Audra McDonald (Photo: s_bukley/Shutterstock.com)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has announced that Tony, Grammy and Emmy Award-winning singer and actress Audra McDonald is the recipient of the 2018 Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT. The $100,000 cash prize awarded at a gala in her honor also includes an artist residency, during which McDonald will present a public talk at MIT on April 14, 2018 about her performances in musical theater, film and television.
The announcement follows what has been a banner year for the singer and actress: over the summer, she made her debut in London’s West End playing Billie Holiday in Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill—the role that netted her a record sixth Tony during its 2014 Broadway run—and in the spring she graced silver screens worldwide as Madame Garderobe in Disney’s live action Beauty and the Beast. This coming spring, McDonald joins the cast of The Good Fight on CBS All Access and embarks on a North American concert tour.
Audra McDonald’s remarks upon receiving the award:
Art is not just something beautiful that we experience in a theater or a museum. Art can also be painful or make us feel vulnerable, but in that discomfort it has the power to be illuminating, transformative, and revelatory. As in life, art must relish the joys while also embracing the suffering and struggle—a paradox that epitomizes the human experience. My greatest hope is that art helps us as a society to find common ground, to create dialogue, and to understand each other in new and meaningful ways. I am therefore so humbled and honored to receive the McDermott Award in the Arts and look forward to exploring these topics during my residency at MIT, an institution that embodies innovation, creativity, and, above all, humanity.
The Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT celebrates individuals who continue to achieve the highest distinction in their fields and who will produce inspiring work for many years to come. The $100,000 cash prize represents an investment in the recipient’s future creative work, rather than a prize for a particular project or lifetime of achievement.
McDonald will be presented with the award at a gala in her honor on April 14, 2018. Past recipients include David Adjaye, Olafur Eliasson, Robert Lepage, Gustavo Dudamel, Bill Viola, Suzan-Lori Parks and Santiago Calatrava, among others.
“We are delighted to celebrate the phenomenal actress and singer Audra McDonald as we embark on a new era of the performing arts at MIT and soon will inaugurate our first dedicated performing arts space,” says MIT Associate Provost with responsibility for the arts and Ford International Professor of History Philip S. Khoury. “Our new theater arts building will address the increasing demand by students for theater training and allow the outstanding artists on our faculty to present their work on campus in addition to stages around the world. We look forward to having Ms. McDonald work with our faculty and students during her residency. Her incomparable range across multiple genres of performance will enrich our performing arts community.”
A distinctive feature of the award is a short residency at MIT, which includes a public presentation of the artist’s work, substantial interaction with students and faculty, and a gala that convenes national and international leaders in the arts. The goal of the residency is to provide the recipient with unparalleled access to the creative energy and cutting-edge research at the Institute and to develop mutually enlightening relationships with MIT students and faculty.
2018 Public Program by Audra McDonald at MIT
McDonald will discuss her career in a public presentation on April 14, 2018. Further information about the public program will be posted in winter 2018 at arts.mit.edu/mcdermott.
2018 Celebrity Series Concert at Boston Symphony Hall
In addition to the McDermott Award residency, McDonald will present a separate concert in Boston as part of the Celebrity Series at Boston Symphony Hall on April 13, 2018. More information is available on the Celebrity Series website: celebrityseries.org/audra.