Los Angeles LGBT Center Director of Cultural Arts Jon Imparato was center stage on Tuesday when Lily Tomlin presented him with the first-ever LA Stage Alliance Ovation Awards Lifetime Achievement Award.
Tomlin congratulated Imparato on “a 23-year run of brilliant productions” and called him “one of the kindest, funniest, most capable, most upbeat and loving people I’ve ever known.”
“As a producer, Jon is known for taking great care of everyone involved in his productions—protecting them from distractions and outside pressures to ensure that they can do their very best work, nurturing them through any difficulties that arise,” Tomlin said. ”He keeps the whole team buoyed, encouraged, and appreciated.”
While winners in other categories accepted their awards on video during the virtual ceremony, Imparato was joined in person inside the Center’s Renberg Theatre by Tomlin and ceremony host Michael A. Shepperd, artistic director of Celebration Theatre (pictured above).
“This job has been the greatest gift of my life,” Imparato said, growing emotional. “This award means so much to me, it really does. But it means even more coming from my darling Lily.”
It was 1998 when Imparato was hired as artistic director of the Lily Tomlin/Jane Wagner Cultural Arts Center located at the Center’s Village at Ed Gould Plaza. During the next 20-plus years, he produced the West Coast premiere of Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues and three official 25th anniversary productions: Jack Heifner’s Vanities starring Kathy Bates; Jane Chambers’ lesbian classic Last Summer at Bluefish Cove; and an all-star staged reading of Larry Kramer’s incendiary AIDS drama, The Normal Heart, directed by Joel Grey and starring Lisa Kudrow.
Imparato also produced the debuts of new shows by Jenifer Lewis, Margaret Cho, Kathy Griffin, Coco Peru, Alec Mapa, and Carol Channing.
Other producing credits at the Center include: the world premieres of Victory Dance by Jessica Litwak; The Break Up Notebook: The Lesbian Musical; Miss Coco Peru Is Undaunted; Adelina Anthony’s Bruising for Besos; Nick Salamone’s The Sonneteer; highly acclaimed revivals of Ira Levin’s Deathtrap; Tectonic Theater Project’s The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later; Edward Albee’s The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?; Sam Shepard’s Fool for Love; the multiple award-winning Hit the Wall by Ike Holter; The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe: Revisited;and D’Lo’s To T, or Not to T, the groundbreaking solo show by the acclaimed queer/transgender Tamil-Sri Lankan-American actor/writer/comedian.
D’Lo was also honored at this week’s Ovation Awards. He received the 2021 Dorothy and Richard Sherwood Award for his exceptional contributions to the Los Angeles theatre landscape and work as an innovative, adventurous artist.
“May the queer gods bless Jon Imparato and the Los Angeles LGBT Center for they have provided me a theater home here in Los Angeles,” D’Lo said. “No one in LA but Jon is producing trans theater-makers of color with the amount of resources, love, and attention to detail.”
Imparato’s productions for the Center have been honored with 105 awards over the years: five Ovation Awards including Best Musical: HAM! by Sam Harris and the highest award, Best Season from 2015-16. His Center career was also honored in 2018 by the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle with their Margaret Harford Award for Sustained Excellence in Theatre.
Imparato thanked his Center bosses “who have given me so much artistic freedom to do my job” and everyone else he has worked with on various productions including directors, actors, creative teams, designers, and his staff at the Center who he described as “literally my heartbeat.”
“I feel (God) when a group of strangers assemble in a theater and when the lights go down, it gets dark, and everybody collectively takes this imaginative leap to believe that what’s happening on that stage is not just real, but they are moved, they are touched, entertained, and transformed by it,” he explained at the end of his remarks. “So, thank you all for taking this imaginative leap with me and to all my theater family and community. I know that when we all get back to work, our next chapter is going to be spectacular.”
In all, 37 Ovation Awards were bestowed upon 14 different Southern California theatre companies at this week’s virtual ceremony.
For a complete list of winners, visit ovationawards.com/announcements