Baltimore School for the Arts earns first Tony nod, for actress Shalita Grant

The Baltimore School for the Arts can boast its first nomination for a Tony Award -- thanks to graduate Shalita Grant, whose debut Broadway bow has won her a nod for Best Featured Actress in a Play.

"Graduates have been nominated for Grammys and Emmy Awards in the past, but this is our first Tony," says Donald Hicken, chairman of the school's theater department.

"Shalita is over the moon. She's an amazingly gifted actor and this was clear from her audition for entrance as a 9th grader at BSA. One of our trustees kind of begged me to audition her. Ordinarily, I wouldn't see her because it was outside our regular audition week. But, then I did, and it was a "Wow!" moment. She is a dynamic chameleon who has a passion for transforming herself on stage."

Grant is appearing in playwright Christopher Durang's much-praised Chekhov mash-up, "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike." She plays a soothsayer/cleaning woman tellingly named "Cassandra."

Also sharing in "Vanya" glory when nominations were announced Tuesday is Baltimore-born producer Cricket Hooper Jiranek. Jiranek graduated from Garrison Forest School in the class of 1977, according to school spokeswoman Sarah Aschenbach.

Kudos as well to Center Stage Associate Artist Catherine Zuber, who was nominated for a Tony for Best Costume Design for her work on "Golden Boy," a revival of a 1937 Clifford Odets play about a violinist-turned-boxer.

The winners will be announced during a televised ceremony on Sunday, June 9.