As someone who works in theatre, Tony Awards Sunday is usually a purely joyful day. It's always fun to watch the show of course, but I always have friends who are going, or who worked on shows nominated (or both!) so my facebook newsfeed is always aflutter with people posting about the event. Sadly, this year the events in Orlando meant my newsfeed had a very different vibe. Instead of discussing who they thought would win or anticipating the evening's festivities, people were posting about the latest mass shooting, and wondering whether their loved ones were accounted for. However, the devastating news reminded me of the Mister Roger's quote: "When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." To this day, especially in times of "disaster," I remember my mother's words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world." While there was incredible sadness, there were also countless posts calling for people to donate blood, so much love and so many prayers. It felt better, for the moment, to focus on the love.
Turns out, the theatre industry seemed to agree with me! The awards ceremony was dedicated to the Orlando shooting victims, and began with a moving speech from host James Corden (link here to see the opening statement and two opening numbers): “On behalf of the whole theater community and every person in this room, our hearts go out to all of those affected by this atrocity. All we can say is you are not on your own right now. Your tragedy is our tragedy. Theater is a place where every race, creed, sexuality and gender is equal, is embraced and is loved. Hate will never win. Together, we have to make sure of that. Tonight’s show stands as a symbol and a celebration of that principle. This is the Tony Awards.”
The show then began with the Hamilton cast doing a parody of their own opening number, which was perfect in every way. When the awards themselves began, I loved watching the acceptance speeches. Seriously, so much better than all other awards shows. There was so much variety, unlike the cookie cutter speeches you get at the Oscars. Some people thanked their families first, which was wonderfully refreshing. They were all genuine, gracious, well-spoken and made me proud to be a part of such a great community. One of the (unsurprising) stand-out memorable speeches was Lin Manuel Miranda's first speech after he won Best Score. He read a pre-written sonnet, and that WAS a surprise because it was a departure from his typical freestyle rap. The sonnet addressed both his wife and the events in Orlando, was equal parts emotional and uplifting, and is the source material for the heading of this post. Lin's presentation of the sonnet can be viewed here, and trust me, it will be much better to watch than to read.
All of the performances were phenomenal; it's been an amazing year for theatre. Each and every nominee truly deserved to be there. My favorites (not including Hamilton, which goes without saying) were easily the Color Purple and Waitress, and watching Cynthia Erivo and Jessie Mueller sing their faces off. If you haven't seen them you should google IMMEDIATELY! Cynthia was my pick for best leading actress in a musical, and I'm happy to report she won! Fun fact: she once ran a half marathon before doing a two show day, which is a marathon in itself. Jessie Mueller is also fantastic; when I saw the show I was sitting in the front row and made eye contact with her after the song she sung on the Tonys. It was magical. Broadway has been especially graced this year with a plethora of phenomenal, powerhouse ladies. There are so many great voices in the group, I just want them all to do a concert together but I would fear one stage couldn't contain so much brilliance.
The ceremony made history last night, because for the first time, four black actors took home all four Tonys in the best performance in a musical categories. Remember, this is a year where the Oscars were famously called out for lack of diversity, while Broadway seems to have adopted it in spades (hoping this trend continues!). Just one of many reasons the Tony Awards are better than the Oscars! All of the actors who won were the people I was hoping would win, so I was pleased. These were some of the toughest categories this year because there were so many incredible performers nominated.
I watched the ceremony at a friend's apartment, with other people who either work in theatre or love theatre so we were a very enthusiastic audience. I cheered extra hard for "Humans", which I worked on (YES best scenic design for a play!), and when one of our number realized a new block of Hamilton tickets had gone on sale, a sea of phones came out to try and get tickets. I texted my sister to make sure she knew, and she did but her response was that she wanted to stay out of the fray. Suuuuuuuure.
About forty minutes later, Hilary texts me "DO YOU WANT TO SEE HAMILTON WITH ME SEPTEMBER 20th?????" with all the ticket info (also in caps). And of course, I do. We saw it last September before the cast album was released, so we went in completely blind, and now that we know what to expect we've been wanting to go back. I realized I didn't see the text until fifteen minutes after she sent it so I started freaking out that I had missed the opportunity, but luckily she bought them prior to my response realizing that if I couldn't go that day she would find SOMEONE to take that ticket. And then I called her a "phenomenal genius made of magic" and later I told her I "seriously suspected she sacrifices virgin unicorns to the theatre gods on a weekly basis in her studio apartment." I stand by both of these things. To be clear, the tickets she bought are actually NOT in the new block of released tickets, but are magically the least expensive options that happened to be available in the block of tickets that's been on sale for months. MAGIC.
I was doing all of that texting on the subway, but when I lost service and calmed down for long enough to look around, I realized there was a completely adorable couple sitting right across from me. They were intertwined in a super sketchable (and completely public-appropriate PG way), but they were moving frequently enough that I knew I couldn't get it all down (she had an arm up with her head leaning on her hand I really wish I had managed to draw in!), so I just focused on faces. I appreciated that they fell into my "love" theme for the evening. With that, I found a third favorite category of people to sketch on the train. Now my favorites include: people who are sleeping, readers, and lovers who are too busy gazing adoringly into each others eyes to notice or care that they are being sketched. A great way to end the day on a high note.