Anthony R. Miller checks in with thoughts on the sacred celebration of aging and self-reflection known as the Tony Awards.
Hey you guys, so my birthday is coming up, which means so are the Tony Awards. Call it an omen, but my birthday always happens within a few days of the Award show people don’t care about. I mean seriously, Theatre people have more Oscar parties than Tony Parties. I have some thoughts on that, now that you mention, I have five.
I usually watch alone.
The Tony Awards makes me randomly cry, I don’t know why. Before the crazy internet, the Tony’s was the only way to see what was happening on Broadway, unless you subscribed to a really expensive magazine, or bought Broadway musical soundtracks found in the darkest corner of the local Musicland (It Was a music store found in malls, music stores were where people used to buy music.) or actually went to New York. So no matter how cynical I may be now, back then it was Theatre dork Christmas. So with the cloud of age hanging over me from my birthday and watching a show that harkens back to the most vivid of childhood dreams, who knows what’s gonna make me weepy. It is the convergence of childhood dreams and age, goals and impending death.
I want it to mean more.
At some point this window into another exciting world felt more and more like a commercial for Broadway tourism. Maybe it was always that, but then it was like, magical. Don’t get me wrong, I can still get swept up in a really good performance or speech. But it used to be just nominees, now its nominees, musicals celebrating anniversaries, musicals that have 50 touring companies. So is there less magic because I’ve become a grumpy thirty-something busting ass to fill a 70 seat theatre, and I know how the “Magic” works? Or does it just suck more? Or did it always suck and I just now am noticing?
I actually like the less sexy awards.
While the no sound design award thing is horseshit, another thing that has been bugging me over the last few years, is fewer and fewer awards are being televised, all so we can squeeze in a number from all 17 touring casts of Jersey Boys, or A Wicked Anniversary mega-mix performance. I’d actually rather watch “Best Book for a Musical”, I think it’s interesting dammit. Other retired awards include, Best Author, Best Conductor or Musical Director, and Best stage Technician. Now it’s just acting directing and best show. I mean, if the Tonys are supposed to inspire starry eyed teenagers, shouldn’t they be trying to seduce back stage folks too? Can’t Dramaturges and Musical Directors and Sound Designers rehearse their tony speeches in the bathroom mirror too? Let’s face it, if the Tony’s are going to sell kids on the fraudulent image of the glamorous life of a Broadway actor, we can do the same for dream filled future IATSE stagehands.
Well guys, It looks like I’m not getting the Tony Award again.
I can’t deny that growing up watching the Tony Awards made me want to do theatre for a living, (And now I do…overall…technically, let’s not split hairs here.) The difference now is that it’s not about doing theatre On Broadway, it’s about doing theatre here, in the Bay. And I work with awesome people who couldn’t give a crap about New York, they’re excited about what they’re doing here. So it gets harder to see a bunch of Broadway Producers pat themselves on the backs for having the foresight to do a revival of “The King and I” when if I can sell out a 40 seat blackbox on a Thursday night, I feel like a god of theatre. My goal in life isn’t to win a Tony anymore and hasn’t been for a very long time. (Although I do a have a long game for winning the Regional Tony) So while I still enjoy the giant budget production numbers, and the commercial that is this grand New York Theatre World. I’m part of an amazing theatre community, but not that one, at a certain point the theatre around you is more important than the theatre in a city you don’t live in. Add in the reflection that comes with another year of your life passing, and the inevitable taking of inventory, did I work hard enough this year? Did I take on enough work? Am I losing sight of the goal? Do I have a goal? Did I compromise my dream too much? JESUS CHRIST CAN’T I JUST CHILL OUT AND WATCH NEIL PATRICK HARRIS SING IN BOOTY SHORTS?!?
I’m full of shit.
Under the piles of grey hair and cynicism (seriously PILES), there is still a fan boy. The Lifetime Achievement award is being given to Tommy Tune, who is one of my heroes (True story) I am going to love every second of it. And sure the childhood dream has evolved into a grownup dream, which in reality is still pretty fucking farfetched. But in the last few years, I’ve been getting more teaching gigs, which has been a profound experience. (Mostly because I’m shocked I’m good at it.) Working with kids who currently have “The Dream” or maybe they’re just realizing what later could be a dream, kinda keeps me in touch with starry eyed 16 year old Anthony. So this Sunday, on my Birthday, I’ll watch the friggin’ Tony Awards. It would be weird if I didn’t. It’s always a weird experience, but leave it to me to make an awards show a perfect time question your place in universe.
Anthony R. Miller does a lot of things, you can keep up with many of them at http://www.awesometheatre.org.