Tony Award-winning director Lloyd Richards earns this year's Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize. The honor — including a medallion and a $200,000 cash prize — will be bestowed upon the helmer at an Oct. 30 ceremony at the Hudson Theatre in New York City.
Director of some of Broadway's most powerful dramas, Richards' resume boasts Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun and August Wilson's Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, Joe Turner's Come and Gone, The Piano Lesson, Two Trains Running, Seven Guitars and his Tony Award-winning direction of the playwright's first Pulitzer Prize winner Fences.
Playwright Wilson will be on hand with a number of other theatre veterans to pay tribute to the director and Yale University professor emeritus. A series of short performances will top the evening's celebrations.
Richards earns his for over 40 years of work, according to a release. "Richards has discovered and nurtured countless new playwrights, and staged some of the country’s most significant stories, giving theatergoers an ever changing and challenging perspective on life. He was instrumental in the groundbreaking introduction of the African American voice to Broadway, making history in 1959 as the first black director of the first black drama by the first black woman playwright on The Great White Way." Richards' off-stage efforts in developing new works at the National Playwrights Conference at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center and his innovative techniques to drama education at Yale.
"My whole career had been conditioned on the fact that there was no real log in the library of plays about the black experience in this country; they weren't there. Why? Because there weren't enough black playwrights," said Richards in a released statement. "You had to start somewhere, and it had to start with material." Established in 1994, the Gish Prize is given annually to outstanding talents across many disciplines across the arts and are chosen by a selection committee that changes every year. One of the largest awards in the arts, the Prize is now in its ninth year, recognizes outstanding talents from a spectrum of disciplines across the arts. Past honorees include lighting designer Jennifer Tipton (2001), dancer choreographer Merce Cunningham (2000), author-playwright Arthur Miller (1999), author Isabel Allende (1998), singer-songwriter Bob Dylan (1997), artist-director Robert Wilson (1996), film director Ingmar Bergman (1995), and architect Frank Gehry (1994).
"What the future will understand about your time and your culture and what you’ve contributed to it will be influenced by art. That is much more valuable than warships," added Richards. "The rest of the world may be affected by a bomb we drop on them, but their perception of our society will come through the arts."
— by Ernio Hernandez