It was a spirit-filled night on Nov. 15 at the 38th Annual Vivian Robinson/AUDELCO Recognition Awards for Excellence in Black Theatre as Yvette Hyligers’ “What Would Jesus Do?” swept the awards with seven wins and Reverend Dr. Johnny Ray Youngblood formerly of St. Paul’s Church was honored with a Special Achievement Award. His “Maafa Suite” was performed by a cast of more than 20 performers.
The audience often responded to the recipients’ acceptance speeches with “Amen” and joined in a sing-a-long with Dr. Youngblood of “Jesus is the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me!”
A resurgence of attendees to the annual awards at the Aaron Davis Hall’s Marian Anderson Theatre forced security to refuse late-comers entry to the orchestra floor.
“What Would Jesus Do?” Dramatic Production of the Year took home six other coveted awards, including; Playwright (Yvette Heyliger), Lead Actress (Yvonne Farrow twin to Playwright), Lead Actor (Jerome Preston Bates), Supporting Actress (Johnnie Mae), Supporting Actor (Jamil A. C. Mangan) and Set Design (Patrice Davidson) and set an envious record for the Billie Holiday Theatre at Restoration Plaza’s 38th season (2009-2010).
The production, which premiered in Los Angeles in recognition of World Aids Day 2006 and the 25th anniversary of HIV/AIDS in America, is set to music and takes place in the Black church. It is about the devastation of a God-fearing family when the mother learns that she may have been exposed to HIV by her husband.
Other winners of the evening were Lighting Design – James Carter for “Pecong”; Costume Design – David Withrow for “Pecong”; Sound Design – David D. Wright for “Oshun”; Director/Dramatic Production – Imani for “Dr. May Edward Chinn”; Director/Musical Production – Akin Babatunde for “Blind Lemon Blues”; Choreographer – Byron Easley for “Langston in Harlem”; Outstanding Performance in a Musical Female – Kenita Miller for “Langston in Harlem”; Outstanding Performance in a Musical Male – Glenn Turner for “Langston in Harlem”; Musical Production of the Year “Langston in Harlem” for Urban Stages; Outstanding Ensemble Performance “August Wilson’s Women” for Juneteenth Legacy Theatre); Solo Performance -Daniel Beaty for “Through the Night”; and Best Revival “Pecong” for Take Wing and Soar).
One memorable speech during the ceremony came from Akin Babatunde whose “Blind Lemon Blues” garnered him the award – Best/Director Musical Production