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Veteran actress and two-time Tony winner Judith Light is the 2019 recipient of the Isabelle Stevenson Award, an honor presented annually by the Tony Awards to a member of the theater community for contributions to humanitarian, social service or charitable causes.
Light will receive the award for her impassioned advocacy to end HIV/AIDS and her support for LGBTQ+ and human rights, reflecting a vocal involvement that dates back to the early, bitterly divisive days of the AIDS pandemic. She has been an influential spokesperson for the movement, aligning herself with numerous organizations including Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, GLAAD, the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, Project Angel Food and the Elton John AIDS Foundation.
“To be so generously acknowledged by The American Theatre Wing, The Broadway League and the Tony Awards, and to be included with these outstanding individuals who have received this honor before me, has been one of the most extraordinary gifts I have ever received in my life,” said Light in a statement.
“The HIV/AIDS and LGBTQ+ communities are inspirations and demonstrations of how to be and live in the world; courageous, honorable and uplifting,” she added. “They inspire me and it is my privilege to be of service to them. I am humbled by this recognition from my theater family, whom I so respect, honor and love.”
Light’s activism has been a constant over many years — in 1993 she spoke at the LGBT March in Washington, D.C.; in 1995 she bicycled from San Francisco to Los Angeles in the California AIDS Ride to support HIV/AIDS programs for the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center; the following year she joined Elizabeth Taylor at the National Mall in Washington for the display of the AIDS Memorial Quilt; and in 1998, she was recognized by GLAAD with the Vision Award for her dedication to the fight against HIV/AIDS.
She also traveled to South Africa in 2002 to participate in the 100-mile Africa AIDS Trek to raise awareness for on-the-ground care in that country and research in the U.S. Light has long been a supporter of Outfest in Los Angeles and sits on the honorary board of national LGBTQ+ scholarship fund the Point Foundation.
“Judith is one of the most beloved members of our theater community,” said Broadway League president Charlotte St. Martin and American Theatre Wing president Heather Hitchens. “Her talent is as big as her heart and spirit — and her tireless commitment to HIV/AIDS organizations and to the LGBTQ community are unparalleled.”
A frequent presence on Broadway in recent years, Light received her first Tony nomination in 2011 for Lombardi. She then pulled off the rare achievement of winning back to back Tonys for best featured actress in a play in 2012 for Jon Robin Baitz’s Other Desert Cities and in 2013 for Richard Greenberg’s The Assembled Parties. Her most recent Broadway appearance was starring opposite Keira Knightley in Therese Raquin in 2015.
Light has been nominated four times for a Primetime Emmy Award — for Ugly Betty in 2007, for Transparent in 2016 and again the following year, and for American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace in 2018. She won Daytime Emmys in 1980 and ’81 for One Life to Live.
In addition to her scene-stealing role as Shelly Pfefferman on Transparent, Light has contributed through her screen work to the cultural conversation around prejudice and bigotry toward HIV/AIDS and LGBTQ+ communities, going back as far as the ABC TV movie The Ryan White Story in 1989 and the feature film Save Me in 2007, written by her husband Robert Desiderio. She was both privately and publicly supportive of actor Danny Pintauro, who played her son on the ’80s ABC sitcom Who’s the Boss?, when he was coming out, first as gay and later as HIV-positive.
Light’s upcoming roles include the 1091 release Before You Know It, which premiered earlier this year at Sundance; the musical finale of Transparent, streaming on Amazon Prime in the fall; the Ryan Murphy Netflix series The Politician, with Bette Midler and Ben Platt; and the film Hot Air, with Steve Coogan.
Previous Isabelle Stevenson Award winners have included Phyllis Newman, David Hyde Pierce, Eve Ensler, Bernadette Peters, Larry Kramer, Rosie O’Donnell, Stephen Schwartz, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Baayork Lee and Nick Scandalios.
The 73rd Annual Tony Awards, honoring the best of the 2018-19 Broadway season, will be presented June 9 in a ceremony broadcast live on CBS from Radio City Music Hall, with 2012 Tony winner James Corden returning as host. Nominations in the competitive categories will be announced next Tuesday.
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