South African playwright Athol Fugard is to receive an honorary award at the Tony Awards on June 12. In making the announcement, the kudos commitee described Fugard as “a playwright whose art has always spoken out against racism and who continues to be an active voice for freedom and equality”. The film adapation of his novel “Tsotsi” won the 2005 Academy Award for Best Foreign Lanuage Film.
Fuguard contended for Best Play four times over the years. He lost his first two bids to British scribe Peter Shaffer — first in 1975 when “Equuus” edged out “Sizwe Banzi Is Dead and the Island” and again in 1981 when “A Lesson from Aloes” was defeated by “Amadeus.” In 1982, David Edgar‘s adaptation of “The Life and Times of Nicholas Nickelby” beat out “Master Harold … and the Boys” (1982) while “I’m Not Rappaport” by Herb Gardner prevailed over “Blood Knot” in 1986.
Fugard was also nominated for directing “Sizwe Banzi”– he lost to “Equus” helmer John Dexter and “Master Harold” — the “Nicholas Nickelby” co-directors Trevor Nunn and John Caird prevailed.
A honorary award will also be presented to Phillip Smith, chairman of the Shubert theater chain, which owns 17 of the Broadway houses as well as theaters across the country. Smith represents the Broadway League on the administration committe of the Tony Awards. And for her charitable work, playwright Eve Ensler, whose “The Vagina Monologues” begat a philanthropic foundation, will receive the Isabelle Stevenson Award, named for the late American Theater Wing president.
The Tony Honors for Excellence in the Theatre, established in 1990 to salute those not eligible in competitive categories, will go to animal trainer Bill Berloni, Sharon Jensen of the Alliance for Inclusion in the Arts and the Drama Book Shop.