MJ Rodriguez, who is currently starring as Angel in the off-Broadway revival of Rent, has been awarded the 2011 Clive Barnes Award, which celebrates the work of young actors and dancers. The second annual award was presented on December 5 at Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theatre, by inaugural Barnes Award winner and Venus in Fur star Nina Arianda.
Rodriguez, a Broadway.com Fresh Face, began her career at age 11 when she joined the Summer Youth Performance Workshop at New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC), and later attended Boston’s Berklee College of Music She is an eight year veteran of NJPAC, and also participated in their program New Jersey Youth Theater. She has performed in shows such as Dreamgirls, The Pajama Game and Once on This Island, as well as given vocal performances for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, Camp Broadway, and for the Boston Celtics Gala. Rodriguez is the 2009 Star-Ledger Scholarship recipient, and the 2009 Young Arts first level scholarship recipient.
The other nominees for this year's award also included Rodriguez's Rent co-star Annaleigh Ashford, Tony nominee and Spider-Man, Turn Off the Dark veteran Jennifer Damiano and Josh Grisetti of Enter Laughing. The Clive Barnes Award is administered by the not-for-profit Clive Barnes Foundation, named after the late theater and dance critic who died in 2008 at the age of 81. His work appeared in The New York Times, New York Post and many other publications, and his widow, Valerie Taylor Barnes, oversees the awards.