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Photo Flash: Riant Theatre Kicks Off Strawberry One-Act Festival with Award for Director Liesl Tommy


The Riant Theatre's launch party for the 28th Season of the Strawberry One-Act Festival featured a special Pioneer of the Arts Award presentation to South African born, Obie Award winning director Liesl Tommy (Appropriate), who was recently tapped to direct Oscar winner Lupita Nyong'o in her first New York play Eclipsed by playwright-actress Danai Guira (The Walking Dead.) Scroll down for photos from the party!

"Congratulations to Liesl Tommy on directing the production of Eclipsed at the Public Theatre in the Fall. And, also to 2014 Riant Theatre honorees Stephen Byrd and Alia Jones, who are generously providing support for the production," said Van Dirk Fisher, the founder and artistic director of Riant Theatre, a multicultural and inclusive institution, and Strawberry One-Act Festival. "This play showcases the talents of three women with direct lineage to the African continent. Liesl was born in South Africa, Lupita was raised in Kenya and Danai's parents are from Zimbabwe. The play is set in 2003 near the end of the Civil War in Liberia, where a group of women are held captive by rebels who are fighting the government. It is profound and I'm sure will resonate with woman all over the world."

The salute to Tommy on July 26 at the Poet's Den Theatre was part of the official kick-off for the Strawberry One-Act Festival's August 5 - 23 theatrical competition at Tato Laviera Theatre in Harlem. Over 30 plays, ranging from mainstream to multicultural, will compete for top awards.

Born in a colored township outside Cape Town, Tommy's family fled apartheid to Massachusetts when she was a teen. Ironically, her first theater experience in the U.S. was acting in the high school production of Ntozake Shange's For Colored Girls. As a director, Tommy's imaginative staging of original Off-Broadway shows The Good Negro at the Public Theatre and her Obie win for the play Appropriate have earned her accolades. Her novel re-imagining of regional theatre productions ofLes Miserables, Hamlet, A Raisin in the Sun, Piano Lesson, Ma Raney's Black Bottom and Ruined have garnered Tommy her the reputation as one of theatre's most exciting directors.

At the presentation, playwright Tracey Scott Wilson (The Good Negro) presented the award to Tommy. "Liesl is fearless in art and life," said Scott. "She's an exciting visionary and bustling with intelligence."

The evening included a special screening of short films inspired by the plays, produced by the playwrights featuring actors from the shows. The other Pioneer of the Arts Award for Peter Anthony Andrews was received by Emmy winner Lucia Kaizer, a veteran television and film executive with credits ranging from the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson to president of Bruce Lee's company. Andrews is a pioneering African American executive in the entertainment industry. He's been vice president of NBC Entertainment, senior vice president at Columbia Pictures and executive vice president of MGM Studios. At NBC Entertainment from 1973 to 1979, he green lighted classic TV shows: Adam 12, Columbo, McCloud, Ironside, Rockford Files, Chips, Little House on the Prairie, Shogun and many more.

For more information on the Strawberry One-Act Festival's 28th Season, check the website at or call 646-623- 3488.

Photo Credit: Mel Wright

Photo Flash: Riant Theatre Kicks Off Strawberry One-Act Festival with Award for Director Liesl Tommy
Playwright Tracey Scott Wilson, director Liesl Tommy, Van Dirk Fisher

Photo Flash: Riant Theatre Kicks Off Strawberry One-Act Festival with Award for Director Liesl Tommy
Producer Lucia Kaizer accepting award for Peter Anthony Andrews from Van Dirk Fisher

Photo Flash: Riant Theatre Kicks Off Strawberry One-Act Festival with Award for Director Liesl Tommy
Strawberry One-Act Festival playwrights attending Pioneer of the Arts Awards: Vic Cuenca (CLOSURE), Lydia Nightingale (ADELE IN BERLIN), Andrea J. Fulton (ONE DROP), Shannon McDavid (CECI N'EST PAS UNE MÉTAPHORE), Faith Sanders (IT IS WRONG TO EAT PEOPLE), Rick Charles Mueller (CHANGE OF HEART), (center holding book) Van Dirk Fisher (LOVERS, STRANGERS AND WHAT SOME PEOPLE CALL FAMILY), Ali Keller (WHALE), Chris Lazzaro (CHARLES' CALAMITY), Maria Concha (BEN & JESS), Michael Hauschild (MR. INVINCIBLE EXPLAINS IT TO THE WORLD) Anthony Marinelli (ANOTHER FAMOUS DEAD ARTIST) Emma Marks (VEAL CUTLET AND PINOT NOIR) and Kyle Giller (THE OLD GANG)

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