Kitty Lunn, a classically trained dancer who became a paraplegic 13 years ago and then resumed her stage career, is the winner of the 2004 Rosetta LeNoire Award.
Conferred annually by Actors' Equity Association to acknowledge "theatres and individuals that have made significant contributions toward increasing diversity and nontraditional casting in theatre," the award, in the form of an engraved silver tray, was presented to Andrew MacMillan, Lunn's husband, on Fri., April 2, at the union's annual membership meeting in New York. Lunn, who was unable to attend the ceremony due to illness, was hooked up to the crowd by telephone.
Sharing the honor is Infinity Dance Theater, a nontraditional ensemble for dancers with disabilities and dancers beyond the age typically associated with professional dance work, which was founded by Lunn.
In addition to her pioneering work with Infinity, Lunn is a former councillor with Actors' Equity as well as a member of the board of AFTRA and the tri-union (AEA, SAG, AFTRA) Performers with Disabilities Committee. Through her leadership, several important contract provisions benefiting disabled actors have been negotiated, beginning with efforts to achieve compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Lunn also spearheaded efforts to ensure that disabled performers are included in the industry definitions for nontraditional casting and that audition material is made available, upon request, to blind or visually impaired actors at least 48 hours prior to an audition.
In 1994, Lunn founded Infinity Dance Theater, which is "committed to bringing the joy and drama of motion and movement to a new level of inclusion for dancers with and without disabilities." According to a written statement issued with Equity's announcement, there are only two rules for dancing in her company: First, there must be "parity of movement so that it cannot be just the nondisabled dancer doing all of the dancing," and second, no "wheelies" are allowed. Drawing on her own training, the statement goes on, Lunn "has developed a methodology that relies on a system of movement and balance," earning her and her ensemble critical raves.
On her own, Lunn also continues to perform, appearing in "The Chaikin Project" at the Public Theater, "All About Me" at the Douglas Fairbanks Theatre, "Agnes of God" with the Alliance Studio, "Shadows to Sunlight" at Charlotte Repertory, and "The Waiting" at the Kennedy Center. She also has a recurring role on the daytime drama "As the World Turns."
The Rosetta LeNoire Award was established in 1988 to honor the legendary performer, producer, and activist, who spent over 70 years on the front lines fighting for racial equality in the entertainment world and in society as a whole. LeNoire, who died in March of 2002 at the age of 90, made her Broadway debut in Mike Todd's "The Hot Mikado" in 1939—one of the first all African-American Main Stem productions—and in 1968 founded Amas Musical Theatre. She went on to receive many awards, including the National Medal of Arts, presented to her by President and Mrs. Clinton in 1999.