Columbia College Chicago will host the 2017 Black Theater Alliance/Ira Aldridge Awards on Monday, October 23, at the college’s Conaway Center, 1104 S. Wabash, in Chicago’s South Loop. The evening will begin with a reception at 7 PM followed by the awards presentation at 8 PM. Tickets are $25 per person, and should be purchased in advance by October 16. Tickets can be ordered by mail from The Black Theater Alliance Awards, Inc., 412 E. 43rd St. #305, Chicago, Illinois 60653.
The Black Theater Alliance Awards were established in 1995 by Columbia College Chicago alumnus Vincent Williams ’03, a graduate of the BA Program in Performing Arts Management from what is now the Columbia College Chicago Business and Entrepreneurship Department. The awards were founded to honor African Americans who achieve excellence in theater, dance, and all areas of the performing arts in the Chicagoland area. The 2017 awards recognize Chicago-area stage productions produced and presented between August 1, 2016, and July 31, 2017. The awards also pay homage to Ira Aldridge (1807-1867), an African American actor famed for his performances in Shakespearean roles in Great Britain, Russia, and Prussia.
- Tyla Abercrumbie ’92 — nominated for the Ruby Dee Award for Best Leading Actress in a Play for her performance in Paradise Blue at TimeLine Theatre Company;
- alumna Alicia Watley ’16, a graduate of the Columbia College Chicago Theatre Department’s BA Program in Acting, and student Jelani Smith, a senior in the Acting BA program — both nominated for the Ethel Waters Award for Best Actress in an Ensemble for their work in By the Apricot Trees at ETA Creative Arts Foundation;
- Smith and Watley again — both nominated for the Phylicia Rashad Award for Most Promising Actress for their performances in By the Apricot Trees at ETA Creative Arts Foundation;
- alumna Aayisha Humphrey ’13, a graduate of the Acting BA program – nominated for the Phylicia Rashad Award for Most Promising Actress for her performance in A Hedda Gabler with Red Tape Theatre;
- Michael Rawls, a student in the Theatre Department’s BA Program in Musical Theatre – nominated for the Harry Belafonte Award for Best Actor in an Ensemble for his work in Yellowman at Fleetwood Jourdain Theatre.
In addition, the nominees for the Target Community Relations Award for Best Ensemble included the casts of Pulse Theatre Company Chicago’s The Colored Museum and Porchlight Music Theatre’s The Scottsboro Boys. The cast of The Colored Museum included alumnus Jelani West ’12, a graduate of the Acting BA program; the show was directed by alumnus Aaron Mitchell Reese ’12, a graduate of the Theatre Department’s Theatre Directing Program. The cast of The Scottsboro Boys included alumni Jerome Riley Jr. ’16, a graduate of the Theatre Department’s BFA Program in Musical Theatre Performance, and Jared Grant ’12, a graduate of the Theatre Department’s BA Program in Musical Theatre, as well as current Musical Theatre BA program student Izaiah Harris.
The Conaway Center at Columbia College Chicago is named in memory of Hermann Conaway, former Dean of Students at Columbia College Chicago, who passed away in 1992. Located on the ground floor of the historic 1891 Ludington Building (one of Chicago’s earliest surviving steel frame buildings), the Conaway Center was established as a visible and welcoming presence for Columbia College Chicago at the south end of its urban campus.