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Broadway to honor late Tony award-winning actor Hinton Battle by dimming theater lights

By Justin Gamble, CNN

(CNN) — Broadway’s 41 theaters will dim their lights Tuesday to honor the late Hinton Battle, according to a news release from the Broadway League. Battle, a three-time Tony award-winning actor, died on January 30. He was 67.

The unified tribute reverses an earlier decision to only have nine theaters honor Battle, which sparked a backlash from some in the theater community who felt Battle’s contribution to the stage had been overlooked.

“After further consultation among the Committee of Theatre Owners and reflecting on the impact of Hinton Battle, the Committee has shared with his family that all Broadway theatres will dim their lights in his honor on March 12, 2024, at 6:45pm for one minute,” Broadway League President Jason Lacks said in a news release announcing the change.

Battle is the only 3-time Tony Award-winner for best featured actor in a musical.  He was best known for playing the scarecrow in his career debut at age 18 in the 1975 musical “The Wiz”. Battle won Tony Awards for his 1981 performance in “Sophisticated Ladies,” his 1984 performance in “The Tap Dance Kid” and his 1991 performance in “Miss Saigon,” according to the Broadway League.

Broadway traditionally dims the theater marquee lights to pay tribute to legends in the industry who have died, according to the monthly theatergoer magazine PlayBill.  The Broadway League, a trade association of theater owners and producers, decides who receives the honor.

But over the years, members of the theater community have spoken out about how the League decides who qualifies for the honor.

In 2014, the League announced it would dim the lights in honor of the late Joan Rivers “due to the outpouring of love and respect from our community and from her friends and fans worldwide.”

That decision came after reports circulated that the committee had initially declined to honor Rivers because she did not start her career on Broadway, according to Variety.

Chris Peterson, founder of OnStage, a blog dedicated to reporting on Broadway industry news, said the outcry over Battle’s tribute nearly a decade later shows there is a need to standardize criteria to determine when someone should receive the honor.

“For someone as iconic as Hinton Battle who was a trailblazer in so many different ways and achieved so much over his career not to have that honor be absolutely automatic — not even a second thought — really just is preposterous,” Peterson said.

According to Peterson, the Broadway community went weeks without any notice of a memorial or tribute to Battle.

“When you’re looking at the logistics of it, it’s so easy to do. And yet it means so much when it’s done,” Peterson said, of dimming the Broadway lights. “The fact that there isn’t this consistent policy of how these folks are honored the right way … it’s infuriating.”

CNN has reached out to the Broadway League for additional comment.

Despite the delay, Peterson feels Battle will finally be recognized in a way that honors his legacy.

“I’m thrilled for his family and friends and former colleagues that he’s going to get the honor that he always deserved,” he said. “Hopefully it serves as a reminder of just how we need to be better at honoring these individuals that just did so much for the industry.”

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