André De Shields presented the 2022 Ceiling Breaker Award to Mara Isaacs at the WP Theater Women of Achievement Awards Gala; Schele Williams and Vanessa Williams were also Honored with 2022 Trail Blazer Awards

Awards, Benefits, Music, Photography, Theater

WP Theater Producing Artistic Director Lisa McNulty, Honorees Schele Williams, Vanessa Williams, and Mara Isaacs at the WP Theater Annual Gala at the Edison Ballroom in New York on May 16, 2022. Photo by Lia Chang

WP Theater honored founder of Octopus Theatricals and Tony and Grammy Award-winning producer of Hadestown, Mara Isaacs; acclaimed Broadway director, storyteller, and founder of Black Theater United, Schele Williams; and award-winning actress, singer, and humanitarian, Vanessa Williams with Women of Achievement Awards at its 44th annual gala on May 16 at the Edison Ballroom in New York.

Honorees Schele Williams, Vanessa Williams, and Mara Isaacs at the WP Theater Annual Gala at the Edison Ballroom in New York on May 16, 2022. Photo by Lia Chang

Star of WP Theater’s sandblasted, actress, stand-up comedian, author, producer, and longtime host of “Rolonda”, Rolanda Watts hosted the festivities.

Rolanda Watts hosted the WP Theater Annual Gala at the Edison Ballroom in New York on May 16, 2022. Photo by Lia Chang

Rolanda Watts hosted at the WP Theater Annual Gala at the Edison Ballroom in New York on May 16, 2022. Photo by Lia Chang

Edison Ballroom in New York. Photo by Lia Chang

WP Theater Managing Director Michael Sag and Producing Artistic Director Lisa McNulty at the WP Theater Annual Gala at the Edison Ballroom in New York on May 16, 2022.  Photo by Lia Chang

Lila Blue from WP’s own Weightless performed a number from the show.

Lila Blue from WP’s own Weightless performs at the WP Theater Annual Gala at the Edison Ballroom in New York on May 16, 2022. Photo by Lia Chang

Tony, Grammy and Emmy winning Hadestown star, André De Shields presented the 2022 Ceiling Breaker Award to the lead producer of Hadestown, Mara Isaacs and introduced a surprise video message from Anais Mitchell, who performed “We Raise Our Cups”.

André De Shields presented the 2022 Ceiling Breaker Award to Mara Isaacs at the WP Theater Annual Gala at the Edison Ballroom in New York on May 16, 2022. Photo by Lia Chang

Mara Isaacs with her husband, Seth Mellman at the WP Theater Annual Gala at the Edison Ballroom in New York on May 16, 2022. Photo by Lia Chang

André De Shields presented the 2022 Ceiling Breaker Award to Mara Isaacs at the WP Theater Annual Gala at the Edison Ballroom in New York on May 16, 2022. Photo by Lia Chang

A standing ovation for Mara Isaacs at the WP Theater Annual Gala at the Edison Ballroom in New York on May 16, 2022. Photo by Lia Chang

Mara Isaacs accepts the 2022 WP Women of Achievement Ceiling Breaker Award at the WP Theater Annual Gala at the Edison Ballroom in New York on May 16, 2022. Photo by Lia Chang

A standing ovation for Mara Isaacs at the WP Theater Annual Gala at the Edison Ballroom in New York on May 16, 2022. Photo by Lia Chang

Somi Kakoma, the star of NYTW’s upcoming production of Dreaming Zenzile, accompanied by Toru Dodo on the keys, performed a number from the show.

“Dreaming Zenzile” star Somi Kakoma performs at the WP Theater Annual Gala at the Edison Ballroom in New York on May 16, 2022. Photo by Lia Chang

“Dreaming Zenzile” star Somi Kakoma at the WP Theater Annual Gala at the Edison Ballroom in New York on May 16, 2022.  Photo by Lia Chang

Toru Dodo performs at the WP Theater Annual Gala at the Edison Ballroom in New York on May 16, 2022. Photo by Lia Chang

LaChanze presented the 2022 WP Theater Women of Achievement Trail Blazer Award to Vanessa Williams, with special video messages from Renée Elise Goldsberry and Audra McDonald.

LaChanze presented the 2022 Trail Blazer Award to Vanessa Williams at the WP Theater Annual Gala at the Edison Ballroom in New York on May 16, 2022. Photo by Lia Chang

LaChanze at the WP Theater Annual Gala at the Edison Ballroom in New York on May 16, 2022. Photo by Lia Chang

Anne Quart, Senior Vice President of Production & Co-Producer at Disney Theatrical Productions, presented the 2022 Trail Blazer Award to Schele Williams.

Anne Quart presented the 2022 Trail Blazer Award to Schele Williams at the WP Theater Annual Gala at the Edison Ballroom in New York on May 16, 2022,  Photo by Lia Chang

Christiani Pitts performed Easy as Life, from Williams’ upcoming Broadway revival of Aida, accompanied by Jim Abbott.

Christiani Pitts performs at the WP Theater Annual Gala at the Edison Ballroom in New York on May 16, 2022. Photo by Lia Chang

Christiani Pitts performs at the WP Theater Annual Gala at the Edison Ballroom in New York on May 16, 2022 Photo by Lia Chang

Christiani Pitts performs at the WP Theater Annual Gala at the Edison Ballroom in New York on May 16, 2022 Photo by Lia Chang

Christiani Pitts performs at the WP Theater Annual Gala at the Edison Ballroom in New York on May 16, 2022. Photo by Lia Chang

ABOUT THE HONOREES

2022 Celing Breaker Award recipient Mara Isaacs. Photo by Lia Chang

MARA ISAACS is a Tony® and Grammy® Award winning producer and founder of Octopus Theatricals, an independent production company dedicated to fostering an expansive range of compelling theatrical works for local and global audiences. She has produced over 150 productions that have been seen on Broadway (Hadestown, The Inheritance, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, Translations, Anna in the Tropics, Electra), off-Broadway (Fiasco Theater’s Into The Woods, The Brother/Sister Plays, Crowns, The Laramie Project), at theaters and performing arts centers around the US and the world (UK, Europe, Asia, Middle East, South America, South Africa, Canada). She currently oversees more than 20 projects on the Octopus roster including Iphigenia, a new opera by Wayne Shorter and Esperanza Spalding; Social! Dance Clubconceived by Steven Hoggett, Christine Jones & David Byrne; THEATRE FOR ONE; Dreaming Zenzile by Somi Kakoma; And So We Walked by DeLanna Studi; An Iliad starring Denis O’Hare; and many others. Mara is co-founder of Producer Hub, a proud founding member of CIPA (Creative and Independent Producer Alliance), and co-founder of Sing It Again Records, an indie record label founded in 2019. She previously served as Producing Director at McCarter Theater Center in Princeton, NJ for 18 seasons and produced new play development programs and productions for Center Theatre Group/Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles.

1st row: Danielle Mellmann, Seth Mellman, Mara Isaacs. 2nd row: Toru Dodo, Taneisha Duggan, Kendra Holloway, Rob Laqui, Schele Williams, Tom Kirdahy. Photo by Lia Chang

Seth Mellman, Mara Isaacs and Danielle Mellman. Photo by Lia Chang

Mara Isaacs and Tom Kirdahy. Photo by Lia Chang

André De Shields, Mara Isaacs and Tom Kirdahy. Photo by Lia Chang

2022 Trail Blazer Award recipient Schele Williams. Photo by Lia Chang

SCHELE WILLIAMS is a Broadway director committed to cultivating new musicals and devised work. She is the director of the revival of Aida for Disney Theatrical Group, and the upcoming Broadway revival of The Wiz along with new musicals: Mandela and Indigo. She has directed at regional theaters and festivals across the country and has a long history of work on Broadway in Rent, Aida, and Motown: The Musical. Passionate about pairing social justice with the arts, Schele is a founding member of Black Theatre United, an organization committed to dismantling systemic racism on our streets and stages. She has been a member of Broadway Inspirational Voices for over two decades and serves as chairperson of the board.

Lisa McNulty, Schele Williams, LaChanze, Daniel J. Watts. Photo by Lia Chang

Daniel J. Watts, 2022 Trail Blazer Award recipient Schele Williams, a guest, Rolanda Watts, 2022 Trail Blazer Award recipient Vanessa Williams, Charles Wallace and LaChanze. Photo by Lia Chang

Daniel J. Watts, 2022 Trail Blazer Award recipient Schele Williams and André De Shields. Photo by Lia Chang

2022 Trail Blazer Award recipient Schele Williams and Christiani Pitts. Photo by Lia Chang

2022 Trail Blazer Award recipient Schele Williams and Christiani Pitts. Photo by Lia Chang

2022 Trail Blazer Award recipient Vanessa Williams. Photo by Lia Chang

VANESSA WILLIAMS is one of the most respected and multi-faceted performers in the entertainment industry. Her critically acclaimed work in film, television, recordings, and the Broadway stage have earned her 4 Emmy nominations, 11 Grammy nominations, a Tony nomination, 3 SAG award nominations, 7 NAACP Image Awards, and 3 Satellite Awards. Vanessa’s Broadway credits include co-starring with Cicely Tyson in The Trip to Bountiful, After Midnight, and a special limited engagement in Hey, Look Me Over at New York City Center. She also recently starred in the revival of City of Angels on The West End in London. Her platinum single “Colors of the Wind,” from Disney’s Pocahontas, won the Oscar, Grammy, and Golden Globe for Best Original Song. One of the world’s most accomplished concert artists, she has appeared regularly with the most prestigious symphony orchestras in the world, including the National Symphony Orchestra at The Kennedy Center. Vanessa achieved a career pinnacle with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and her autobiography, You Have No Idea, co-written with her mother Helen Williams, was a New York Times Bestseller. Vanessa is a strong advocate for equal rights and was honored with the Human Rights Campaign “Ally for Equality” Award for her humanitarian contributions. She has also embraced and supported such organizations as Black Theatre United, The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation, Special Olympics, Broadway Cares-Equity Fights AIDS, and several others.

Charles Wallace and LaChanze. Photo by Lia Chang

Teresa Eyring and André De Shields. Photo by Lia Chang

Charles Wallace, Lisa McNulty and LaChanze. Photo by Lia Chang

Daniel J. Watts and André De Shields. Photo by Lia Chang

Charles Wallace, LaChanze, Christiani Pitts and a guest. Photo by Lia Chang

Erica A. Hart, Malika Samuels, Daniel J. Watts, and Cori Thomas. Photo by Lia Chang

Each year WP honors truly outstanding women who have taken risks, pushed limits, and broken ground in a wide variety of fields, celebrating their unique accomplishments at the Women of Achievement Awards. Since its inception, WP Theater’s Women of Achievement Awards has paid homage to luminaries such as Gloria Steinem, Whoopi Goldberg, Debra Messing, Audra McDonald, Eve Ensler, Dame Judi Dench, Kerry Washington, Vanessa Redgrave, and Chita Rivera, to name just a few. The Women of Achievement Awards delivers an inspiring, entertaining, star-studded night that celebrates the accomplishments of vital women across many disciplines in New York and beyond.

Lia Chang, André De Shields, Mara Isaacs, Aline Kovacs and Cherie B. Tay. Photo by Jennifer Broski

Lia Chang

Lia Chang is a Chinese-American actor, a multi-media content producer, an award-winning filmmaker, and a photo activist and documentarian, who lifts up and amplifies BIPOC communities and artists and the institutions that support them. She recently received the 2022 Prospect Muse Award.

Lia moved to New York from her home in San Francisco when she was 17 years of age and made her stage debut as Liat in a national tour of South Pacific with Barbara Eden and Robert Goulet. She spent many years working extensively Off-Broadway, including Signature Theatre’s revival of Sam Shepard’s Chicago. Her film work includes Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, and The Last Dragon. The decades of being viewed by others through the narrow lens of “Asian actor” in the industry brought Lia to a turning point, and she picked up her camera, determined to create awareness by documenting the work and the lives of her BIPOC colleagues, resulting in the creation of thousands of photographs and pieces of video. Her photo archives are housed in the AAPI collection in the Library of Congress’ Asian Reading Room under “Lia Chang Theater Portfolio collection,1989-2011” and in the “Lia Chang Photography Collection” in The Billy Rose Theatre Division of the New York Public Library.

Lia’s awards include the 2000 OCA Chinese American Journalist Award and the 2001 AAJA National Award for New Media. She is also an AAJA Executive Leadership Graduate, a Western Knight Fellow at USC’s Annenberg College of Communications for Specialized Journalism on Entertainment Journalism in the Digital Age, a National Press Photographers Association Visual Edge/Visual Journalism Fellow at the Poynter Institute for New Media, and a Scripps Howard New Media Fellow at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.

More recently, Lia co-founded Bev’s Girl Films, which makes films that foster inclusion and diversity on both sides of the camera. She executive produced and starred in the indie films Hide and Seek (AA Film Lab’s 2015 72 Hour Shootout Best Actress Nomination), Rom-Com Gone Wrong, and When the World Was Young (2021 DisOrient Film Audience Choice Award for Best Short Narrative).

A retrospective of Lia’s photographs will be on view at the Museum of the City of New York later this year, documenting her BIPOC colleagues and contemporaries in the performing arts, which will include photos of Prospect Theater Company artists at work. www.liachang.com, www.liachangphotography.com

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