“Being a black woman and having this acknowledged in this way—my work on a play—feels really tremendous,” says Tony Award–nominated choreographer Camille A. Brown. “The last black woman nominated in this category was Marlies Yearby for Rent.”
That was back in 1996. Now, 23 years later, not only does Brown represent women in the category (and black women at that), she also proves nominators should continue to look beyond musicals for the best of Broadway’s storytelling through movement. (Last year, Stephen Hoggett earned a nomination for his work on Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: Parts 1 and 2.)
With Choir Boy, Brown set movement to tell the story of nine young black men at the Charles R. Drew Prep School for Boys, “using the energy of these nine black men standing onstage and talking about being unapologetic in the movement—because every stomp, every gesture, is reaching into our culture so it's important to tap into that.”
Mixing genres, including step, Brown’s work lent itself to an emotional authenticity the nominating committee clearly noticed.
“The authenticity comes from the person, too. I think the choices and the honesty of the actors was just so real that automatically it becomes authentic,” she told Playbill on opening night. “The richness of the African tradition is extremely important when you talk about step because that’s where it originated [and] I think those things all together [made this movement authentic].”
While Brown relishes her first Tony nomination, she hopes she is able to set an example. “One of the things I can take away is that hopefully a young black girl who is interested in getting into theatre can see a reflection of herself,” she says. We feel the movement of change.