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Blair Underwood gives shout out to Petersburg teacher during Tony Awards

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PETERSBURG, Va. -- The Tony Awards was filled with many highlights Sunday night, but the biggest for a retired Petersburg teacher was a personal shout out from accomplished actor Blair Underwood.

"Personally, the teacher that influenced my appreciation of the arts was Marie Maniego from Petersburg high school,” Underwood said, while presenting an award. “So to Mrs. Maniego… Thanks for the dedication and hard work that helped guide my path and get this army brat from Virginia all the way to Broadway."

Maniego said she very proud of Underwood and considers him a symbol of her life's work because of his success and the man that he has become.

“I think he can tackle most anything, because she’s learned that the theater has a soul and once you’re a part of it, it consumes you and you don’t have to worry about it anymore,” she explained.

She said it was very special that Underwood gave her a shout out, but just as important, he mentioned Petersburg also.

“For Petersburg, I’m so glad that he does these shout outs, because I would do anything to let people understand, I grew up here and I really hate what people say about Petersburg because Petersburg is a marvelous place," she said.

Maniego was not only Underwood’s drama coach at Petersburg High, but she also had her own theater company called "Playmakers" that underwood was a part of also.

Underwood graduated from Petersburg High in 1982. He has received two Golden Globe Award nominations, three NAACP Image Awards and one Grammy Award during his acting career.

He is best known for roles in Set it Off, Rules of Engagement, and Madea's Family Reunion.