The 2017 Margo Jones Award was presented on November 4th to Lou Bellamy, founder and artistic director emeritus of Penumbra Theatre, St. Paul, Minn. The award is administered by Ohio State University Libraries’ Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee Theatre Research Institute (TRI).
The Margo Jones Award commemorates one of the pioneers of the American professional regional theatre movement, Margo Jones (1912-1955), who supported and nurtured new plays at the theatre she founded in Dallas in 1947, including Tennessee Williams's Summer and Smoke and Lawrence and Lee's Inherit the Wind. The pattern she created for developing new plays is now a standard method for producing new plays in the living American theatre.
The Margo Jones Medal annually honors "that citizen-of-the-theatre who has demonstrated a significant impact, understanding and affirmation of the craft of playwriting, with a lifetime commitment to the encouragement of the living theatre everywhere." The medal was endowed by a gift from Tad Adoue, a close associate of Margo Jones in Dallas, in addition to major support provided by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee.
The ceremony was attended by Beth Kattelman, curator of theatre for TRI; Nena Couch, head of Thompson Special Collections and curator of TRI; Mary Tarantino, director of TRI; and Damon Jaggars, vice provost and director of University Libraries representing Ohio State. Deborah Robison, niece of Jerome Lawrence; Jonathan Barlow Lee and Lucy Lee, son and daughter of Robert E. Lee attended as representatives of the Lawrence and Lee families. Neila Lee, Jonathan’s wife was also in attendance.
The ceremony included an inspiring address by Dr. John Wright, professor of Afro-American & African studies at the University of Minnesota-College of Liberal Arts who spoke of Lou Bellamy’s important contributions to the American theatre. Wright noted that by founding Penumbra Theatre, Bellamy was one of the first black theatre artists to create work that focused on the African American experience. Throughout its 40 years of existence, Penumbra has continued to live up to its mission of being a company that "creates professional productions that are artistically excellent, thought provoking, and relevant and illuminates the human condition through the prism of the African American experience." The Margo Jones Awards Committee was pleased to be able to honor such a worthy recipient as Mr. Bellamy.