André De Shields, Telly Leung, Tituss Burgess, Norm Lewis, Bonnie Milligan, James Harkness, Brenda Braxton, Jerry Mitchell, Laurissa Romain, Alison Solomon, Kandi Burruss and More Celebrate Wayne Brady at The Drama League’s LIGHT THE LIGHTS! Benefit

The Players. Photo by Lia Chang

On Monday, October 18, 2021, The Drama League honored Emmy Award-winner and Grammy Award-nominee Wayne Brady at The Players in New York.

Norm Lewis, Laurissa Romain, Wayne Brady, James Harkness, Alison Solomon, André De Shields. Photo by Lia Chang

The evening was hosted by Grammy Award-winner Kandi Burruss.

Kandi Burruss. Photo by Lia Chang
Kandi Burruss and Wayne Brady. Photo by Lia Chang
Wayne Brady and Kandi Burruss. Photo by Lia Chang

Broadway stars Tony Grammy and Emmy winning Hadestown star André De Shields, Telly Leung, Tituss Burgess, Bonnie Milligan, in addition to Paulie Pecorella (one of the winners), performed one of the Anthems by winners of the TikTok songwriting challenge.

André De Shields. Photo by Lia Chang
Telly Leung. Photo by Lia Chang
Tituss Burgess. Photo by Lia Chang
Dana Scurlock and Bonnie Milligan. Photo by Lia Chang

The contest, launched earlier this month, challenged composers to post an original Broadway-style “Anthem for the Future of Theater” on TikTok – a platform that has been instrumental in uplifting emerging theatre professionals during the pandemic. Each songwriting team won $250. The winning composers/lyricists are Deborah Abramson & Amanda Yesnowitz – “On The Stage”; Nico Juber & Selena Seballo – “Our Next Act”;  Jordan Li-Smith -“Better Day”; Paulie Pecorella & Sean McCabe -“One Day”; and Alec Powell. Click 2021 Benefit Journal 10.17.21 to view the program.

Nico Juber and Selena Seballo (not pictured), the song writing team of “Our Next Act” with André De Shields, who performed their winning anthem. Photo by Lia Chang

The program also featured remarks by Josh Bergasse, Brenda Braxton and Jerry Mitchell, and special video messages from Chita Rivera, Ben Vereen and Anthony Veneziale.

The Drama League’s Executive Director Bevin Ross. Photo by Lia Chang
The Drama League’s Associate Artistic Director Nilan. Photo by Lia Chang
Tyrone Mitchell Henderson and Brenda Braxton. Photo by Lia Chang
Josh Bergasse. Photo by Lia Chang
Jerry Mitchell. Photo by Lia Chang
Jerry Mitchell. Photo by Lia Chang

Norm Lewis, James Harkness, Tyrone Mitchell Henderson, Jamie deRoy, Doug Reside, Rolonda Watts, Alison Solomon, Laurissa Romain, Jarrod Spector, Irene Gandy, Jean Shafiroff, Dana Scurlock, and Luba Mason were also in attendance.

André De Shields and Telly Leung. Photo by Lia Chang
Norm Lewis, Irene Gandy and André De Shields. Photo by Lia Chang
André De Shields and Jamie deRoy. Photo by Lia Chang
André De Shields and Rolonda Watts. Photo by Lia Chang
André De Shields, Doug Reside, Stewart F. Lane. Photo by Lia Chang
Brenda Braxton and André De Shields. Photo by LIa Chang
Jerry Mitchell and André De Shields. Photo by LIa Chang
Irene Gandy, Jean Shafiroff, André De Shields and Brenda Braxton. Photo by Lia Chang
James Harkness and Jarrod Spector. Photo by Lia Chang
James Harkness, André De Shields and Norm Lewis. Photo by Lia Chang-

Wayne was joined by his pals from Freestyle Love Supreme, James Rushin and Kaila Mullady, to improv a song constructed from words and phrases collected from audience members.

Freestyle Love Supreme’s James Rushin, Wayne Brady and Kaila Mullady. Photo by Lia Chang
Kaila Mullady and Wayne Brady. Photo by Lia Chang
Kaila Mullady and Wayne Brady. Photo by Lia Chang

Wayne gave a shoutout to his mother, Linda Carson, who was in the audience.

Wayne Brady with his mother, Linda Watson and Calvin Watson. Photo by Lia Chang
Wayne Brady with his mother, Linda Watson and André De Shields. Photo by Lia Chang
Wayne Brady. Photo by Lia Chang
Wayne Brady. Photo by Lia Chang
Wayne Brady. Photo by Lia Chang
Wayne Brady. Photo by Lia Chang

WAYNE BRADY, a five-time Emmy Award winner and Grammy Award nominee, has made his mark on stage and screen as an actor, singer, dancer, songwriter, and television personality. A true multi-hyphenate, Brady’s career path, and personal life journey have helped him see the world in a very unique way. His aspirations have always gone beyond solely starring in various entertainment projects, and under his Makin’ It Up Productions banner, he’s set out to create new content across different platforms that showcase innovation and inclusivity in fun and powerful ways. Brady made his Broadway debut starring as legal showman ‘Billy Flynn’ in the long-running hit musical, Chicago. Soon after, Brady starred as the ground-breaking character ‘Lola’ in Kinky Boots, the Tony Award winning musical with music and lyrics by Cyndi Lauper and a book by Harvey Fierstein. His interpretation of the lead role was so popular, he returned for an additional limited run the following year. Brady would later assume his biggest theatrical role to date headlining as ‘Aaron Burr’ in the Chicago production of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony Award winning juggernaut Hamilton. A five-time Emmy Award winner (the first to win Daytime and Primetime awards in two consecutive years), Brady was also the only entertainer across the 2019-2020 season to have a presence across five different television series (“Let’s Make A Deal,” “The Masked Singer,” “Whose Line Is It Anyway?,” “Black Lightning” and “Comedy IQ”) – each spotlighting different aspects of his immense talent.  All of this followed on the heels of his award winning daytime talk show “The Wayne Brady Show.” In addition to being a force in front of the camera, Brady is heavily active behind the scenes wearing the hats of executive producer for “Whose Line Is It Anyway?,” “Let’s Make A Deal” and “Comedy IQ,” which he also co-created. He recently took on another dual role with “Game of Talents,” a new series in which he starred and executive produced. A writer across all of his various projects, one of Brady’s proudest accomplishments is his team-up with Dave Chappelle on Comedy Central’s “Chappelle’s Show”, spoofing the film Training Day.  Co-written by Brady and Chappelle, the segment has been enshrined in the Museum of TV and Film as one of the top sketches of all time. An accomplished singer and performer, Brady’s musical acumen has always been a personal passion, and he used that as fuel to help win the second season of “The Masked Singer”. Off his victory, Brady dropped a brand-new original single, entitled “Flirtin’ w/ Forever,” which quickly climbed the streaming charts, as well as an accompanying music video. This followed the success of his debut album, headlined by a version of Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come” which earned him a Grammy Award nomination in the Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance category. Last year represented the latest step in Brady’s career evolution as he took his talents to TikTok, amassing a stellar following in a short period of time. Whether utilizing the platform to raise awareness to important social issues or collaborating with his extended family, TikTok has helped him continue to reach and interact with new fans in surprising and innovative ways. Wayne Brady currently resides in Los Angeles.

André De Shields and Wayne Brady. Photo by Lia Chang
Norm Lewis and Wayne Brady. Photo by Lia Chang
James Babcock, Wayne Brady, Alison Solomon and Telly Leung. Photo by Lia Chang
Stewart F. Lane, The Drama League’s Executive Director Bevin Ross, André De Shields, Irene Gandy, Wayne Brady and The Drama League’s Board President Bonnie Comley. Photo by Lia Chang
Norm Lewis, Brenda Braxton, Tyrone Mitchell Henderson, Alec Powell, André De Shields and James Harkness. Photo by Lia Chang

The creative team behind the evening’s program at Light the Lights! A Drama League Celebration includes The Drama League’s Artistic Line Producer Ali Skye Bennet, Director Ben Villegas Randle, Music Director David Evans, Production Manager Alberto Ruiz, Lighting Designer Jenn Burkhardt, Stage Manager Rachel Gross, Assistant Stage Manager Veronica Lee, Producing Assistant Latrice Smith, and Social Media Strategist Molly Barson. The onstage musicians include David Evans (piano), Michael Blanco (bass), Greg Skaff (guitar), and Joe Nero (percussion); prior to the main program, guests will be treated to the musical stylings of pianist Eliza Randall.

Ali Skye Bennet, The Drama League’s Board President Bonnie Comley, Stewart F. Lane, Jamie deRoy. Photo by Lia Chang
Music Director David Evans and André De Shields. Photo by Lia Chang
Music Director David Evans, a guest and André De Shields. Photo by Lia Chang

Light the Lights! A Drama League Celebration is supported by Sceneworks Studios, the 2021 Benefit Sponsor, and BroadwayHD, the Venue Sponsor. The event is co-chaired by Drama League Board Members Mary C. Jain and Joe Pizza. Leadership support is also provided by the benefit’s Vice Chairs Bonnie Comley & Stewart F. Lane, John Gore Organization, and Stan Ponte & John Metzner. The Benefit Committee includes CBS, City National Bank, EY, Lakeview Productions, Nederlander Organization, and Talu Productions.

Stewart F. Lane, André De Shields, The Drama League’s Board President Bonnie Comley and Jerry Mitchell. Photo by LIa Chang
André De Shields and The Drama League’s Board President Bonnie Comley. Photo by LIa Chang
Wayne Brady, Liesl Lar, André De Shields and Townsend Teague. Photo by Lia Chang

Earlier this fall, The Drama League launched a sweeping reimagination of its acclaimed umbrella of service programs called The Directors Project – something that hasn’t happened since they were first launched in 1982.

As the nation’s only full-time creative home for directors, The Drama League’s new program portfolio is the result of a company-wide evaluation, undertaken during the pandemic and in conversations with over 100 artists, artistic leaders, producers, activists, and community members.

With financial stability, well-being, and guaranteed employment opportunities at the forefront of this unprecedented initiative, the new program portfolio expands, deepens, and accelerates field-wide support for directors in the post-pandemic professional theatre landscape, in an effort to address systemic inequity and pay disparity in the field of directing.

For complete information on all of our new and reimagined programs, please visit dramaleague.org/artist-opportunities.

All proceeds from The Drama League’s Light the Lights benefit support The Directors Project and The Drama League’s mission to provide a life-long artistic home for directors.

James Harkness and Alison Solomon. Photo by Lia Chang
James Harkness and Alison Solomon. Photo by Lia Chang

For more information visit: www.dramaleague.org

The Drama League advances American theater by providing life-long artistic resources for directors and a platform for dialogue with audiences.

Founded in 1916, as one of the longest-running arts service organizations in the country, they continuously adapt to meet artists’ needs in the expanding entertainment landscape. They enable directors to make the most powerful, impactful work possible, expand their skill across multiple mediums to reach broader audiences, and build thriving, sustainable careers. Uplifting directors of all economic classes, races, abilities, genders and identities is a cornerstone of this mission.

They provide support to directors throughout their artistic lives, and their work in education offers both continued learning to professionals and introduces the skills of directing to young people. Underpinning their work is the support of our members, a community of ardent theater fans and industry professionals whose commitment to advancing the art form helps develop the careers of the talented directors we champion.

Getty: Andre De Shields, Lia Chang, and Telly Leung attend the The Drama League Celebration Honoring Wayne Brady Hosted By Kandi Burruss at The Players Club on October 18, 2021 in New York City.

Lia Chang and André De Shields. Photo by Bevin Ross
Lia Chang

Lia Chang is an actor, a multi-media content producer, an Award winning filmmaker and co-founder of Bev’s Girl Films, making films that foster inclusion and diversity on both sides of the camera. Bev’s Girl Films’ debut short film, Hide and Seek was a top ten film in the Asian American Film Lab’s 2015 72 Hour Shootout Filmmaking Competition, and she received a Best Actress nomination. Her short film, When the World Was Young, written and directed by Garth Kravits, recently garnered a 2021 DisOrient Film Audience Choice Award for Best Short Narrative. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman. She stars in and served as Executive Producer for the short independent films Hide and Seek, Balancing Act, Rom-Com Gone Wrong, Belongingness and When the World was Young. She is also the Executive Producer for The Cactus, The Language Lesson, The Writer and Cream and 2 Shugahs. BGF collaborates with and produces multi-media content for artists, actors, designers, theatrical productions, composers, musicians and corporations.

All text, graphics, articles & photographs: © 2000-2021 Lia Chang Multimedia, unless otherwise indicated. All rights reserved. All materials contained on this site are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of Lia Chang. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content. For permission, please contact Lia at liachangpr@gmail.com

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