On Monday, November 19, the membership of the Audience Development Corporation honored the Castillo Theatre with wins in all five of the categories in which it was nominated for the Vivian Robinson AUDELCO Recognition Awards for Excellence in Black Theatre (aka the Viv Awards) for its production of Sally and Tom (The American Way) by FrEd Newman and Annie Roboff, directed by Gabrielle L. Kurlander. The musical looks at the relationship between Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, his slave and mistress for 30 years, exploring the tragic contradiction at the heart of American history and culture.
Sally and Tom (The American Way) won Best Musical Production of the Year. The play’s director, Gabrielle L. Kurlander, won Best Director of a Musical Production. Ava Jenkins, who played Sally Hemings, won Outstanding Performance in a Musical-Female, and Brian D. Hills, who played Madison Hemings, Jefferson’s and Hemings’ son, took home the award for Outstanding Performance in a Musical-Male. Michael Walsh won Outstanding Musical Director. This year’s recognition follows the Castillo Theatre’s 2011 Viv Award for Outstanding Ensemble Performance for Playing With Heiner Müller, also directed by Kurlander.
The 2012 Viv Awards also honored Court-Martial at Fort Devens, a drama about a strike by Black WACs during Work War II. Court-Martial at Fort Devens, which was produced by the New Federal Theatre in association with Castillo Theatre, won Vivs for: Best Dramatic Production of the Year; Best Playwright Jeffrey Sweet; Best Director of a Dramatic Production, Mary Beth Easley; Best Costume Design, Ali Turns; Best Sound Design, Mark Bruckner; and the cast was awarded Outstanding Ensemble Performance. A second New Federal production in association with the Castillo Theatre, Puberty Rites by Elaine Jackson, won Best Lighting Design for Shirley Prendergast.
The Castillo Theatre (Dan Friedman, artistic director; Diane Stiles, managing director) has been creating and producing experimental, socially engaged and entertaining theatre for 29 years. It has long featured the plays of FrEd Newman, its late artistic director and playwright-in-residence and is increasingly recognized as a multi-cultural home for Black Theatre in New York City, located at 543 West 42nd Street. Earlier this season, Castillo extended a run of Katori Hall’s Children of Killers due to popular demand. The rest of its eclectic season of political theatre includes: Demonstration 2013: A Choral Community Play by Dan Friedman, directed by David Nackman; Carmen’s Place (A Fantasy), like Sally and Tom, a musical by FrEd Newman and Annie Roboff, directed by Gabrielle L. Kurlander; Hip-Hop Explosion Workshop, a hip-hop take on the work of German avant-gardist Heiner Müller, directed by Madelyn Chapman and Antoine Joyce; and musical improv comedy by Castillo’s in-house troupe, The Proverbial Loons.