Karla Burns, Who Broke a ‘British Tonys’ Color Barrier, Dies at 66

Karla Burns, a singer and actor who in 1991 received a Laurence Olivier Award, Britain’s highest stage honor, for her position because the riverboat prepare dinner Queenie in a manufacturing of “Show Boat,” and who later fought to regain her soulful voice after dropping it in an operation to take away a progress in her throat, died on June four in Wichita, Kan. She was 66.

Her sister, Donna Burns-Revels, stated the demise, in a hospital, was brought on by a sequence of strokes.

A spokeswoman for the Olivier Awards’ sponsoring group, the Society of London Theater, stated it’s believed that Ms. Burns was the primary Black performer to win that honor.

Her Olivier, Britain’s equal of a Tony, for greatest supporting efficiency in a musical, got here in 1991 in recognition of her work in a revival of “Show Boat,” co-produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company within the West End. Almost a decade earlier she had earned a Tony nomination for taking part in Queenie position on Broadway.

Ms. Burns’s musical journey started when she was a lady rising up in Wichita within the 1960s. Her father was a blues and gospel pianist, and each Saturday evening she danced beside his piano whereas he performed. On bus rides to highschool she broke out in tune. One day a choir trainer advised her, “Kiddo, you can really sing.”

“Karla was proud to play Queenie,” said Rick Bumgardner, a close friend of hers who directed her in productions of “The Wiz” and “Steel Magnolias.” “When she got the opportunity to put a rag on her head, she didn’t feel she was putting people down. She felt she was portraying strong women and reminding our nation of its past.”

In the 1990s, Ms. Burns appeared in “Hi-Hat Hattie,” a touring one-woman musical based on the life of Hattie McDaniel, the first African-American actor to win an Oscar, for her role as Mammy in “Gone With the Wind” (1939). Ms. McDaniel was also a Wichita native and had played Queenie in the 1936 movie version of “Show Boat,” and Ms. Burns had long considered her a kindred spirit.

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“I’ve noticed very much the similarities,” she said in an interview on the public radio station KMUW Wichita in 2018. “I’ve noticed that people do often look at your color, your size, and it makes a difference as to what roles you get. McDaniel had the same struggles at a time when people looked at every bit of you and you were blessed to get a part.”

She added: “She’d take the words, and because she knew how to sass them up, she didn’t serve anybody. She played a subservient role, but she was never a subservient human being.”

Source link Nytimes.com

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