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Tufts Grads Take On The Tonys

Tufts Grads Take On The TonysDonald Byrd, choreographer for "The Color Purple,"and Oliver Platt, lead actor in the play " Shining City," recently received Tony Award nominations.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [06.05.06] Two Tufts veterans of the performing arts were recently honored for their work on the stage with Tony Award nominations. Donald Byrd, who attended Tufts in the 1970s, was honored with a nomination for Best Choreography for the musical "The Color Purple." Oliver Platt, a 1983 graduate, was nominated for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play for his role in the play "Shining City."

Byrd, called "inventive, sometimes provocative" by the Seattle Times, directed dance sequences for The Color Purple, which garnered 11 total Tony nominations.

"Donald Byrd's superlative choreography, performed with vitality and expertise, fills the stage with color and life," wrote the Houston Chronicle. "He makes inventive use of elements from folkloric dance, as well as popular period dances, as he captures the communal life around [the musical's heroine] Celie, at church services, picnics and jook joint revels."

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution raved about the "stunningly designed and danced" Africa sequence. "You wouldn't miss this for the world," the paper wrote in its review.

But Byrd, noted by The New York Times for his "three decades of thought-provoking, gutsy modern-dance choreography and his reputation as the toughest of directors," asserts that the musical is more than just song and dance.

"This is an idiosyncratic show," the Tufts graduate told the Seattle Times. "It doesn't fit into the usual categories of contemporary Broadway musicals. But it succeeds in many ways, more ways than a lot of musicals do. And it puts the question on the table: Can a big musical talk about these serious concerns, and still be entertaining and engaging?"

Byrd has been keeping busy in recent months, adding to his recently completed work on The Color Purple with world premieres for the Joffrey Ballet, Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, Spectrum Dance Theater and a puppet theater piece in Holland, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.

"Byrd has been known for his strong emotional content, which puts him in great demand," the newspaper noted.

His variety of projects has kept him creatively engaged. "Sometimes I surprise myself," he told the Post-Gazette.

Being recognized for his dramatic endeavors is no surprise to Platt, who has recently received Emmy and Golden Globe nominations for his role on the Showtime drama "Huff" alongside fellow Tufts graduate Hank Azaria, as well as an Emmy nod in 2001 for a guest role on NBC's "The West Wing."

Known most recently for his work on television and in movies, Platt plays "John," in this "quiet, haunting and absolutely glorious new play by Conor McPherson," according to The New York Times. For Platt, preparing for his leading role required a trip to Dublin, the play's setting.

"To prepare for the role of John, who consults a therapist after seeing the ghost of his recently deceased wife, [Platt] went to Dublin to hang out with the playwright, visit the locations where the play takes place and soak up the local accents," Reuters reported.

"What's so tricky about it is it's deceptively close in terms of the sounds to the way a lot of people speak in America," Platt told Reuters. "But it's much flatter than a classic lilting leprechaun accent."

The time spent in Ireland proved valuable, according to Platt.

"I had the chance to retrace my character's steps and to pick Conor's brain in his own hometown," he told the New York Daily News.

"A character actor with a string of big film credits from 'Working Girl' in 1988 to last year's 'Casanova' and 'The Ice Harvest,' Platt has raised his profile recently through television," Reuters reported.

"I love producing but the biggest enemy of my producing career is my acting career," Platt told Reuters. "My 'plan' is I know the next job when I see it."

The Tony Awards will be handed out live in prime-time on CBS on June 11.




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