Cal State East Bay Alumna Chalia la Tour Nominated for Tony Award

Maha Sanad, Social Media Editor

The 74th Annual Tony Awards were held on Sept. 26, the pinnacle of recognizing achievement in Broadway Productions.

After last year’s Tony Awards were delayed a year due to COVID-19, Broadway lovers welcomed this year’s long-awaited ceremony with eagerly open arms.

In even better news, California State University, East Bay was represented among this year’s catalog of nominees.

Chalia la Tour is a CSUEB alumna and an actress whose performance in the groundbreaking production “Slave Play” earned her a nomination for “Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play.” On top of that, “Slave Play,” which ran on Broadway from Sept. 2019 to Jan. 2020, set a record for the most nominated play in the history of the Tony Awards with its 12 nominations.

Since the play is about interracial couples and racial dynamics in the antebellum South, some have called the production provocative for its portrayal of topics relating to slavery, interracial relationships, and sex. One Vox article referred to “Slave Play” as “the most controversial show on Broadway.”

“‘Slave Play’ imagines a radical form of role-playing for sexually frustrated interracial couples as a way of exploring the lingering effects of slavery in America,” said an article in New York Times.

Before earning her MFA in acting at the coveted Yale School of Drama, La Tour was a transfer student at CSUEB who graduated in 2012 with a BA in Theatre with a focus in technical production.

While La Tour is finding success in New York City, she grew up in Stockton, Calif. where her artistic journey began by performing in churches, community theaters, and participating in youth theater programs.

“Inspired by her mother’s career as a dancer and her siblings’ natural inclination towards music, La Tour felt it was important to forge her own artistic path,” said an article on ZORA Medium, a blog that celebrates Black women.

La Tour’s character in “Slave Play” is somewhat of a controversial role in an already buzzworthy production. Despite this, she was eager to play the role of Teá, a character whose dialogue is “steeped in academia.”

La Tour compared her own experience with that of her character’s experience.

“As a Black woman, I have seen how leaning on education and language allows for more mobility, accessibility, and a greater sense of status and protection,” she said.

While speaking about the origins of her character Teá, La Tour acknowledged the importance and the necessity of amplifying the voices of Black female characters.

“We as Black women know how little space we’re given and we know how strategic we have to be when we use our voices… Women are often charged with being the voice of healing or understanding and end up holding more space than they are given. That burnout is real and I do not think we are fully aware of the toll it’s taking,” she emphasized.

La Tour’s eloquence and seeing her success in her acting career is a breath of fresh air in a world full of constant bad news. Especially since she is a young Black woman and a CSUEB alumna in the creative sphere – we love to see it!

“I’m so fortunate for the teachers at Cal State East Bay for really keeping all avenues open,” she said.

Although “Slave Play” did not win in any of its 12 nominations, the innovative production will return to Broadway in the fall of this year.

“The producers said the return engagement would be at the August Wilson Theater and would run from Nov. 23 to Jan. 23. They then plan to transfer the production to Los Angeles for a run at the Center Theater Group,” according to the New York Times.

It is an immensely proud feeling to see a CSUEB alumni doing big things with such prominent success. While La Tour did not take home the award for “Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play,” she is still a winner in our eyes.