Columbia Faculty and Alumni Nominated for Antonyo Awards: Best in Black Performance

Anastasia Ellis
September 22, 2022

The nominees for the 2nd Annual Antonyo Awards, presented by Broadway Black, have been announced. The awards honor the best in Black performance for the 2021-2022 NYC theatre season across 29 competitive categories and five honorary categories. Among the nominees are several projects worked on by Columbia faculty and alumni. 

Broadway Black’s Drew Shade, who conceived of the Antonyo Awards in 2020, expressed that the “Antonyo Awards were born to remind ourselves of the joy that Black theatre artists have created in a fractured country.” This year’s ceremony marks the first in-person Antonyo Awards, as last year’s presentation was streamed online. The live awards ceremony will be held October 10 at Harlem’s iconic Apollo Theater.

Associate Professor Lynn Nottage’s play Clyde’s received seven nominations, including Best Play. In Clyde’s, a cast of formerly incarcerated sandwich-shop workers find their purpose and dream together in their quest to create the perfect sandwich. Nottage is also nominated twice for Best Book of a Musical for MJ: The Musical and Intimate Apparel. MJ: The Musical received has a total of eight nominations, while Intimate Apparel received six. MJ celebrates the work of Michael Jackson in a story centered around the making of his 1992 Dangerous World Tour. Intimate Apparel, an opera based on Nottage’s 2004 play of the same name, follows Esther, a Black woman who makes her living sewing corsets and undergarments, in 1905 New York.

Adjunct Assistant Professor Michael Sexton, who is the Director of the Public Shakespeare Initiative at The Public Theater, served as the dramaturg and text consultant for Macbeth, which premiered on Broadway for a limited run earlier this year under the direction of Sam Gold. Led by stars Daniel Craig and Ruth Negga, Macbeth received nominations for Best Revival and Best Actor in a Play, Broadway (Ruth Negga). 

The Public Theater’s Merry Wives, an adaptation of the original Shakespeare written by Jocelyn Bioh ’08 and directed by Saheem Ali ’07, received a total of six nominations, including Best Director and Best Revival. Bioh and Ali also received nominations for Bioh’s Nollywood Dreams: Bioh for Best Play and Ali for Best Director. Nollywood Dreams tells the story of Ayamma, a young woman dreaming of stardom in Lagos, Nigeria during the 1990s Nollywood film industry boom.

This year’s Tony Award winning Best Musical, A Strange Loop, also received seven Antonyo Award nominations. Alumna and Dean’s Council Member Barbara Whitman ’05 is a producer for the musical. A Strange Loop, for which Michael R. Jackson (writer of the book, music, and lyrics) won the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, follows the story of Usher, a queer Black man writing a musical about a queer Black man writing a musical—and audiences watch Usher discover his desires, identity, and instincts along the way.

Finally, Paradise Square was nominated for seven Antonyo Awards, including Best Musical. Two Columbia alumni served on the production: Lynn Spector ’15 worked as a script supervisor, and Robbie Armstrong ’21 was a Stage Management Production Assistant. Paradise Square showcases an often overlooked moment of racial harmony in the Civil War Era: in 1863 New York City, in Lower Manhattan’s Five Points slum, free Black Americans and Irish immigrants cohabitated peacefully until the first Federal Draft and the deadly riots that ensued. 

A list of all the nominations can be found here.