United Solo™ is proud to present the annual United Solo Special Award, which honors outstanding solo performers. These are artists who create captivating performances with sensitivity, audacity, and wisdom. They remind us of immense power of a singular performer, and the possibilities of solo storytelling.

 
The 2017 United Solo Special Award was presented to Michael Moore at the ceremony held on November 19, 2017 at Theatre Row on 42nd Street in New York City. In his acceptance speech, Mr. Moore said: “I wanted to stand in a room with a few hundred other people each night and have a conversation. I have never done that in that way before — it was very powerful,” and added “It’s that connection to the people in the room, and the cliche that no two audiences are the same turns out to be true.” Michael Moore joins previous recipients of this award: Anna Deavere Smith (2010), Patti LuPone (2011), John Leguizamo (2012), Fiona Shaw (2013), Billy Crystal (2014), James Lecesne (2015), and Staceyann ChinCynthia Nixon (2016).
 

 
In 2017, the United Solo Academy has nominated six performers for the Special Award: Mikhail Baryshnikov, Sarah Jones, John Leguizamo, Judith Light, Michael Moore, and Anna Deavere Smith. The winner will be announced at the United Solo Closing Gala on Nov. 19 at Theatre Row on 42nd Street in New York City.

 

In Letters to a Man, one of the greatest dancers of the late 20th century, renowned choreographer and actor, Mikhail Baryshnikov portrayed the schizophrenic genius dancer Vaslav Nijinsky. Wearing macabre white makeup, Mr. Baryshnikov fearlessly and sensitively evoked a troubled artist, haunted by psychological demons but overflowing with inspiration. In this adaptation of Nijinsky’s diaries, directed by theatre giant Robert Wilson, Mr. Baryshnikov showed us a portrait of a conflicted mind in all its jagged exuberance and grace.

Sarah Jones imagined how future generations might look back on our sexist, objectifying culture in Sell/Buy/Date, investigating a community of female sex workers and the men who employ and exploit them. Ms. Jones brought a diversity of characters to vivid life as she explored this grave and multifaceted subject with sharp humor and directness. She shed a harsh light on the readiness with which people put a price on themselves and others.

John Leguizamo brought cultural history to dazzling, hyperkinetic life in Latin History for Morons, in which he corrected pervasive omissions of Latinos’ contributions to American history. As a legendary comic monologist and father of two, Mr. Leguizamo embraced the responsibility to empower younger people to redefine heroism, masculinity, and ethnic identity for their generation. His conscientiousness is matched by his virtuosity and passion.

Judith Light’s devastating and raw performance in Neil LaBute’s All the Ways to Say I Love You was a compelling exploration of one woman’s reckoning in the aftermath of committing a crime – guilt, rationalization, longing and regret. By turns subtle and epic, Ms. Light carefully portrayed the emotional unraveling of an oppressive conscience, and offered a glimpse into the disturbing moral depths and mysteries of middle-class life.

In The Terms of My Surrender, filmmaker-provocateur Michael Moore reflected on a celebrated career of speaking truth to power and holding our leaders accountable. His personal stories of resistance and tireless efforts to make a difference are both a balm and a call to action in disquieting times. Mr. Moore teaches by example how an individual can transform anger and disappointment into effective activism, and keep idealism alive when hope is difficult to sustain.

Preeminent documentary solo performer Anna Deavere Smith explored the disturbing codependence between two social institutions, the school and the prison, in Notes From the Field. Ms. Smith confronted the racism that afflicts public life with unflinching precision, and brought attention to a national emergency – the mismanagement of urban schools, and the disproportionate incarceration of African Americans. A master of both skill and empathy, Ms. Smith is an essential American artist and historian.

*Nominees have been recommended by the United Solo Academy as well as independent theatergoers.

**Winners are selected by an independent panel of over eighty theatre professionals.

***United Solo encourages enthusiasts of the solo form to suggest their favorite performers for the annual United Solo Special Award. Feel free to send us a brief email that includes the name of the performer, the title of the event, website (if applicable), date and place it was performed, and the reason for your choice. You may suggest an artist from many genres of solo performance open to the public (e.g. storytelling, puppetry, dance, movement, concert, musical, spoken word, multimedia, sketch, improv, stand‑up, lecture, magic, performance art, online video, TV special, DVD release, traditional play: drama or comedy). Send your recommendation to: uAward‑recommendation@unitedsolo.org

 

Photo of Mikhail Baryshnikov by Marco Glaviano. Photo of John Leguizamo by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders. Photo of Judith Light by Luke Fontana. Photo of Michael Moore by Joan Marcus. Photo of Anna Deavere Smith by The Aspen Institute, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0, modified.

 

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