The producing artistic director of Asolo Repertory Theatre was honored by Equality Florida with its Voice For Equality award.
The top of the Palm Avenue Parking Garage was the setting of immense celebration and reflection Saturday night as Equality Florida, the state's largest LGBT civil rights organization, held its annual Suncoast Celebration. With Sarasota's LGBT community and allies in attendance, Equality Florida honored one of Sarasota's leading artistic innovators and equality advocates: Michael Donald Edwards.
Currently entering his 10th season at the Asolo Repertory Theatre, Edwards was honored by Equality Florida with the organization's Voice for Equality award. Over the last decade Edwards has led Asolo Rep into a new chapter of community engagement with pertinent issues as well as a new level of artistic excellence.
Edwards' introduction of [email protected] has become an unique program throughout the country. Asolo Rep invites members of Sarasota's LGBT community to a night of live theater and discussion alongside other members of the Sarasota community. In addition, Edwards' leadership involved with the theater's five-year American Character project have brought LGBT, race, economic and political issues to the forefront of the theater's programming.
Edwards says that he felt humbled to be honored alongside a national champion for LGBT rights: Mary Bonauto. Bonauto, who was honored with Equality Florida's lifetime achievement award, has been working as the civil rights project director at Boston's Gay & Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) since 1990. This past summer she was one of three lawyers who argued in front of the United States Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges, which made gay marriage legal throughout the country.
"I was completely surprised when I got the call," says Edwards as he was being fêted by Equality Florida. "I don't feel like I'm up there with the impact that Ms. Bonauto has had, but I'm happy to lead an organization that makes art lovers more actively engaged citizens. [email protected] has been making ground to get other community organizations involved in LGBT issues."