Tony award winning director/actor Ruben Santiago-Hudson gives a beautiful speech, under the marquee of Broadway’s August Wilson Theater this past June 29th, “Lloyd Richards Day,” celebrating the great American director, nurturer of playwrights, acting teacher, and artistic director.
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Thanks to Borough President Mark Levine, and City Council Member Erik Bottcher and everyone else who worked to make this happen at the August Wilson Theater today. And our next job is to get West 47th Street, where Raisin in the Sun was performed at the Ethel Barrymore Theater, co-named after Lloyd Richards as a permanent marker of his contribution to Broadway, NYC, and American Theater.
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!!UPDATE: The event will happen under the marquee of the beautiful August Wilson Theater on West 52nd Street at 12 noon, June 29th!!
We are so happy to announce the details about the public ceremony for Lloyd Richards Day. The public ceremony will happen in Times Square, Thursday, June 29th, 12 noon. We anticipate some Tony and Emmy Award winning theatrical colleagues of Lloyd to be there. You’re all invited! Feel free to share this notice.
To learn more about what Lloyd Richards has given to Broadway, New York City, and American Theater, see this post.
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)
The great Sidney Poitier died this month.
Here he is in one of his most masterful performances as Walter Lee Younger in Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun.
The play was originally directed on Broadway by Lloyd Richards, the first Black director on the Broadway stage. In their lean days as struggling actors, Richards and Poitier would pool their money to buy and split a hot dog. They promised each other that if one got an opportunity, they’d bring the other along. When Poitier got Hansberry’s script, he insisted that Lloyd direct the play. Lloyd worked intensely with Hansberry to shape the play and then cast and directed the play perfectly. The stage cast, many of whom were also in the film– and who you can see in this clip from the film–included Ruby Dee, Diana Sands, Claudia McNeil, and John Fiedler.
Thanks to YouTuber The aesthetic of the Image: [world] cinema clips
A first artistic mentor can be like a first love. Everything seems new, extraordinary, larger than life. Your brain, body, soul, emotions are expanding so rapidly that you endow the other with superhuman powers, even if on looking back, you understand that what you had been exposed to were, perhaps, the usual lessons of life. Nonetheless, memories are formed and the lessons learned take on an importance that stay on, years later.
The following story came to my mind today, of a day many years ago that made a large impact on me. It didn’t even directly involve me, but it was something I witnessed. I had just performed a scene in my college acting class with my scene partner, a talented young woman named Dena. We had a wonderful teacher, Lloyd Richards, not only an excellent acting teacher, but one of the finest teachers I have ever had for any subject. Dena was a very good actor, probably the most accomplished in the class, but on this day, after class, she was very upset about something. She went up to Lloyd, and she was obviously a little shaken and embarrassed, and said to him, “I had this awful dream last night. I dreamt that I was having a big argument with you, and I was telling you that every thing that you’ve ever taught us about acting was completely and utterly wrong.”
And Lloyd, whose physical manifestation was similar to a plump Buddha, with great repose and a Cheshire Cat grin, replied, “Congratulations, Dena. You’ve just passed the class.”
Click on the video above for more of Lloyd Richards and Chekhov’s advice.