Broadway street naming for theater trailblazer Lloyd Richards set for Saturday

NEW YORK — A year after Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine designated June 29 as “Lloyd Richards Day,” the late, great theater trailblazer is getting his own “way.”

The first Black director to helm a drama on Broadway will have a street named after him beginning on Saturday, which also marks his birthday. Lloyd died in 2006.

Following the New York City Council’s approval last December, West 47th Street between Broadway and 8th Avenue will be co-named “Lloyd Richards Way.”

The resolution — championed for the better part of three years by more than 700 Broadway theater actors, workers, and enthusiasts — was approved by a vote of 46-0 by the Parks and Recreation Committee at City Hall.

The naming ceremony, scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday, is set to be attended by members of Richards’ family, actors Glynn Turman, Kate Burton, Ruben Santiago-Hudson and Stephen McKinley Henderson, costume designer Emilio Sosa and esteemed producer/director Woodie King Jr.

According to committee member Julius Hollingsworth, “Lloyd Richards Way” will be the first street named for a person of color in the Broadway theater district, which already boasts theaters named after Wilson and other trailblazers James Earl Jones and Lena Horne.

As the director of the groundbreaking 1959 Broadway production of “A Raisin in the Sun” —starring Sidney Poitier, Ruby Dee, Diana Sands and Claudia McNeil — Richards is recognized for shepherding Black plays to the mainstream theater circuit.

The Detroit-raised Toronto native also collaborated with playwright August Wilson on productions of his acclaimed plays “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” “Two Trains Running,” “Seven Guitars,” “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone,” and the Pulitzer Prize winners “The Piano Lesson” and “Fences.”

That 1987 production of “Fences, starring James Earl Jones, Mary Alice and Courtney B. Vance, earned Richards the Tony Award for best director.

His creative skills knew no bounds as he also developed works by Athol Fugard, John Guare, Wendy Wasserstein, Christopher Durang and John Patrick Shanley, among others.

In 1993, he was awarded the National Medal of Arts.

“Lloyd Richards was and is iconic,” Hollingsworth said. “He is the heartbeat and [the] root of the modern American theater.”

It’s no coincidence that the same street to be named in Richards’ honor is also home to the Ethel Barrymore Theater, where “A Raisin in the Sun” premiered 65 years ago and became Lorraine Hansberry’s most known work.

Outside of helming Broadway productions, Richards served as the dean of the Yale School of Drama from 1979 to 1991. His prolific contributions to the theater also include his roles as the chair of the board of trustees at the Theater Development Fund, the head of the National Playwrights Conference, and the artistic director of the Yale Repertory Theater.

“Lloyd Richards changed the face of American theater, allowing the stories of those whose stories had never been told before to be heard for the first time,” said committee member Jack Shalom. “In his capacity as director, teacher, and artistic director, he influenced generations of theater workers and theater institutions to this day. His contribution to American theater is incalculable.”