Lloyd Richards Day

The City of New York is proclaiming June 29th, 2023 as Lloyd Richards Day!

This is personal for me. First let me tell you about Lloyd.

Lloyd Richards was a fabled theatrical director, acting teacher, and theatrical artistic director; in addition to directing the groundbreaking Broadway production of A Raisin in the Sun in 1959, starring Sidney Poitier, he won a Tony award for best direction of the play Fences starring James Earl Jones by August Wilson. In fact, it was Lloyd Richards who discovered August Wilson at the Eugene O’Neill National Playwrights Conference, of which Lloyd was the Artistic Director for many years. There is much more I can say about him, including his work as the Dean of the Yale School of Drama and Artistic Director of the Yale Repertory company, and of his students, including Sidney Poitier, Cicely Tyson, Steven McKinley Henderson, Kate Burton, Courtney Vance, Angela Bassett, and on and on.

He also taught at Hunter College when I was a student there back in the 1970s. I was extraordinarily lucky to have wandered as an undergrad into taking acting and directing classes with Lloyd.

He was the finest teacher of anything that I have ever had. He was a master pedagogue. I was also cast in a play he directed at the college. Though I didn’t go on to act professionally, his teaching profoundly affected me and my outlook on art and life. It was the same with literally thousands of his students. He was a deeply generous, unassuming, brilliantly perceptive and modest man.

Some forty-five years after taking class with Lloyd, I met up with some alums from Hunter who I had not seen since then. How that happened is a story for another time! But we decided it was high time the City of New York honored Lloyd in one way or another. After all, he had been awarded the National Medal of Arts by the Clinton White House, yet the City of New York had never officially honored him. We were determined that we would work to make more of the public aware of Lloyd’s essential and enormous contribution to American theater and Broadway.

And so, after two years of forming the Committee to Celebrate Lloyd Richards 6.29 and working to make this happen, we were thrilled when Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine and City Councilmember Erik Bottcher agreed to proclaim June 29th–the day that Lloyd Richards was born, and the day that he passed–as “Lloyd Richards Day.”

More to follow!

Left to Right: Julius Hollingworth and Sharron Cannon of the Committee to Celebrate Lloyd Richards 6.29, New York City Councilmember Erik Bottcher, Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine, and myself. (Click to enlarge)