The Columbia College Chicago Theatre Department congratulates Columbia College Chicago alum Tonya Pinkins ’96 — Tony Award-winning star of such Broadway musicals as Caroline, or Change and Jelly’s Last Jam — on receiving the 2020 Rachel Crothers Leadership Award from the League of Professional Theatre Women, the premier New York organization advocating for opportunity and visibility for women in professional theatre nationally and internationally for over 35 years. The LPTW Rachel Crothers Leadership Award is given to a theatre woman of high achievement who has distinguished herself in exemplary service and sacrifice for a common cause while simultaneously making significant contributions to the American theatre.
Pinkins won the 1992 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for her performance in the Broadway hit Jelly’s Last Jam. Her other Broadway credits include Stephen Sondheim’s musical Merrily We Roll Along, Michael John La Chiusa’s musical The Wild Party, August Wilson’s drama Radio Golf, and Tony-nominated turns in the musicals Play On! and Caroline, or Change. Her Off-Broadway credits include the original Off-Broadway production of Caroline, or Change, for which she won the 2004 Obie Award for Best Performance and the 2004 Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Lead Actress, as well as Rasheeda Speaking, for which she won the 2015 Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Play.
In addition to her extensive work in the American theatre, she is a veteran of daytime television, most notably for her role as Livia Frye on All My Children. Pinkins is also an educator, a motivational speaker, and the author of a book, Get Over Yourself: How to Drop the Drama and Claim the Life You Deserve. Her podcast, You Can’t Say That, can be heard on the Broadway Podcast Network. Pinkins produced, directed, and co-wrote Truth & Reconciliation: Womyn Working It Out! She is currently writing, producing, directing, and starring in a socio-political horror film, Red Pill.
Alongside her professional achievements, Pinkins was selected for the LPTW Rachel Crothers Leadership Award because of her #BlackPerspectivesMatter brand of activism in white theatre spaces. Throughout her career, Pinkins has been outspoken and unapologetic about the ways in which she feels the American theatre mirrors institutionalized racism. Due to the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement in the wake of the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others, Pinkins continues to champion individual action.
The LPTW Rachel Crothers Leadership Award will be presented on Monday, December 7, from 7 to 9 PM (Eastern time) on Zoom. The award ceremony will feature a musical performance by Broadway performer Darius de Haas, himself a former Columbia College Chicago Theatre Department student and Obie Award winner. To purchase tickets or make a donation, click here.
The League of Professional Theatre Women has been leading the gender parity conversation in professional theatre for over 35 years. Since its founding in 1978, the League’s membership has grown to over 500 members: theatre artists and practitioners of all backgrounds, working across multiple disciplines in both the commercial and nonprofit sectors. To promote visibility and increase opportunities for women in our industry, LPTW spearheads: public programming; advocacy projects; and media and publications that celebrate industry luminaries, the legacy of historic visionaries, and raise awareness of and nurture the voices of women+. The League continues to shine a spotlight on gender parity, part of its commitment to creating a culture of EDIA: Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Access, both in the theatre world and the world at large.
The Rachel Crothers Leadership Award honors the legacy of pioneering playwright Rachel Crothers (1878-1958), considered to have been the most successful and prolific woman dramatist in American theatre in the first part of the 20th century. Author of such plays as Mother Carey’s Chickens and Susan and God, Crothers was also the co-founder and longtime director of the American Theatre Wing, the organization that created and co-sponsors the Tony Awards, the top Broadway theatre award. The Wing, dedicated to supporting excellence and education in theatre, was originally established as part of the Allied relief effort during World War II.