Tonya Pinkins, a Tony-award-winning stage and screen performer, will take the helm as the next Denzel Washington Chair in Theatre this fall at Fordham College at Lincoln Center. 

“We are so honored and excited to have the incomparable visionary artist Tonya Pinkins at Fordham Theatre. Her presence will have a transformational impact on the program and within Fordham University,” said May Adrales, director of the Fordham Theatre program.

The endowed chair was established in 2011 by acclaimed actor and alumnus Denzel Washington, FCLC ’77, to connect students with well-known industry professionals. Every fall semester, the chair teaches and works closely with students on performances and productions. Past chairs include Golden Globe-winning actress Regina Taylor, Tony Award-winning director Kenny Leon, and, most recently, Tony award-winning set designer Mimi Lien

Pinkins, the 13th chair holder, is no stranger to the stage. She has “won or been nominated for nearly every award there is in the American theater,” according to her IMDb profile. She was nominated for three Tony Awards, winning one in 1992 for Best Featured Actress in a Musical, Jelly’s Last Jam. She also earned Clarence Derwent, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle, Lucille Lortel, Obie, and AUDELCO awards, and has been nominated for numerous other honors. 

Pinkins’ talents span the entertainment industry. She is an actress with more than 20 years in daytime television, appearing in popular television shows like Fear the Walking Dead, Madam Secretary, and Gotham, and performing in nine Broadway shows. Pinkins is also a filmmaker. Her award-winning debut feature film Red Pill was named an official selection at the 2021 Pan African Film Festival, won the Best Black Lives Matter Feature and Best First Feature at the Mykonos International Film Festival, and is nominated for festival awards worldwide. As an author, she has written two books, Get Over Yourself! How to Drop the Drama and Claim the Life You Deserve (Hachette Books, 2006) and Red Pill Unmasked: A Movie Making Memoir (Red Pill Movie 2020 LLC) and essays that have received international attention. She is also a podcaster, a singer who is performing in Manhattan this summer, an activist, and a mother of four. 

Pinkins is also a longtime educator. She has taught young artists at institutions across the world, including American University in Beirut, Old Globe London, the National Theater, Yale, ACT, UT Austin, Rutgers, UCSD, USD, University of Louisville, City College in New York, and New York University. 

Beginning this fall semester, Pinkins will become an integral part of the Fordham Theatre program, attending and offering feedback for student performances and leading workshops that center on building resilience, learning through failure, and taking creative risks. She will also teach an advanced course in her discipline, Creating a Character, where students will develop the skills necessary to breathe life and imagination into their performances.

“I am looking forward to learning how my work and experience can be of service to the architects of the future of the arts in our world,” said Pinkins.


Taylor is a visual storytelling strategist in Fordham University's marketing and communications department, where she documents University life through photography and video. Since joining Fordham in 2018, she has served as a writer, photographer, videographer, and social media manager, dividing her time between University Marketing and Communications and the Office of the President. She earned her bachelor's degree in journalism from Stony Brook University's School of Communication and Journalism and her master's degree in public media from Fordham University's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Her work has appeared on NPR, NBC New York, and amNewYork METRO.