On Saturday, June 12, 2010, in a special cocktail reception at the Manhattan Room at the InterContinental New York Barclay Hotel on the eve of The 2010 Tony Awards, The 2010 Tony Honors for Excellence in the Theatre was presented to Executive Director of Broadway Cares / Equity Fights AIDS, Tom Viola, as well as the Alliance of Resident theatres New York (A.R.T./New York), B.H. Barry, fight director and pioneer of the teaching of stage combat as part of the university and graduate drama program curricula, and Midtown North and South Police Precincts.
Established in 1990, this honor is awarded annually to institutions, individuals and organizations that have “demonstrated extraordinary achievement in theatre, but are not eligible in any of the established Tony Award categories.”
When the news arrived at BC/EFA this past April, Viola shared, “This is really wonderful and a bit overwhelming. But nothing that happens at BC/EFA has ever been done by just one person. So, any honor given me for work done here at BC/EFA is truly something I share with the entire staff, volunteers and a community that I am so happy and grateful to be a part of. I found myself also thinking today of many friends, colleagues and people I’ve loved who have been a part of this work or who benefitted in some way from our efforts that aren’t here to enjoy this gorgeous spring day. My heart is with them as well.”
Tony Awards® for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre were presented to two longtime friends of BC/EFA, playwright and director Sir Alan Ayckbourn and Tony Award® winning actress and BC/EFA Board of Trustee Marian Seldes. The recipient of the Isabelle Stevenson Award will be Tony Award winning actor and longtime friend and supporter of BC/EFA David Hyde Pierce. During his remarks, Viola stated, “To be invited into the room where they’re honoring Marian and David and the gentlemen from the Midtown North and South, I feel like someone decided to have a dinner for The Marx Brothers and said, “Oh, what the hell, let’s invite Zeppo.”
Viola was working at Actors’ Equity as special projects coordinator and assistant to Colleen Dewhurst, then president of Actors’ Equity Association, when Equity Fights AIDS was created by the Equity Council in 1998. Through the efforts of Equity theatre companies across the country, Equity Fights AIDS raised money for The Actors Fund’s AIDS Initiative and was one of the nation’s first industry-based AIDS fundraising efforts. In May of 1992, Equity Fights AIDS merged with Broadway Cares, which was founded in 1988 by members of The Producers’ Group, lead by Rodger McFarlane and raised money for AIDS service organizations across the country, to become Broadway Cares / Equity Fights AIDS.
“In the eighties, we thought Equity Fights AIDS and Broadway Cares would only be around for a few years. But once it became apparent that an AIDS vaccine wasn’t imminent, we faced the harsh reality that this was going to be a longer journey than we originally anticipated.” McFarlane and Viola worked in a close partnership as executive director and managing director of BC/EFA through 1994.
“I’ve been thinking a lot about Colleen and Rodger recently,” Viola said. “Broadway Cares / Equity Fights AIDS wouldn’t be the organization it is today if these two amazing, wildly talented and deeply committed individuals had not stood up as they did in our earliest years. Colleen gave us our heart, Rodger our resolution to doing good work. I count myself truly fortunate to have had the opportunity to work so closely with them if only for a few, very important years.”
In 1997, Viola moved into a new role as Executive Director of BC/EFA and has led the organization’s growth ever since. “BC/EFA is truly blessed to have a home in the Broadway theatre community. These hundreds of creative artists and business men and women are the heart, soul and muscle of all we do. I am simply lucky enough to be able to steward, with the entire BC/EFA staff, their on-going and extraordinarily generous efforts.
To date, BC/EFA has awarded more than $100 million to The Actors Fund and hundreds of AIDS and family service organizations across the country.
On June 12th, Viola said, “I want to thank everyone here for making a place for Broadway Cares in the midst of this incredibly creative, collaborative, contentious billion-dollar business. And the fact that my name can be inscrolled on this is really just a small part of that which you honor in all that Broadway Cares is able to achieve year after year. The incredible opportunity you have given me to have a meaningful life, truly, means more to me than you can imagine.”
“At the Tony luncheon, where I realized I needed to buy a decent suit, they gave us these little cards that said, ‘Describe your life in six words.’ I sat there and didn’t hand it in. But, truly, I can end by telling you those six words. ‘Fortunate, grateful… to work… with you.’ And there are four more: ‘Thank you very much.’”
|Viola with Hugh Jackman and BC/EFA’s Producing Director Michael Graziano backstage at The Boy from Oz