The Geffen Playhouse will honor Tony-winning actors and activists Harry Belafonte and Lily Tomlin during its May 19 gala fundraiser, Backstage at the Geffen.
Belafonte will receive the Artistic Impact Award, which will be accepted on his behalf by daughter Gina Belafonte, and Tomlin will receive the Distinction in Theater Award.
Julia Sweeney will host the ceremony that includes surprise guest performers sharing songs and personal stories of life behind-the-scenes.
Belafonte earned a Tony Award in 1954 for John Murray Anderson’s Almanac. His film’s include Carmen Jones (1954), Island in the Sun (1957), and Odds Against Tomorrow (1959). A Grammy-winning singer, Belafonte is known for his breakthrough 1956 album Calypso and its stand-out hit “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song).”
As an activist, Belafonte was part of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s close circle and became a prominent public figure in the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s-60s. He worked to end apartheid in South Africa and served as an ambassadors for UNICEF and the American Civil Liberties Union.
Tomlin is a two-time Tony recipient, receiving a Special Tony in 1977 for her contribution to the theatrical season, and for Best Actress in a Play for The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe in 1986. A Grammy winner for This Is An Album, her screen appearances include 9 to 5, The Incredible Shrinking Woman, All of Me, And the Band Played On, The West Wing, Damages, and Grace and Frankie.
Tomlin and her partner, Jane Wagner, founded the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Lily Tomlin/Jane Wagner Cultural Arts Center, as well as the ‘Goosebump Garden’ at the LGBT Fenway Health Center in Boston. She has used her platform as an artist to advocate for animal welfare, civil rights, health care, protection of elephants, women’s issues, AIDS-related organizations, environmental concerns, homelessness, equal pay, and the LGBTQ community.
Ticket for Backstage at the Geffen begin at $1,500. Click here for more information.