‘Broadways Back’ – Black theater agent wins Tony

Irene Gandy, the only Black press agent on Broadway.
Photo by Vinette K. Pryce

After an absence of 27 months, the 74th Annual Tony Awards rewarded excellence in music and drama in theater by shouting “Broadway’s Back” while paying tribute to the sole Black, press agent of the Great White Way.

Following the long hiatus forced by the coronavirus pandemic, thespians and Broadway’s best stepped onstage to claim the prize delayed but not denied.

Among the categories exemplified for dedication and excellence, one carved engravings on a lucite trophy with the name Irene Gandy, the only Black press agent on Broadway.

She has attended the ceremonies more years than the dark months and in the distinguishing capacity, her larger-than-life presence has been a feature those associated with theatrical productions will readily attest.

Committed to ensuring a Black presence, perspective and critique that represent a rainbow otherwise ignored by producers and investors, Gandy has maintained a policy of integrating diversity to the otherwise imbalanced, exclusive entertainment format.

For more than 30 years she fronted representation of the prestigious Jeffrey Richards Associates even sharing co-producer titles on numerous Broadway productions.

“I want to give special thanks to my work husband Jeffrey Richards who has employed me over three decades and who has graciously shared his producing credits…”

In acceptance of the prestigious award she said: “I pay homage to Douglass Turner Ward, Gerald Krone and Robert Hooks who founded the Negro Ensemble Company in 1967 and created a free space…”

She credited the trailblazers with enabling access and membership to unions such as SAG-AFTRA and Actors Equity.

“As a press agent on Broadway, it takes a village,” Gandy added.

She also thanked the Tony Administration, “security guys” “press cohorts” and everyone “who made my journey less difficult.”

The honor is akin to a lifetime achievement award acknowledging 50 years since Gandy exited CBS Records to pursue a career in the less diverse theater industry.

Since entering the foray, she has added color, glamor and increased Black press accessibility to principals and thespians of the theater.

Thirteen years ago, Gandy’s image was added to a wall of celebrity caricatures displayed at Sardi’s Restaurant, the celebrated mecca reputed for attracting stars who lingered to await broadcast reviews.

There with the likes of Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Lena Horne, Denzel Washington, James Earl Jones and legends of the stage, Gandy is the distinguished first Black, press agent to be prominently displayed.

Gandy is no stranger to some of the biggest names of the stage, her affiliations with Alan Alda, Phyllicia Rashad, David Allan Grier, Stephanie Mills, George Faison, Audra McDonald, August Wilson, Ruby Dee, Ossie Davis and others are acclaimed.

Throughout her storied career she has advanced the profiles of Maya Angelou, Diane Carroll and others who staged performances during Atlanta, Georgia’s Black Theater Festival.

It’s not only the fact she has maintained rapport with media specialists that sets her apart from others but her unique personality, loyalty and fashion sense serves as inspiration to generations of aspirants.

She’s a role model, motivator and community-minded to boot.

Her impact has resonated with interns, stage hands, box office attendants, wardrobe technicians, musicians, ushers, imprinting indelibly from the rafters, balconies, loge, backstage, rehearsal halls and red carpet arrivals.

Gandy’s façade and reputation is legendary, she often sports the glitz and glamor of her profession.

Routinely fashioned by conspicuous eye-wear, extraordinary hair adornments, one-of-a-kind outfits and designer accessories, she has been featured in newspapers and elite magazines.

During Harlem Week in 2015 she launched a fur line which caught the attention of editors at Vogue Magazine.

And last year during the turmoil that ensued following the murder of George Floyd boldly displayed an affordable mink coat emblazoned in white lettering with the words Black Lives Matter.

Next year she will introduce the Lady Irene collection.

“This award is dedicated to those whose shoulders I stood on and others forthcoming I want to stand on mine…and if you think the weight might get too heavy on my shoulders…don’t worry …I’m a Black woman, I have wide hips, you can always hold onto…”

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