nation’s pandemic of racism and police brutality, it has since grown into a multidisciplinary organization which unites artists, legal experts, and community advocates to create lasting impact and collaborations on policy issues ranging from criminal justice reform to education equity to immigration.

Via its partnership with the Center for Institutional and Social Change at Columbia Law School, BAC has created its groundbreaking “Theater of Change” course and collaborated with public institutions across New York City including the New York City Council and the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office. Other recent collaborations including the Gasping for Justice campaign featuring Jesse Williams, Fiona Apple and Alec Baldwin; the 24 Hour Plays “Viral Monologues” featuring DeRay Mckesson, Lynn Nottage, and Aja Naomi King; and the Flores Exhibits—in partnership with Waterwell Theater—featuring David Schwimmer, Morena Baccarin, and others. Over the last year, it has launched a number of new programs both in and outside the theatre industry including the Cody Renard Richard Scholarship to support the next generation of theatre leaders of color, the BAC Artivism Fellowship supporting a group of Black cis and trans female artist-activists, and its REP workshop supporting the creation of equitable Broadway companies. In 2020 BAC was named to Variety‘s Broadway to Watch list. BAC was founded by Jackie Bell, Amber Iman, Cameron J Ross, Britton Smith, Adrienne Warren & Christian Dante White. Its Board of Directors is made up of Kate Berry, Richard Gray, Amber Iman, Zhailon Levingston, Naila McKenzie, Robb Nanus, Alejo Rodriguez, Britton Smith, Susan Sturm, Carolyn Tharp, Adrienne Warren, Ben Wexler, & Gloria Zarate. The BAC staff includes Mikayla Bartholomew, Dria Brown, Chesray Dolpha, Zhailon Levingston, Mona Moriya, Robb Nanus, Nia Robinson, Alejo Rodriguez, Leia Squillace & Susan Sturm.

In the once-in-a-lifetime Broadway event American Utopia, Talking Heads superstar David Byrne is joined by 11 diverse musicians from around the globe in a jubilant celebration of live music, community, and connection. American Utopia began as an album released by Byrne in 2018. Later that year, the theatrical concert, which includes songs from American Utopia along with songs from Talking Heads and Byrne’s solo career, played more than 150 dates in 27 countries. Following American Utopia’s celebrated arrival on Broadway in 2019–2020, Spike Lee’s acclaimed filmed version of the show opened the Toronto International Film Festival and went on to global acclaim. The show returns to rock Broadway beginning September 17, 2021, with all the original songs and all the original musicians, just as we could all use a little Utopia.

American Utopia features David Byrne with Jacquelene Acevedo, Gustavo Di Dalva, Daniel Freedman, Chris Giarmo, Tim Keiper, Tendayi Kuumba, Karl Mansfield, Mauro Refosco, Stéphane San Juan, Angie Swan, and Bobby Wooten III. The show’s design team includes Rob Sinclair (lighting) and Pete Keppler (sound). Karl Mansfield and Mauro Refosco are Musical Directors. Choreography and Musical Staging is by Annie-B Parson. Alex Timbers serves as Production Consultant. David Byrne’s American Utopia is produced by Kristin Caskey, Mike Isaacson, Patrick Catullo, and Todomundo.

For more than 17 years, the same dedicated producers, creative team, and founding company members of Freestyle Love Supreme have aspired to make people laugh, bring audiences joy and create theatre that is unique and unforgettable. It was created by Thomas Kail, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Anthony Veneziale and what started out with a loose format in the basement of the Drama Bookshop in 2004 worked its way to the Booth Theatre on Broadway in 2019, with the same producers Kail, Miranda, Jenny & Jon Steingart, and Jill Furman. Directed by Kail, the acclaimed show features a comedic improvisational musical structure, and a rotating cast of some of the best and brightest Broadway performers. Founding members of Freestyle Love Supreme are Kail, Miranda, Veneziale, Christopher Jackson, Arthur Lewis, Bill Sherman, and Chris Sullivan. The show is created live every night with the audience contributing words, ideas, and inspiration. No two shows are ever the same. Freestyle Love Supreme will return to Broadway with a strictly limited engagement at the Booth Theatre—previews begin on Thursday, October 7 and performances will run until Sunday, January 2, 2022.

The Tony Awards will host a multi-platform celebration on Sunday, September 26, starting with the presentation of the 74th Annual Tony Awards at 7:00 p.m. ET / 4:00 p.m. PT live exclusively on Paramount+; and followed by The Tony Awards Present: Broadway’s Back! on the CBS Television Network and available to stream live and on-demand on Paramount+ and the CBS app.