As a theater major, my passions are acting and directing. And as a black woman in theater, I know it’s important to have role models to look up to. Afterall, you can’t be it, if you can’t see it. To me, these four women have been the most influential African American women in the theater scene to date.
Audra McDonald has won multiple Tony Awards for her performances in theatre such as Ragtime (1998), Carousel (1994), A Raisin in the Sun (2004), and Master Class (1996). The first time I fell in love with Audra McDonald was performing on the Tony Awards when she sang with the cast of Porgy and Bess. Audra McDonald not only has been on broadway but on television as well. If you are in love with Grey’s Anatomy (but seriously who isn’t?) you may remember Audra McDonald from the spin-off of Grey’s Anatomy called Private Practice.
Lynn Nottage is known for being a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and even a screenwriter. Lynn Nottage has written plays for African American women that gives us the opportunities that we need. One of my favorite plays she she’s written is called POOF! I truly recommend that everyone read the script because it focuses on the topic of dating violence and shines a light on it like never before. She graduated from Brown University and the Yale School of Drama.
Susan-Lori Parks is the first African-American woman to receive a Pulitzer Prize for Drama for her play Topdog/Underdog in 2002. She teaches at New York University. The musical adaption that she did of the musical Porgy and Bess won a Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical. Her project called 365 Days/365 Plays was produced in at least 700 theatres all over the world creating one of the largest collaborations in theatre history.
Cicely Tyson is the definition of #Blackgirlmagic to me. Cicely Tyson is 91 and could easily pass for 65 if you didn’t know her real age. She was discovered by a woman from Ebony magazine where she became a popular fashion model. She was in the original cast of Jean Genet’s The Blacks. Cicely Tyson won a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play for her performance as Miss Carrie Watts in The Trip to Bountiful. Many people recognize her from her appearance in the Tyler Perry movies such as Diary of a Mad Black Woman and Why Did I Get Married Too? Cicely Tyson is the strong, black distinguished woman that I want to be. Honestly, who couldn’t be inspired by her grace?
These four women give me the courage and the inspiration to be in the theatre. I know that if they make a difference in the world for African American women in theatre, so can I.