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 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 Chin & Cynthia Nixon (2016).
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.