Sunday’s 74th annual Tony Awards, honoring the achievements of Broadway’s shortened 2019-2020 season, could prove big once again for Wright State University musical theater graduate Joey Monda of Sing Out, Louise! Productions.
The Youngstown native and Tony-winning producer of the 2019 Best Musical “Hadestown” is a double nominee for producing Best Play contenders “Slave Play” (12 nominations, the most ever for a play) and “The Inheritance” (11 nominations).
Jeremy O. Harris’ controversial, thought-provoking “Slave Play” spotlights race and sex in America. Using a plantation as a backdrop, but firmly planted in contemporary anxieties and polarization, Harris throws expectations out the window while compellingly exploring the complexities of interracial romance.
Written by Matthew Lopez and inspired by E.M. Forster’s novel “Howards End,” “The Inheritance” is an epic tale addressing the desires, pitfalls, complications, and tragedies within New York City’s gay community circa 2015 to 2018. A modern companion to Tony Kushner’s “Angels in America” in tone and scope, “The Inheritance” notably received the Olivier Award for its London premiere in 2018.
“Both plays speak to the importance of diversity and telling diverse stories on Broadway,” said Monda, 31. “I think ‘Slave Play’ is probably in a better position to win right now because it’s part of a national conversation (on race). And a Black playwright hasn’t won the Best Play Tony since August Wilson for ‘Fences’ so a win for ‘Slave Play’ would be a big statement.”
As Broadway celebrates reopening after a year of empty stages due to the coronavirus shutdowns, Monda is eagerly spearheading projects within Sing Out, Louise! Productions, which creates and distributes cinema-quality stage-to-screen films in an attempt to expand Broadway’s brand, reach and impact. He’s particularly excited about producing the upcoming musical adaptation of “Mrs. Doubtfire,” based on the Robin Williams film of the same name and opening in December. At the same rate, he’s well aware of the harsh reality of the Broadway landscape. Smaller, less recognizable shows may have a tough time adjusting to and competing in the current climate financially and logistically.
Credit: Archive Photos
Credit: Archive Photos
“I think there’s going to be a lot of shows that unfortunately don’t survive,” he said. “Their life spans are going to be cut short because it’s hard to sustain momentum especially when you’re advertising against bigger shows like ‘Wicked,’ ‘Hamilton,’ ‘The Lion King,’ and ‘Chicago.’ But it will also be interesting to find out what types of shows people want to see as they return to Broadway. Are people going to want something that just makes them laugh? Well, ‘Mrs. Doubtfire’ is exactly that – it’s a title everybody knows. It’s familiar but it’s new. There’s also the big question of when – not if – someone in a show tests positive for COVID and how many people have to be quarantined.”
In addition, Monda, who earned his bachelor of fine arts degree in 2012, received the 2020 Graduate of the Last Decade Award from the Wright State Alumni Association. He looks forward to returning to campus this week to accept the award, meet with students and staff, and attend the university’s season opener “Lend Me a Tenor.” While a student, he appeared as songwriter/producer Bert Barry in “42nd Street,” led the student-run Jubilee Directing Lab, interned with the Human Race Theatre Company, and hosted a weekly radio show on WWSU. He also interned with theatre producer and Sirius XM radio host Seth Rudetsky.
“These nominations speak to the power of the work and the conversations we’re having as a culture and a country right now,” said Monda when Tony nominations were announced last October. “The fact that both plays were on Broadway before our country’s moment of social uprising and social upheaval just goes to show that it was already in the DNA. Imagine if shows were still running on Broadway and ‘Slave Play’ in particular was still playing at the time of George Floyd’s death. Imagine the play’s (impact), which was already so culturally resonate by speaking to audiences in such a unique way. Matthew Lopez and Jeremy Harris weren’t writing what they didn’t know. They were writing what they felt was already present in the culture. And we are now able to have more articulate conversation about the issues both brought up.”
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HOW TO WATCH
The 74th annual Tony Awards will air Sunday, Sept. 26 with dual ceremonies. Beginning at 7 p.m. on Paramount +, the majority of categories will be presented in a live telecast hosted by Tony, Grammy and Emmy winner Audra McDonald. “The Tony Awards Present Broadway’s Back!,” a concert celebrating the return of Broadway featuring the presentation of the top three categories, follows at 9 p.m. live on CBS from New York’s Winter Garden Theatre hosted by Tony and Grammy winner Leslie Odom Jr.
Russell Florence’s Tony predictions in top 3 categories
Best Play: “Slave Play”
Best Musical: “Moulin Rouge! The Musical”
Best Revival of a Play: “A Soldier’s Play”
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