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Danai Gurira and André Holland honored at Tisch Gala

Tuesday, Apr 4, 2017

Over $1.1 Million Raised to Support Critical Needs of Talented Tisch Students

Over 400 alumni, donors and supporters gathered at Cipriani 42nd Street on April 3 for the NYU Tisch School of the Arts 2017 gala, Aspire and Inspire, honoring notable Graduate Acting alumni Danai Gurira and André Holland. Hosted by Sunday in the Park with George’s Michael McElroy, Associate Arts Professor and Associate Chairperson of Drama. Alec and Hilaria Baldwin served as honorary co-chairs for the evening, which also featured a surprise birthday celebration for Alec. Also in attendance were Tisch alumna and Tony Award-nominated actress Pascale Armand, music producer Randy Jackson, Tisch alumna and Luke Cage actress Karen Pittman, producer Colin Callender, Tribeca Films’ Jane Rosenthal, NYU Tisch Dean Allyson Green, NYU President Andrew Hamilton and his wife Jennie Hamilton, Jonathan Tisch, Ann and Andrew Tisch, and filmmaker and artistic director of Tisch Graduate Film Spike Lee. Over $1.1 million was raised to support critical needs of talented Tisch students.

Tisch Gala Honorees André Holland and Danai Gurira
Tisch Gala Honorees André Holland and Danai Gurira

“I am inspired by our honorees tonight: two alumni from our Graduate Acting Program,” said Allyson Green, Dean, NYU Tisch School of the Arts. “Danai and André are brilliant artists. Both are fearless. And both tell stories that are often overlooked or unheard. They are also friends, as so many Tisch alumni become, shaped by training by dedicated teachers who instilled deep values.” NYU President Andrew Hamilton also made remarks, thanking guests for their ongoing “guidance, commitment and support” of NYU Tisch.

Aspire and Inspire honored notable alumni The Walking Dead actress, award-winning playwright and Tony-nominee Danai Gurira (’04) and The Knick and Moonlight actor André Holland (’06). Gurira and Holland are close friends and graduates of the NYU Tisch Graduate Acting Program.

Pascale Armand, Tisch alumna, Tony Award-nominated actress and star of Gurira’s Eclipsed and The Convert, presented her with the Big Apple Award for Artistic Achievement, listing her many accomplishments as an artist and activist whose mission is to “tell African stories about African women on American soil” and congratulating Gurira on “her achievements in front of the lens and beyond it.”

Tisch alum Pascale Armand speaks about Danai Gurira before presenting her award
Tisch alum Pascale Armand speaks about Danai Gurira before presenting her award

“It is an astounding honor to receive this award,” said Danai Gurira, Tisch alumna and actress, The Walking Dead. “Tisch is my artistic home – being there always felt intrinsically right. It is a place of growth and nurturing. I am a Tisch grad and proud of it for life.” Gurira also shared invaluable advice with current Tisch students on how to grow as actors.

Jim Calder, Associate Arts Professor and Head of Movement, NYU Tisch Graduate Acting Program, and Holland’s former instructor presented him with the Big Apple Award for Artistic Achievement, sharing fond memories of his time at NYU Tisch and calling him “insatiably curious” and “full of enormous love.”

“It is such an honor to be presented with this award,” said André Holland, Tisch alumnus and actor, Moonlight, The Knick. “NYU Tisch has the best training this world has to offer. [At Tisch I learned there] was space for me to use my own voice. This was the most important moment of my career – it made me fearless, bold and empowered.”

Finale performed by Tisch Graduate Acting and Drama Students
Finale performed by Tisch Graduate Acting and Drama Students

The evening’s performances included a meditative piece by the Seán Curran Company and a musical finale performed by NYU Tisch graduate and undergraduate students and arranged by Tony and Drama Desk Award-nominated actor and NYU adjunct professor Malcolm Gets. Live music was provided throughout the night by cLive of the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music. The gala showcased the depth and breadth of NYU Tisch’s offerings, which include programs in acting, dance, cinema studies, design for stage and film, dramatic writing, film and television, game design, interactive telecommunications, moving image archiving and preservation, musical theatre writing, performance studies, photography, public policy and recorded music.

Alec Baldwin presented with a birthday cake while guests sang Happy Birthday
Alec Baldwin presented with a birthday cake while guests sang Happy Birthday

The dinner closed with a special birthday celebration for Tisch alumnus and honorary co-chair of the evening Alec Baldwin (’94) when his wife Hilaria surprised him by taking to the stage and touchingly wishing him a happy birthday. Baldwin blew out the candles on his chocolate cake while host Michael McElroy led the crowd in singing "Happy Birthday." Guests also enjoyed a slice of Baldwin’s birthday cake, and the celebration continued well into the night.

Thousands of Tisch alumni have gone on to enjoy fulfilling careers in the arts. Tisch graduates include renowned artists such as Pulitzer Prize winners Annie Baker, Tony Kushner, Doug Wright and Chang Lee; Academy Award winners Martin Scorsese, Oliver Stone, Marcia Gay Harden, Keiko Ibi, Mahershala Ali and Ang Lee; Tony Award winners Nina Arianda, Steve Kazee, George C. Wolfe, Michael Mayer, Idina Menzel, Stephen Spinella, and Frank Wood; Emmy Award winners Alec Baldwin, Billy Crystal, Cary Joji Fukunaga, Vince Gilligan, Kristen Johnston, Camryn Manheim and Debra Messing; acclaimed filmmakers Spike Lee, Amy Heckerling, Colin Treverrow; Grammy nominee Elle Varner; entrepreneur Dennis Crowley; MacArthur Fellowship recipients Kyle Abraham, Camille Utterback, and Mimi Lien; visual artist Leo Villareal; and actors Gina Rodriguez, Sterling K. Brown and Corey Stoll.

Photos: Nate "Igor" Smith