Actor and playwright David Heron has won the 2023 Broadway World Rhode Island Award as Best Supporting Performer for his portrayal of Caliban in Shakespeare’s The Tempest.
The critically acclaimed production ran from July through August of 2023 in Wilcox Park, Westerly, as part of the annual Shakespeare in The Park Festival presented by The Colonial Theatre of Rhode Island.
The winners of the 2023 awards were announced on Broadwayworld.com on Wednesday January 17 following a month long online public vote which saw thousands of theatre fans and the general public casting ballots from throughout Rhode Island, the USA and globally. Nominations were announced on November 21 with voting beginning on that date and continuing until December 31.
Heron, who recently joined the post production team of the new HBO television series Get Millie Black as a Jamaican dialogue coach, triumphed over 29 other actors in a crowded field to take the top honor.
His award was one of two prizes earned by The Tempest, which also won in the category of Best Costume Design for Jaysen Engel. In all, The Tempest was nominated for seventeen awards including Best Play, Best Director (Marion Markham), Best Acting Ensemble and Best Choreography (by director Markham), as well as technical nominations for Best Lighting, Sound and Scenic Design and several additional nominations for its large ensemble cast.
The Jamaican born Heron, also known as the award winning playwright of productions including Against His Will, Ecstasy and Love and Marriage and New York City, was overwhelmed upon hearing the news of his win.
“It’s the culmination of such an unlikely journey,” he says, “Because as has been well documented, I nearly turned down the role of Caliban due to some of the racial overtones and themes of colonialism within the play. But I again have to thank my remarkable director Marion Markham, who offered to make changes and edits to Shakespeare’s original text that ultimately made the role more palatable to me, which then allowed me to accept. This is as much hers as it is mine. And I’m both humbled and deeply grateful to her and to all who voted to make this possible.”
According to Heron, he went into full “Obama Mode” during the one month voting period, as he and his team made sure that word of the awards and of his nomination was circulated on his whatsapp and social media platforms as well as through traditional media outlets to garner as many votes as possible.
“I definitely took a page from President Obama’s community organizing playbook for this process,” he laughs, “Because once the nominations are out and the voting is opened to the public, it becomes almost like the Oscars, where everyone is campaigning to try and get out the vote, so to speak. For me it was no different. I received amazing support from individuals across so many aspects of my life, including my alma maters- Wolmer’s Boys School and the University Of The West Indies (UWI), my corporate family from CIBC First Caribbean International Bank where I was once Marketing Manager, my own family and network of friends, as well as my colleagues from the entertainment community in Jamaica and across the USA.”
He says that what resulted felt very much like a global effort.
“Ultimately, we got votes from all over the Caribbean, North America, Europe and Africa. I did indeed want to win but what moved me the most was how many people wanted the win for me. They spread the word to others, encouraging them to vote also, to help get us across the finish line. Ever since news of the win broke, the joy has been palpable from so many people who’ve been on this journey with me since late November. It has been astonishing. I can’t thank them enough.This is a truly special moment for us and hopefully for Jamaica.”
In addition to The Tempest, Heron has appeared Off Broadway, regionally and internationally in productions such as Marley-The Musical, The Emperor Jones, The Winter’s Tale, Pecong and Romeo and Juliet, as well as his own plays Love and Marriage and New York City and Against His Will.
The Broadway World Awards are regional theatrical awards announced annually throughout the USA by Broadwayworld.com, one of the entertainment industry’s most respected websites covering theatre around the world.
This year’s biggest Rhode Island winner was the Stadium Theatre, which earned fifteen of the eighteen awards available including Best Play (A Christmas Carol), Best Musical (Newsies) and Best Theatre For Young Audiences (Peter Pan).
Photo – Bridget Hus.