Triple-threat performer Ben Vereen was this year's Lifetime Achievement honoree at the Beverly Hills/Hollywood NAACP 13th annual Theatre Awards, held Monday at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.
"I'm honored and at the same time I'm at a loss for words," the 55-year-old actor, dancer and singer said in a statement Tuesday. "Receiving this award means a great deal more than they could ever imagine."
In the Equity category, "Guys and Dolls" led with six awards, including best female performance for Alexandra Foucard and best supporting male performance for Clent Bowers. "The Full Monty," "Love Makes Things Happen" and "Into the Woods" tied with two awards each.
Athol Fugard won the best playwright award for "Master Harold ... and the Boys," as well as the best director award for "Sorrows and Rejoicings" at Mark Taper Forum.
The awards, which celebrate the contributions of African Americans to theater productions in the Los Angeles area between Jan. 1 and Aug. 31, 2002, also honored local productions, including Mark Swinton's "Ephraim's Song," presented at Washington Preparatory High School by students from Washington Prep's Carrie Odell Theatre Arts Academy and the David and Barbara Abell Music Magnet School. The musical about disenfranchised youth, written and directed by Swinton and featuring the music of the hip-hop/R&B; recording artists known as City High, received four awards, including two for Swinton as best director-musical and best playwright in the local theater category.
Travis Preston's experimental "King Lear" for Center for New Theater at CalArts, presented with an all-female cast at the Brewery Arts Complex near downtown, received three awards, including best performance by a female for Fran Bennett as King Lear.
Other local winners include Damaso Rodriguez , named best director for the Furious Theatre Company's "Saturday Night at the Palace"; Will Bowers, who received the best performance by a male award for "Insurrection: Holding History" at McCadden Place Theatre; and "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf" at West Hollywood's Globe Playhouse, which won the best ensemble award for incorporating deaf and hearing actors.