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38th Annual Elliot Norton Award Nominations are out!

Elliot Norton Prize for Sustained Excellence Awarded Posthumously to Johnny Lee Davenport

Joyce Kulhawik
38th Annual Elliot Norton Award Nominations are out!

Two dozen nominations of outstanding actors, directors, designers and ensembles have been announced by The Boston Theater Critics Association (BTCA) for the 38th Annual Elliot Norton Awards. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, no live ceremony will be held; instead, the winners will be revealed in a virtual ceremony on Monday, May 11 at 7:00 pm. Details will follow on how to view the 38th Annual Elliot Norton Awards on Monday night May 11 at

The 38th Annual Elliot Norton Awards are being presented free of charge this year, from our living rooms to yours, and the after party will be held all over greater Boston and beyond as we celebrate this theater community, support struggling artists and highlight the importance of what artists bring to our lives.

The Elliot Norton Prize for Sustained Excellence is being awarded posthumously to Johnny Lee Davenport, a towering actor on Boston area stages large and small. A Special Citation will be awarded to Shear Madness, the popular audience-participation murder mystery that recently ended a 40-year run at the Charles Playhouse.

Johnny Lee Davenport came to Boston in 2006, when he was invited to play Claudius in Actors’ Shakespeare Project’s production of “Hamlet.” Since then, he had performed with nearly every area theater including Commonwealth Shakespeare Company, New Repertory Theatre, Huntington Theatre Company, Company One Theatre, Lyric Stage Company of Boston, Gloucester Stage Company, Wheelock Family Theatre, Greater Boston Stage Company, The Poets’ Theatre, Speakeasy Stage Company, The Front Porch Arts Collective, Underground Railway Theater, Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater and Boston Playwrights’ Theatre. Davenport’s acting career began as a teenager. And by the end of it, he had appeared in more than 200 professional productions throughout the United States, Canada, Greece and Ireland and had founded two African-American theater companies, one while stationed at Fort Campbell during the Vietnam War. Once discharged from the Army, Davenport began performing in Chicago. With a goal to perform in professional productions of Shakespeare’s entire canon, he traveled extensively, appearing as a guest artist for numerous Shakespeare troupes, including Shakespeare & Company, Orlando Shakespeare Theater, Tennessee Shakespeare Company, Actors’ Shakespeare Project, Commonwealth Shakespeare Company, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Washington DC’s Shakespeare Theatre, Milwaukee Shakespeare Company, Elm Shakespeare Company and the Illinois Shakespeare Festival. In all, he played nearly 60 roles in 26 of Shakespeare’s 39 plays. Davenport died on February 2, 2020. In his honor, a non-profit organization has been formed to realize his dream of training minorities in classical theater. Called “Beyond Classical Theatre,” the non-profit “honors the legacy of Johnny Lee Davenport by giving actors of color, with a specific passion for classical theater, opportunities to prepare for excellence in the performance of classical theater and to become role models and teachers for other actors of color who share this same passion.” To that end, a gofundme campaign is underway. The organization’s website is

For the full list of this year’s nominees please visit