The Defender Award is given in recognition of an individual, group, or organization’s efforts in support of free expression in the dramatic arts. This award is selected annually by the board of the DLDF and will be presented at the Dramatists Guild’s Awards ceremony at a later date.
Previous recipients of the Defender of the Year Award have included Svetlana Mintcheva of the National Coalition Against Censorship, Marjory Stoneman Douglas students Sawyer Garrity and Andrea Peña, the cast and crew of the musical Hamilton, Edward J. Davis, Howard. Sherman, and Larissa Mark.
Bohannon has defended herself against unauthorized use of her work, fighting the injustice against Actors Launchpad directly, and then against Actors Launchpad’s high‐priced attorneys. Rather than shying away from the battle, Bohannon contacted the DLDF to fight against unauthorized use of her theatrical work. The DLDF paired Bohannon with David Leit, Esq. of Lowenstein & Sandler, who negotiated a settlement wherein the Actors Launchpad withdrew its threat of litigation, agreed that Sharai wouldn’t be required to remove any of her social media posts, and promised to make a $500 donation to the DLDF.
“Writers are often faced with hard choices when it comes to their work. Not only in creating it, but in defending it against those who would try to exploit it and profit from it without permission or compensation,” said DLDF Board President John Weidman. “In the face of such an attack, Sharai Bohannon stood up for what she had created, when it would have been infinitely easier to do nothing. And in standing up for it, she stood up for all of us, her colleagues, who write for the theatre. The Dramatists Legal Defense Fund is proud to honor Ms. Bohannon for her strength, her courage, and her absolute insistence that the right to control what she had brought into the world was her right and hers alone. Sharai Bohannon would not allow herself to be taken advantage of. We hope her example will inspire other playwrights to do the same.”
Sharai Bohannon is a playwright who has been produced in London, England and all over America. Her play In the End was highlighted on The Kilroy’s 2020 List and was Equity Library Theatre’s 2019 All Access Reading Series Finalist. Her play Why Are You Like This? (The Audience Services Play) was a 2021 Bay Area Playwrights Festival Semi-Finalist. She is also the founder/co-producer of Punching LaBute, a festival that strikes back at sexism, to raise money for charities that support femmes. Additionally, she is a film and pop culture critic for various online magazines including The Everygirl,and Book and Film Globe, and her own Medium page. She created and co-hosts the podcast, A Nightmare on Fierce Street. On the podcast she tackles horror films through a Black feminist lens. She also serves as the Director of Production for Rachel Lynett Theatre Company. She is managed by Empirical Evidence and currently resides in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
The Dramatists Guild Legal Defense Fund advocates on behalf of writers, theatres, schools, audiences, and all those in the culture at large who are confronting censorship on stages across America. The DLDF’s mission includes educating about the importance to our society of an ever-expanding public domain and a proper administration of the copyright laws that serve to ensure it. In light of dwindling public funding for the arts, the DLDF advocates not only for writers, but for theatres and other theatre artists (as well as audiences, schools, students, and the culture at large), all of whom are confronting censorship and other related issues of public import, including the diminishment of the public domain. The DLDF can also aid indigent artists who cannot defend themselves. This aid and advocacy may take the form of letters, articles, and lectures in public fora, intervention in litigation through amicus briefs and expert testimony, or finding affordable representation for those caught up in these disputes.