Audra McDonald responds to Tony’s acceptance speech criticism

Audra McDonald accepting the award for performance by an actress in a leading role in a play during the 68th annual Tony Awards.
(Theo Wargo / Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)

Though Broadway legend Audra McDonald made history on Sunday night with her sixth Tony Award, the best lead actress for her role in “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill” has been receiving not only congrats for her win but also criticism of her acceptance speech.

“I want to thank my mom and my dad up in heaven for disobeying the doctors orders and not medicating their hyperactive girl and finding out what she was into instead, and pushing her into the theater,” McDonald, 43, said on stage, clutching her Tony and speaking through tears.

In an opinion piece on the Time website Monday titled “Sorry, Audra McDonald — My Kid Needs His ADHD Meds,” editor at large Belinda Luscombe congratulated McDonald but shared her own experience as a mother who decided to medicate her hyperactive child.


“One of my kids doesn’t learn very well without the meds,” Luscombe wrote. “We’ve tried the theater, sports, music, wearing him out, getting him more sleep, meditation, diet, being super-disciplinarian, being not too disciplinarian, art, bribery and shouting … But the thing that worked best, that enabled him to learn to read and stopped him from getting into trouble at school, was medicine.”

Luscombe recognized that McDonald wasn’t trying to judge her or other parents who choose to put their children on medication, but she said McDonald isn’t “making it any easier to live with our hard decisions.”

“There’s anxiety, and then there’s Audra-induced anxiety, which is more dramatic and accomplished than the regular sort,” Luscombe wrote. “I’m equally sure your parents also drove you to rehearsal a lot, or ran lines with you, or calmed you down if you had stage fright or told you not to chew your nails. You couldn’t have mentioned that instead?”

McDonald responded to the letter Tuesday, publishing her own opinion piece on Time’s site titled “Why I Thanked My Parents for Not Putting Me on ADHD Medication,” which began by congratulating Luscombe on finding a “solution that works for you.”

“The decision of whether or not to medicate a child is a very personal, difficult and subjective one,” McDonald wrote. “What works for one child doesn’t necessarily work for another.”

But McDonald didn’t retract her early remarks, writing that if her parents had turned to medication rather than getting her involved with theater first, “I have no doubt that while my life might have been a fantastic one, it would not have been one in the theater.”


She said thanking her mother -- who was in the audience at the award show -- and her deceased father for “making that decision” was “a moment for and about my parents and their love for me: nothing else and no one else.”

McDonald closed the letter with: “I’m positive that your son will someday recognize that he has a mother who is fiercely devoted to him and that every decision she ever made was out of love for the child he is and the adult he will become. My best wishes to you both.”