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June 14, 2005

Third Annual Los Angeles Tri-Guild Diversity Awards Honor Ossie Davis, Yip Harburg, Beulah Quo, Will Sampson

“Honoring Our Pioneers”

On June 6, 2004, AEA’s, AFTRA's and SAG's Equal Employment Opportunity Committees worked together to sponsor the third annual Los Angeles-Area EEO Tri-Guild Diversity Awards, held at the East West Players. The new awards were presented posthumously to four deserving and distinguished individuals who were true industry pioneers: Ossie Davis, Yip Harburg, Beulah Quo and Will Sampson. The event was graciously hosted by Ed Begley and featured performances by Nita Whitaker and cast members from IMELDA, a musical now enjoying its world premiere at East West.

A surprise 87th birthday present was given to long-time Committee member Ivy Bethune, in honor of her commitment to diversity and her years of service to all three performing unions. Henceforth, the Tri-Guild Awards will be known as "Ivys."

Mylo Ironbear opened the show with an invocation

Mylo Ironbear opened the show with an invocation

The evening began with a beautiful invocation by Mylo IronBear of the Spirit Lake Tribe, Dakota Nation. He called on the powerful spirits of the four honorees and suggested that they stood as the four spokes on the color wheel — red, black, yellow and white — reminding us that we all share equal space on that same wheel.

Liza Del Mundo and Antoine Reynaldo Diel performed "See What I See" from the original musical IMELDA, accompanied by the composer Nathan Wang, which segued into AFTRA's presentation to Beulah Quo. Ms. Quo's work in film and television ranged from Love Is a Many Splendored Thing and Chinatown to her regular role on General Hospital. She worked to create opportunities for Asian American actors and actresses and to promote balanced portrayals of Asians on film and stage. In 1965, Ms. Quo became a co-founder of the East West Players and co-chaired the funding raising campaign for the space East West currently occupies. Tim Dang, the company’s artistic director, accepted on behalf of Ms. Quo’s family, who all attended.

Performer Nita Whitaker sang a slyly insinuating rendition of E. Y. (Yip) Harburg’s “Down With Love,” the perfect introduction to the man known as the Social Conscience of Broadway. Equity’s honoree, lyricist E. Y. (Yip) Harburg, was instrumental in creating roles for performers traditionally not then seen on a professional stage. He wrote FINIAN’S RAINBOW, BLOOMER GIRL, JAMAICA, FLAHOOLEY and many other musicals, as well as songs for films such as The Wizard Of Oz and Gay Purr-Ee. Among his best-known songs are “Paper Moon,” “April in Paris,” “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime,” “Look to the Rainbow,” “How are Things in Glocca Morra,” and his immortal tribute to a world that might be, “Over the Rainbow.” Mr. Harburg’s award was accepted by his daughter, Marge Harburg. She recalled the origin of FINIAN’S RAINBOW, a message musical about racism wrapped in a satiric gauze that propelled it to run over 700 performances on Broadway.

Edwin Quo, Darice Sampson, Marge Harburg and Jeffrey Allen Gunther accepted the Awards for Beulah Quo, Will Sampson, E.Y. (Yip) Harburg and Ossie Davis

Edwin Quo, Darice Sampson, Marge Harburg and Jeffrey Allen Gunther accepted the Awards for Beulah Quo, Will Sampson, E.Y. "Yip" Harburg and Ossie Davis

The third honoree, selected by SAG, was Will Sampson, best known for his portrayal of “Chief Bromden” in One Flew Over the Cuckoos’ Nest. His commitment to playing real, multi-dimensional, culturally accurate characters led to his founding the American Indian Registry for the Performing Arts in 1983. His widow, Darice Sampson, spoke of his generous spirit and how she could feel its presence in the theater.

Nita Whitaker returned to blow off the roof with her rendition of “I’ve Got Love” from PURLIE, the musical based on the script Purlie Victorious, written by Ossie Davis and starring Mr. Davis and wife, Ruby Dee. Honored by all three Guilds, Ossie Davis acted in, wrote and directed numerous plays and films, including Yip Harburg’s Jamaica, Cotton Comes to Harlem, Roots, Countdown at Kusini (the first American film shot entirely in Africa with black professionals) and No Way Out. Mr. Davis challenged racism through his work in the industry as an actor, writer and director; and devoted his energies to society as an activist in the Civil Rights Movement. Together, Mr. Davis and Ms. Dee are, among others, Kennedy Center, SAG Lifetime Achievement, and Equity Paul Robeson honorees. Accepting for the Davis household, Jeffrey Gunther Anderson told wonderful stories about his experiences working with Mr Davis, and then noted the shared links between the honorees and their mutual commitment to justice and equality.

Nita Whitaker closed the evening by leading the audience in a singalong of Mr Harburg’s “Over the Rainbow,” reencouraging all of us to make those “dreams that you dare to dream” really come true.

We, the EEO committees of AEA, AFTRA and SAG, were proud to honor these four amazing talents who truly exemplify the commitment to creating opportunities for the underrepresented.

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