By Jagger Waters

2019 has been a celebratory year for female creators on Broadway. Here are some other women you may or may not have heard about, honored at this year’s Tony Awards! 

Ali Stroker made history as the first performer in a wheelchair to be nominated and win a Tony Award. When she was seven years old she saw her first Broadway show and decided to pursue acting. In her speech, Ali directly addressed and dedicated the award to people with disabilities. Ali is performing in the current revival of Oklahoma! as Ado Annie. If you haven’t watched her Tony’s performance yet, her voice will blow you away. You might also recognize her from Glee Season 2! 

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Rachel Hauck is one of two women nominated in the scenic design of a musical category. Hadestown swept the Tony's, picking up the Best Original Score, Best Musical, and Best Director awards, just to name a few. Rachel works like a dramaturg and has collaborated with over 70 playwrights to bring their productions to life. She was the resident Set Designer at the O’Neill Playwrights Conference for 10 years and has designed many shows for the Mark Taper Forum’s New Work Festival here in Los Angeles. 

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Shirley Prendergast didn’t win a Tony this year, but we had to learn more about her! Shirley was honored in memoriam at this year’s Tony Awards for her life’s work on Broadway as a lighting designer. She made history in 1969 as the first black woman to be admitted to the United Scenic Artists’ lighting division. In 1973, she designed the lights for Joseph Walker’s The River Niger, making her the first black female lighting designer on Broadway. You’d think Shirley had spent most of her adult life in a theater, but she actually has a degree in microbiology. While working as a bacteriologist in New York City, she started taking dance classes and practiced amateur photography. It wasn’t until she took a lighting course at the YMCA that Shirley realized she wanted to be a lighting designer. Shirley passed away on February 26. 

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Madeline Michel, a high school teacher from central Virginia, was awarded the Theatre Education Award. When school’s out for the summer, Madeline leads writing groups for students to write, perform and produce their own work. In addition to a $10,000 grant for her school’s theater department, two of her students will be awarded scholarships to Carnegie Mellon’s pre-college summer program. Madeline’s students were affected by the Charlottesville protests in 2017, and instead of shying away from it, she encouraged the students to respond to what happened (as any arts educator should!) 

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Judith Light was awarded the Isabelle Stevenson Award this year for being a committed champion and vocal advocate for LGBTQ rights. Her support for LGBTQ human rights dates back to the most frightening days of the AIDS epidemic in the '80s and '90s. She has also received a GLAAD Vision Award for her commitment to the fight against HIV. 

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