Playwright and alumnus J.T. Rogers wins Tony Award for "Oslo"

Playwright J.T. Rogers, an alumnus of the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, has added a Tony Award to his list of best play honors for “Oslo.” The gripping drama about negotiations that led to the Israeli-Palestinian peace accord of 1993 previously won the Drama Desk Award, the New York Drama Critics Award, the Drama League Award, the Lucille Lortel Award, the Outer Circle Critics Award and the Obie Award for outstanding play.

Nominated for seven Tonys, “Oslo” also won the Best Supporting Actor Award for Michael Aronov.

JT Rogers

J.T. Rogers

Rogers graduated from the School of Drama in 1990. His previous works include “Blood and Gifts,” nominated for Drama Desk and Lucille Lortel awards, “The Overwhelming” and “White People.” Rogers is a recipient of a 2016 Doris Duke Charitable Trust commission to write a new play for Lincoln Center Theater.

UNCSA School of Drama Dean Carl Forsman said, “We’re so proud of J.T., who is thriving as an example of our proud tradition of actor training: because he took the work here – learning to listen, to collaborate, to have a point of view – and became a creative artist of the first rank.

“When he came to visit us a few years ago, he reminded us that there were a lot of lean years between school and the exciting opportunities he was enjoying, and he urged the students to stay true to the work,” Forsman added. “We’ll all try to keep following his brave lead. I am sure there are great things ahead for J.T., and we’re all so grateful for his continuing support of the drama school.”

UNCSA School of Drama Emeritus faculty member Barney Hammond, who taught Rogers when he was an acting student at UNCSA, said, “He never had a playwriting class in his life. It says so much about the training team.” Hammond, a voice, speech and text coach who recently returned to Winston-Salem after teaching and coaching for several years in Texas, joked that Shakespeare never had a playwriting class, either, and he also started out as an actor.

He never had a playwriting class in his life. It says so much about the training team.

Faculty Emeritus Barney Hammond

Hammond recalled that Rogers “started writing these little monologues for his classmates” to perform, and the faculty wondered for a time from where they came, since the students were supposed to perform work by established playwrights.

Other writers produced by the School of Drama include Peter Hedges ’84 (“The Odd Life of Timothy Green,” “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape”) and Angus MacLachlan ’80 (“Goodbye to All That,” “Junebug”).

Oslo opened off-Broadway in June 2016 and ran for 10 weeks before transferring to Broadway in April 2017. Of the play’s move to Broadway, Ben Brantley wrote in The New York Times, “This rich drama of quixotic politics fills to the bursting point its capacious new home at the Vivian Beaumont Theater. Staged (and admired) last summer at the Lincoln Center Theater’s smaller downstairs space … Oslo has now become the colossus it was always meant to be, while giving an even sharper focus to the urgent behind-the-scenes intimacy at its fast-beating heart.”

Hailed by The Washington Post as “hands down the best new play of the season,” the play featured UNCSA alumnus and Winston-Salem native Jennifer Ehle (Drama ‘88), who won the Lortel Award and was nominated for a Tony Award as Best Actress.

This is the second year in a row that a UNCSA alumnus has won a Tony Award. Last year, UNCSA School of Design and Production alumnus Paul Tazewell won a Tony for Best Costume Design for “Hamilton.”

by Lauren Whitaker

June 12, 2017