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Southside man doesn't win a Tony but celebrates new success
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Southside man doesn't win a Tony but celebrates new success

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AIDS play "The Inheritance" and musical "Moulin Rouge!" won the top honors at Broadway's Tony Awards on Sunday in a four-hour ceremony that promoted the return of live theater and called for better opportunities for Black writers and performers. Jayson Albano reports.

Henry County’s Jeremy O. Harris came home empty-handed from in the Tony Awards, which were announced in a televised ceremony on Sunday night.

But the show must go on — with another Broadway run — and Harris continues to be watched by the world, including through two articles focused on him alone in Monday’s New York Times, Tony or no Tony.

His “Slave Play,” termed a ground-breaking, bracing work that mixes race, sex, taboo desires and class, had earned a dozen nominations, making it the most nominated play in Tony history. But it won nothing.

Harris, who attended Carlisle School and developed “Slave Play” while he was earning his master’s degree at Yale, attended the ceremony in New York with his mother, Veronica Farrish of Danville and, as the New York Times reported, his 11-year-old niece, Kyra Jenae Done of Danville, and Candace Owen-Williams, who was his drama teacher at Carlisle.

The after-party also was hosted by Broadway Advocacy Coalition, which was honored for a Tony Award for its efforts to challenge racism through storytelling and theater, the NYT reported.

After the awards ceremony, Harris co-hosted an after-party at NeueHouse — a party, along with Harris’s conversation about “Slave Play” and the awards, got its own article in the New York Times, “It’s His Party, and He’ll Cry If He Wants To.”

“I decided to take the wall down for a second when they were saying the nominees,” he told Katie Van Syckle of the NYT, “And I think, in that one moment, I felt really excited. And I felt all the emotions of it, and then it didn’t happen.

“I know for a person like me, to hope that the systems that you agitate will affirm you, is a lost cause,” Van Syckle reported. “If I’m hitting a nerve that people don’t like to be hit, there’s no reason for them to be like, ‘Now come, I’m going to give you a prize for that.’”

74th Annual Tony Awards

A view of the red carpet at the 74th annual Tony Awards at Winter Garden Theatre on Sunday in New York.

Meanwhile, Harris has been busy: The movie “Zola,” which he co-wrote, was released in July (he attended its Sundance premiere); he is the inaugural collaborator of SSENSE WORKS fashions; he is the developer for HBO’s “Euphoria;” he made a cameo appearance in “Gossip Girl” —

Tony Awards - Moulin Rouge

This image shows the cast in “Moulin Rouge! The Musical.”

And “Slave Play” will be back on Broadway this fall.

“Slave Play” ran on Broadway from Sept. 10, 2019, through Jan. 19, 2020. The New York Times reports that it will run from Nov. 23 to Jan. 23 at the August Wilson Theater, then will run in Los Angeles.

Harris wrote on Twitter: “Slave Play has never won one of the major awards of any of the great voting bodies but changed a culture and has inspired thousands of ppl who didn’t care about theatre before. I saw someone randomly reading the play in Slovenia. We already won.”

The awards

Best New Play went to “The Inheritance” by Matthew Lopez, and Charles Fuller’s “A Soldier’s Play” won best play revival.

“Moulin Rouge! The Musical,” a jukebox adaptation of Baz Luhrmann’s hyperactive 2001 movie, won the best new musical crown on a Sunday night when Broadway looked back to honor shows shuttered by COVID-19, mourn its fallen and also look forward to welcoming audiences again

About the goings-on in a turn-of-the-century Parisian nightclub, updated with tunes like “Single Ladies” and “Firework” alongside the big hit “Lady Marmalade,” “Moulon Rouge! The Musical” won 10 Tonys. The record is 12, won by “The Producers.”

Producer Carmen Pavlovic said after what Broadway has been through the last 18 months it felt strange to be considered the best. She dedicated the award to every show that closed, opened, nearly opened or was fortunate to be reborn.

Lopez’s two-part, seven-hour epic uses “Howards End” as a starting point for a play that looks at gay life in the early 21st century. It also yielded wins for Andrew Burnap as best actor in a play, Stephen Daldry as best director, and Lois Smith as best performance by an actress in a featured role in a play.

Thomas Kirdahy, a producer, dedicated the award to his late husband, the playwright Terrence McNally. Lopez, the first Latin writer to win in the category, urged more plays to be produced from the Latin community. “We have so many stories inside us aching to come out. Let us tell you our stories,” he said.

The pandemic-delayed telecast kicked off with an energetic performance of “You Can’t Stop the Beat” from original Broadway cast members of “Hairspray!” Jennifer Holliday also took the stage to deliver an unforgettable rendition of “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going” from the musical “Dreamgirls.”

The singers performed for a masked and appreciative audience at a packed Winter Garden Theatre. Host Audra McDonald got a standing ovation when she took the stage. “You can’t stop the beat. The heart of New York City!” she said.

“Moulin Rouge! The Musical” won for scenic design, costume, lighting, sound design, orchestrations and a featured acting Tony for Broadway favorite Danny Burstein. Sonya Tayeh won for choreography on her Broadway debut, and Alex Timbers won the trophy for best direction of a musical.

In a surprise to no one, Aaron Tveit won the award for best leading actor in a musical for “Moulin Rouge! The Musical.” That’s because he was the only person nominated in the category. He thanked a long list of people, including his parents, brother, agents, manager and the cast and crew. “We are so privileged to get to do this,” he said, tearing up. “Because what we do changes peoples’ lives.”

Burstein, who won for featured actor in a musical and had not won six previous times, thanked the Broadway community for supporting him after the death last year of his wife, Rebecca Luker. “You were there for us, whether you just sent a note or sent your love, sent your prayers — sent bagels — it meant the world to us, and it’s something I’ll never forget.”

David Alan Grier won featured actor in a play for his role in “A Soldier’s Play,” which dissects entrenched Black-white racism as well as internal divisions in the Black military community during World War II. “To my other nominees: Tough bananas, I won,” he said. On stage, the director Kenny Leon recited the names Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, killed by police. “We will never, ever forget you.”

Adrienne Warren won the Tony for best leading actress in a musical for her electric turn as Tina Turner in “Tina — The Tina Turner Musical.” Warren was considered the front-runner for the award thanks to becoming a one-woman fireball of energy and exhilaration. She dedicated the win to three family members she lost while playing Turner — and thanked Turner herself.

Mary-Louise Parker won her second best lead actress Tony Award, winning for playing a Yale professor who treasures great literature but has made no room in her life for someone to share that love with in “The Sound Inside.” She thanked her dog, whom she was walking in the rain when she bumped into Mandy Greenfield from the Williamstown Theatre Festival, who told her about the play.

Burnap made his Broadway debut in “The Inheritance.” He thanked his mom, and the University of Rhode Island and joked that he felt grateful because “I got to act for seven hours.”

The sobering musical “Jagged Little Pill,” which plumbs Alanis Morissette’s 1995 breakthrough album to tell a story of an American family spiraling out of control, came into the night with a leading 15 Tony nominations. It won for best book, and Lauren Patten won the award for best featured actress in a musical.

“A Christmas Carol” cleaned up with five technical awards: scenic design of a play, costumes, lighting, sound design and score. No one from the production was on hand to accept any of the awards.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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