‘David Byrne’s American Utopia,’ ‘Freestyle Love Supreme’ Receiving Special Tony Awards

David Byrne performing in "American Utopia"
David Lee/HBO

“David Byrne’s American Utopia” and “Freestyle Love Supreme” will receive special Tony Awards at the 2021 ceremony. The prizes come more than a year after both shows closed their doors and follow an unprecedented period that saw Broadway shutter for months while COVID-19 raged.

In addition to honoring the two shows, the awards ceremony will give the Broadway Advocacy Coalition a special Tony for its work using storytelling to dismantle the systems that perpetuate racism. The non-profit was founded in 2016 by several Black members of the Broadway community in response to racism and police brutality, growing into a multidisciplinary organization that draws on the skills of artists, legal experts and community advocates to highlight policy issues ranging from criminal justice reform to immigration. The award comes months after Black Lives Matter protests swept New York City — a social justice movement that has forced Broadway and theatrical organizations to think more deeply about their failures to promote underrepresented artists and voices.

“In what has been such an unusual year in theatre, we are thrilled to be presenting these Special Tony Awards to three such deserving recipients,” said Heather Hitchens, CEO and President of the American Theatre Wing, and Charlotte St. Martin, President of The Broadway League. ”The Broadway Advocacy Coalition has provided an unparalleled platform for marginalized members of our theatre community and tools to help us all do better as we strive for equity. The two productions we are honoring, ‘David Byrne’s American Utopia’ and ‘Freestyle Love Supreme’ take theatre to the next level, delivering outside-of-the-box presentations that have gone beyond the stage and brought theatre into the homes of millions of people around the world.”

The long-delayed Tony Awards will air primarily on Paramount Plus on Sept. 26. Certain key awards, such as best play and best musical, will be handed out as part of a celebration of theater that will air on the streaming service and on CBS. The awards are being held as theaters are slowly turning back on their marquees, with hit shows such as “Hamilton” and “Wicked” announcing they will welcome back audiences this fall.

“American Utopia” featured Talking Heads frontman David Byrne and 11 musicians in a theatrical concert, one that included songs from across the rock star’s long career. A filmed version of the show aired on HBO and was directed by Spike Lee.

“Freestyle Love Supreme” was the brainchild of “Hamilton” director Thomas Kail, that show’s creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, and performer and improv evangelist Anthony Veneziale. Directed by Kail, the production featured a comedic improvisational musical structure, and a rotating cast of Broadway performers such as Miranda, Veneziale, Christopher Jackson, Arthur Lewis, Bill Sherman, and Chris Sullivan. “Freestyle Love Supreme” will return to Broadway with a limited engagement at the Booth Theatre starting this October.