It’s been just about 24 hours since the 70th annual Tony Awards aired and I am still thinking about them!!! Still tossing around the acceptance speeches and performances in my thoughts. Still thrilled by some really wonderful and well-deserved (and in some cases history-making!!!) wins. Still asking some questions about the way certain elements of the evening were handled. But overall still full of the special kind of pride and excitement that comes from watching a celebration of art that you know something about, of knowing that the theater that I love and create and crave is in a lot of ways the same theater that is honored on national television each June.
I have been a theater person pretty much my entire life, but I have only been a watches-the-entire-Tonys-each-year kind of theater person since my later few years of high school, when I started to care more and more about new works in theater instead of just listening to the Wicked and Little Women cast recordings over and over and daydreaming about playing Belle in Beauty and the Beast. I am still not the sort of theater person that knows everything (or something) about every play and musical that’s nominated, who has an opinion on each nomination and award, who sees as many of the shows as possible or at least reads up on each of them the night before.
But I love the Tonys because they are a wonderful chance for people who don’t live in New York and can’t afford to see shows regularly (me, and probably most of the people reading this too) to see a glimpse of what Broadway’s season is like each year, and a wonderful chance for the theater community in general to celebrate and honor what is new and innovative and good out of a year of very hard and very diverse work. Of course there is a lot of theater, a lot of GOOD theater besides Broadway: The Chicago theater scene has encouraged and inspired me and challenged my thinking in the best of ways (shoutout to The House and Chicago Shakespeare Theater ), the Globe Theater in London literally changed my life , and I’ve also seen some really good and beautiful theater on college stages and community stages and even high school stages (and I like to think I’ve created good theater in some of those places, too.) But Broadway is still widely considered a pinnacle (if not the pinnacle) of theatrical achievement, especially when it comes to musical theater, and it’s often where the next generation of theater artists looks for inspiration, and I like that the Tony Awards celebrate that in such a visible way.
And now I am going to make lists, because otherwise I will write an entire paragraph about every single little thing I loved and every single little moment that had me asking questions.
THINGS ABOUT THE 70th ANNUAL TONY AWARDS THAT HAD ME SO, SO VERY EXCITED ABOUT THE STATE OF THEATER IN THE YEAR 2016 AND SPECIFICALLY THE WORK THAT’S BEING DONE ON BROADWAY:
- James Corden. Our host James freaking Corden and his opening number that gave me goosebumps and made me CRY (watch it here). So happy he chose to begin the night with a tribute to the gems of the theater past and a message of inspiration to the creators of the theater future. “Don’t wonder if this could be you–it absolutely could be!” I want to talk about every little moment of this opener, but please just watch it. (And then message me and we can be excited about it together!)
- Older actresses like Jayne Houdyshell and Jessica Lange being honored for their work. Strong women of the theater. Love it.
- Renée Elise Goldsberry using her acceptance speech to so graciously and beautifully thank her parents, her husband, her cast, and her God. Another moment that made me cry. It’s wonderful to see a woman like her, who cares so deeply about both her family and her art, honored like this.
- All of the artists who took time out of what is by nature a celebratory night to acknowledge the tragedy of the Orlando shooting. From Corden’s opening speech to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s acceptance sonnet, the tribute ribbons almost all of the attendees wore and the Hamilton cast’s decision to perform without their weapon props, I really felt like the Broadway community was making an intentional choice to engage with the culture and stand by those suffering.
- Speaking of Lin-Manuel Miranda, I loved seeing his look of pride and unrestrained joy each time another member of the Hamilton team was honored (even when Leslie Odom Jr. won Best Actor in a Musical, for which Lin was also nominated). There is a man who knows that theater is ensemble creation and who values the success of his friends and co-creators just as much as his own.
- So, so many beautiful and generous performances by women. Carmen Cusack in Bright Star, Jessie Mueller in Waitress, the entire cast of The Color Purple (but especially Cynthia Erivo, because WOW that note). Can you tell I care a lot about women in the arts??? Because I really really do.
- #TonysSoDiverse! Really, really wonderful to see so many artists of color celebrated and honored for work in all areas of artistic achievement. Particularly the history-making award recipients of the musical acting awards–for the first time in Tony history, all four of these awards were given to actors and actresses of color. And also so many diverse shows! Hamilton is only the beginning–this season gave us On Your Feet, The Color Purple, Allegiance, and Eclipsed, not to mention a Spring Awakening revival that incorporated deaf actors and ASL into the show along with featuring a wheelchair-bound actress. I am sure there are more examples I’m forgetting–but I really love seeing the theater make strides in this area.
- Even though it was a little bit of a foregone conclusion, I’m sure I’m one of many celebrating Hamilton‘s Best Musical win. This show is changing musical theater in so many ways and it is such an artistic achievement on so many levels. A very, very deserved award.
- Fiddler on the Roof. Just, Fiddler on the Roof. That’s all.
- Less profound, but lots of laughing at the high school bootleg of Josh Groban playing Tevye and the Law and Order jokes.
- I should probably stop here before this turns into a novel but if you are still super excited from last night and want to talk Tonys please message me and we can be excited together!!!!!
THINGS ABOUT THE 70th ANNUAL TONY AWARDS THAT HAD ME ASKING A COUPLE QUESTIONS:
- As much as I love Hamilton and agree that it’s just as groundbreaking as everyone says, I was a little sad to see some other works overlooked, especially ones that are groundbreaking in their own right. Sad to see Tuck Everlasting and Allegiance not even given a chance to perform, sad to see Michael Arden lose the Best Direction award when he reinvented Spring Awakening in such an important way, sad to see Waitress walk away with just nominations. And even sometimes a little sad about the “Hamiltonys” attitude in general. Hamilton is really important and wonderful and revolutionary and I won’t argue that it didn’t deserve the awards it received. But it’s not the only good theater happening right now, and part of me wishes the Tonys had been a little bit more demonstrative of that.
- Sad about the pretty-much-complete-snub of Eclipsed. (It won costume design I think? More on design awards later…) If I’m remembering my pre-Tonys reading correctly this is the first Broadway play with an all-female cast and creative team, and also all women of color, and that’s really important?!?!!! I don’t know much about the play beyond that, but I do wish it had been acknowledged more.
- Curious about the choices some shows made in what numbers they performed. Though there were a lot of women-centric musicals that naturally showcased their leading ladies, it seemed to me like other shows (namely Fiddler, Spring Awakening, and Hamilton) chose songs that were really focused on their leading men and male ensembles, even though all of those shows have really important female characters. Not necessarily a critique, but something I am thinking about still. On this note, I was so very, very glad that “The Schuyler Sisters” closed out the night.
- Worried just a little bit that the push for diversity could tail off because of the strides made by this season. Despite #TonysSoDiverse there are still a lot of minority communities overlooked by Broadway, particularly Asian artists (see: Allegiance not receiving a single nomination). I am, of course, white and don’t really have authority to speak on this. But I think it’s important and something worth noting. Keep supporting diverse theater. Don’t let it stop at Hamilton, or this season in general.
- STILL SAD about the dropping of the Sound Design award! All art is both technique AND creativity, not one or the other, and sound design definitely falls under that category! And also, so many of us fall in love with shows (especially super-popular, super-expensive ones like Hamilton) through the CAST RECORDINGS, which are in part the work of incredibly talented, incredibly under-appreciated SOUND DESIGNERS. #TonyCanYouHearMe
- Also sad in general that the Creative Arts awards are not televised. I know that would make the Tonys like a thousand hours long, but I wish they could at least be broadcast beforehand so nerds like me could watch them and designers could get at least a little more of the recognition they deserve.
Those are the thoughts that are coming to mind now. But friends I am just so excited still, even in the questions. So excited that live theater is something that is still growing and changing and being celebrated and honored! I am also really excited and really thankful that this year I had the very fun and wonderful chance to watch the Tonys sitting in between two very dear friends from my theater, eating pizza and popcorn and pretzels and pie, gasping over the performances and cheering for Hamilton and wondering about The Humans and making up highly literal choreography to “The Schuyler Sisters.” Thanks Jill and Emma. You are everything wonderful mixed up and baked in a beautiful pie.
Oh friends I am still so excited!!!!! Each year I finish watching the awards and am just so excited, again and again, to be making and loving theater. So thank you, Tony Awards, for reminding me that this thing I love to do is not little or irrelevant, but an art that people make lives out of doing and sharing and loving. Thank you for reminding me that this thing I love to do is not easy or casual, but good work, hard work, work that deserves to be recognized and honored when it achieves excellence. Thank you for reminding me that this thing I love to do is not just for me, that there is a huge community of us who love this thing it and give it to our communities as a comfort, a catharsis, a challenge.
And also, thank you for reminding me with all of this excitement that this thing I love to do could be, in a meant-to-be-doing-right-now-or-maybe-even-longer-way, very much for me. It is not just for me, but it is still for me. And it could be for you, too! “It absolutely could be.”