The Five: The Hamilton-Free Tony Wrap Up

Anthony R. Miller checks in with everything else that happened at the Tony Awards.

Hey you guys, so while watching the Tony Awards last Sunday, there were moments where I felt kinda bad for everyone in a musical that wasn’t Hamilton. I mean, yay for Hamilton, but there’s no need to expound on its brilliance any further (many have done it for me). The fact is, there was some really interesting stuff that I think got a bit overshadowed by History’s Greatest Musical. I mean seriously, when THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES introduces the show you’re competing against, you lost. So today, let’s chat about some of the overlooked gems at this year’s Tony Awards, and yeah, there are five.

James Corden Is A Big Sack Of Sugar
From the pitch-perfect tribute to the lives lost in Orlando, to his self-deprecating humor, to his just lovable demeanor, I loved Corden as host, and my daughter was very excited the Baker from Into the Woods was hosting. It was then I decided this was not the time to discuss the finer points of Chip Zien, but I really wanted to, cause like seriously, Chip Zien, people.

That Waitress Musical Tho
When a famous person writes a musical, the results can be mixed. (I’m looking at you, Bright Star.) Sometimes, the songs are fine, but the storytelling isn’t strong, sometimes the songs aren’t good. So imagine my surprise when the cast of Waitress came on and it was…pretty great actually. Sara Bareilles should be given all the credit in the world. And while I’m here, I was also totally blown away by the revival of Spring Awakening, and School of Rock was really flippin’ charming. It’s a shame that they were practically afterthoughts.

Oh Wow, Chicago Has Been Running A Long Time
Bebe Neuwirth and the cast of Chicago came out to remind us that the current revival has been going for 20 years and is now the longest-running American musical (note the qualifier) on Broadway. Which is cool until you realize you were 18 when that show opened…

Apparently Only Actors Get To Make Speeches
Am I the only one that gets bummed out when the speeches by designers and choreographers are shown in clip form as opposed to all the “Best Actor” speeches? Am I the only one that would love to hear what the lighting designer has to say?

The Fact That Long Day’s Journey Into Night Still Gets Revived Gives Me Hope For the World
I will fight anybody that doesn’t put this play in their top 3, cause it’s brilliant. My hackles go up when someone says “Four hours?! Who would sit through that?” I’ll tell you who, anybody with a soul. In this day and age it’s hard to feel empathy for white people who own a summer home and drink too much. But Eugene O’Neill makes it happen. So the very idea that somewhere a couple of Broadway producers got together and said “You know what would make a truckful of money? A revival of Long Day’s Journey Into Night!” Although I’m sure there was at least one smart-ass intern who sneered and said “Ugh, this totally could have been 90 minutes, no intermission. Like, we get it, the Tyrone family is sad. You know what show doesn’t feel long at all? Hamilton, you’ve seen it, right?”

And that’s when I shot my intern, your honor.

Anthony R. Miller is a writer and producer. Keep up with his projects at www.awesometheatre.org and his smart-ass comments on Twitter @armiller78

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Hi-Ho, the Glamorous Life: #Glam4Ham: A Review of the Hamiltome

Marissa Skudlarek had some pressing (but glamorous) business yesterday so her column is coming to you on Friday this week!

I used to think that those accounts of how crazed people became over theater in the olden days — you know, stories about how hit plays created new stars, launched trends and fads, had their tickets become the hottest commodity in New York — were overstated, but then Hamilton came along. Hamilton mania is everywhere: Lin-Manuel Miranda is on the cover of Rolling Stone, half of the people I know have a crush on a Hamilton cast member, the show has won nearly every possible award and is about to take its victory lap at the Tony Awards (or, as we must call them, the #Hamiltonys).

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It’s the Hamiltome! Work!

I’m kicking myself for not having bought Hamilton tickets and planned a NYC trip to see it as soon as I felt the beginnings of this mania happening, so in the meantime, like thousands of other Americans, I’ve had to experience the Hamilton craze from afar. First by listening to the cast album, then by teaching myself how to play “You’ll Be Back” on the ukulele (try it, you guys, it is a GREAT ukulele song), then by reading the Hamiltome, the new behind-the-scenes coffee-table book. (Yeah, its official title is Hamilton: The Revolution, but no one is calling it that.)

So let’s discuss the Hamiltome. First of all, know that it’s a beautiful object, with a design inspired by Revolutionary-era pamphlets and typography. Because Lin-Manuel Miranda is a huge nerd, there are even occasional images of the historical documents that formed part of his research. And there is a rich supply of photos from the show itself, depicting just about every scene, unafraid of spoilers. I was absolutely mesmerized by a shot of Eliza (Phillipa Soo) at Philip Hamilton’s deathbed, with a single perfect tear trembling on her lower eyelid. There are handsome black-and-white daguerreotype-style photos of all the lead actors. There’s a candid shot of Daveed Diggs in his underwear (Page 151).

In terms of content, the book features the full text of the show, with annotations in the margins from Lin-Manuel Miranda, interspersed with chapters by Jeremy McCarter describing Hamilton’s creation, collaborators, and the first months of its impact on the world. One of the nicest aspects of this is how much attention the authors pay to Hamilton‘s design elements, praising the contributions of the behind-the-scenes personnel just as effusively as they praise the work of Hamilton’s iconic original Broadway cast. Clearly, the creative team has considered every detail and gesture and prop, and their meticulousness gives us all something to aspire to.

For those of us who downloaded Hamilton‘s cast album and still appreciate physical media, it’s great to have a full copy of the show’s lyrics, instead of having to look them up on Genius.com. Miranda’s annotations are full of enthusiasm, gratitude, and good humor. He’s open about the parts of the show that make him cry, the lines he’s proudest of, the parts that are challenging to perform. Additionally, if you are interested in writing stories based on historical events, the Hamiltome provides a lot of food for thought about how to shape history into a rich and thrilling drama.

Indeed, Hamilton is intimately concerned with historiography and the process by which facts become legends: “Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?” As such, it’s important to look at what the Hamiltome is trying to do, how it is trying to shape the narrative that surrounds this already-legendary show. Really, Hamilton’s reputation doesn’t need any more burnishing, but the Hamiltome tries to do that anyway. It’s a blatant piece of historical myth-making that tips into hagiography. Jeremy McCarter’s chapters try to put Hamilton‘s achievements into a historic context, but sometimes overreach. Describing how Alex Lacamoire listens to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s demo recordings, creates orchestrations, and then discusses what he’s done with Miranda, McCarter writes “It’s a very American pastime, this interpreting and discussing. Our musical culture is built on standards, songs meant to be reworked endlessly, such as ‘Blue Skies’ or ‘Summertime.’ And it’s not just our music: Think of the blood we’ve spilled looking for the best expression of ‘All men are created equal’ or ‘Congress shall make no law…'” Lacamoire is a very skilled orchestrator, but this seems like a ridiculously overblown way of describing what he does in his job.

Lin-Manuel Miranda obviously loves and admires and identifies with Alexander Hamilton, but because he is a talented dramatist, he also knows that 2.5 hours of a show that goes “This historical figure was so awesome!” is really boring to watch. Therefore, he is careful to give Hamilton flaws that balance his virtues; many of the other characters in the show think of Hamilton as an annoying, hot-headed motormouth. Jeremy McCarter’s Hamiltome chapters lack this kind of nuance; they’re the equivalent of a musical that just wants to tell you how awesome its hero is, a Hamilton without flaws. Their hyperbole becomes predictable. I found myself growing less and less interested in them, and more and more interested in the lyrics and Miranda’s annotations.

Act One of Hamilton is about war, Act Two is about politics, and the show explicitly states that “winning is easy, governing is harder.” It wasn’t easy to create Hamilton; it took six years of effort and the contributions of a lot of talented people. (NB: the battles of the Revolutionary War also lasted for six years, 1775-1781. I’m surprised that Jeremy McCarter doesn’t think to make that comparison.) But what will be even more difficult, and complicated, and interesting, is the effect that Hamilton will have on the American theatrical landscape, and how Lin-Manuel Miranda will possibly follow it up, now that “history has its eyes on him.” I wonder how we’ll be talking about Hamilton in twenty years. With King George, I wonder: “What Comes Next?”

Marissa Skudlarek is a San Francisco-based playwright and arts writer. Her favorite Schuyler Sister is Angelica. For more: marissabidilla.blogspot.com or @MarissaSkud on Twitter.

The Five- How to Pretend to Know Anything About the Pulitzer Prize for Drama

Anthony Miller, making your life just a little bit easier.

Hey you guys, I’m sure a lot of you are super stoked for Hamilton winning the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Sometimes it seems like organizations are inventing awards just to create an excuse to get the cast to perform on their show, while some are highlighting awards no one previously knew existed (I’m looking at you, Grammy Awards). Before we go running into the streets once again to celebrate Hamilton as the savior of American theater and the greatest thing since the last greatest thing ever, ask yourself, “What is a Pulitzer Prize for Drama anyway?” Funny you should ask, because I’ve got you covered. I’ve compiled a handy list of Pulitzer Prize for Drama trivia that you can wow your peers with at your next fancy theatre party, or at the bar. And wouldn’t you know it, there are five.

How Do You Win?
The criteria has changed over the years, but one thing remains, it must be an American play. The official criteria (as listed on their website) are as follows: “For a distinguished play by an American author, preferably original in its source and dealing with American life.”

Are Winners Rich?
The winner gets $10,000. The first winner, Why Marry? by Jesse Lynch Williams in 1918, got $1000. So no, not really.

What Other Musicals Have Won?
There have been 8. Of Thee I Sing by George S. Kaufman, Morrie Ryskind and Ira Gershwin (1932), South Pacific by Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein, and Joshua Logan (1950), Fiorello! by Jerome Widman, George Abbott, Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick (1960), How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying by Frank Loesser and Abe Burrows (1962), A Chorus Line, by Michael Bennett, James Kirkwood Jr., Marvin Hamlisch, Nicolas Dante and Edward Kleban (1976), Sunday in the Park With George by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine (1985), RENT, by Jonathan Larson (1996), and Next To Normal, by Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey (2010).

Is There One Every Year?
Even though there are nominees every year, there is not always a winner. The following years had no official recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama: 1917, 1919, 1942, 1944, 1947, 1951, 1963, 1964, 1966, 1968, 1972, 1974, 1986, 1997, 2006.

Has Anyone Won More Than Once?
Eugene O’Neill has 4: Beyond The Horizon (1920), Anna Christie (1922), Strange Interlude (1928), and Long Day’s Journey Into Night (1957). Edward Albee has 3: A Delicate Balance (1967), Seascape (1975), Three Tall Women (1994). August Wilson and Thornton Wilder both have 2. You can also mention that this is not the first time Lin-Manuel Miranda was nominated: In The Heights was a finalist in 2009 but lost to Ruined by Lynn Nottage.

Anthony R. Miller is a Writer, Producer and a Big Theatre Nerd, keep up with his projects at www.awesometheatre.org and on twitter @armiller78.

The Five: Another Birthday, Another Tony Awards

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.

Hi-Ho, the Glamorous Life: Catching Up with Corinne Proctor

Marissa Skudlarek, with the first ever Hi-Ho the Glamorous Life interview!

I first became acquainted with the delightful singer-actress Corinne Proctor in 2011, when I went to see a staged reading of the new trip-hop musical Ozma of Oz at the Cutting Ball Theater. Corinne stole the show as a sassy, talking, rapping chicken (complete with hand puppet). Later that night, following a party in a bohemian loft of the kind that I thought existed only in New York, the two of us belted out “Cabaret” on the streets of SoMa at 2 AM. Definitely a night to remember!

Corinne moved to New York about two years ago, but fortunately for her friends and fans in the Bay Area, the San Francisco Playhouse has brought her back here twice. She played Little Red Riding Hood in their production of Into the Woods this summer, and is currently starring as Marge MacDougall in their holiday production of Promises, Promises. Marge is a kooky barfly who hits on the musical’s heartbroken hero, Chuck Baxter (Jeffrey Brian Adams) at the start of Act Two. It’s a brief but notoriously scene-stealing role: both Marian Mercer, who played Marge in the original production, and Katie Finneran, who played her in the 2010 Broadway revival, won Tony Awards for it. Playing Marge is also special for Corinne because it marks her first role as a member of Actors’ Equity — “I’m overjoyed to have an asterisk of my own [by my name in the playbill],” she says.

I caught up with Corinne recently to chat about holidays, stage names, and how to throw a swingin’ office party.

Marissa: You’re originally from the East Coast: you grew up in Maryland and went to college in Upstate New York. What brought you out to the Bay Area after college?

Corinne: I wish I could pretend it was something cooler, but the truth is I ran out of money after spending my first year after college living outside Boston, and this is where my parents lived at the time. My mom was heading to our place in Florida (my parents are both there permanently now) so I moved in with my dad. I really miss that SOMA condo. I used to be able to walk to SF Playhouse!

Marissa: Then, about two years ago, you relocated to New York City. What prompted you to move back East?

Corinne: I had always been planning to save money to move to NYC by living with my dad and working full-time, which I did virtually the entire three years I lived here. I might have moved sooner if the Bay Area theater scene hadn’t been so wonderfully loving and fun and so incredibly kind to me, especially Susi Damilano and Bill English at S.F. Playhouse. I kept thinking I’d move when I hit a slump, but I ended up having incredibly good fortune. The longest I went without knowing what my next gig would be was five days. (I can’t resist bragging about that, haha.) I also just fell in love with my life out here, and it was definitely hard for me to leave. Then, in 2012, my dad was relocating to Houston and I knew it was time for me to finally make the move. I was in My Fair Lady at SF Playhouse at the time, and toward the end of that run I was living alone in the condo with no furniture except an air mattress!

Marissa: If any of our readers are Bay Area residents contemplating a move to the Big Apple, what advice would you give them to help them make that transition?

Corinne: HAVE LOTS OF MONEY. But no, seriously. I had saved about $20,000 and I can tell you that it didn’t last me a year. Now, I don’t claim that I was living off peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, but I wasn’t having pheasant under glass for dinner every night either. Plan to drop upwards of $3,000 in order to get into an apartment. Someone who grew up in California might also have some culture shock, but since I spent the first two decades of my life on the East Coast I’m very used to the quicker, louder pace.

Marissa: Many Bay Area actors, especially those in your demographic (young and female) agonize long and hard over whether or not to join Equity. Was this ever a concern for you? If so, did it become less of an issue when you moved to New York?

Corinne: Many people wanted me to be more worried about joining Equity, but I have to tell you I barely thought twice about it. (If I were staying in the Bay Area, I might have given a bit more pause, but I won’t swear to it.) I’d been working consistently as a non-Equity actor since 2008, and I was ready to take it to the next level. Particularly in New York, being non-Equity is super rough — although being an EMC (Equity Membership Candidate) does get you on a slightly better waiting list.

The one and only, Corinne Proctor.

The one and only, Corinne Proctor.

Marissa: I know that one of Equity’s rules is that no two members can have the same stage name. I suppose it’s pretty unlikely that there would be another Equity actress called “Corinne Proctor,” but if you’d needed to choose a different stage name, what would you have done?

Corinne: Haha, I had a lot of fun thinking about this, of course. Because I speak Spanish, I thought about taking my paternal grandmother’s maiden name, Gomes. It’s actually a Portuguese name, but I thought maybe it would help me be considered for roles where I could employ that skill. Of course I always could have tried “Cori” instead of Corinne. Another family name I thought about was my mother’s maiden name, which is Gormley. Then again, there’s always that old trick of taking your middle name and the name of the street you grew up on, in which case I’d be Elizabeth Greenwood — very Old Hollywood, don’t you think?

Marissa: As Marge in Promises, Promises, you make drunken-dancing and tipsy comedy look easy, but what are the biggest challenges of playing this scene-stealing role?

Corinne: You are sweet to say so! I am certainly having a ton of fun and am super lucky to be onstage with the extremely talented Jeffrey Brian Adams. I’ve stayed nervous so much longer for this role than any other I’ve played, and I think it’s because I have all of Act I to build anxiety, and because I spend such a short amount of time onstage that it’s hard to really get comfortable or used to it. (In the end, I think that serves me well in terms of keeping it fresh.) Comedy is so hard in a way that’s hard to put a finger on. Every audience is different and it seems like the smallest shift in line delivery can take something from hysterical to boring. In all, I guess timing/navigating the laughs is the biggest challenge.

Corinne Proctor as Marge MacDougall in Promises, Promises -- vodka stinger in hand. Photo by Jessica Palopoli.

Corinne Proctor as Marge MacDougall in Promises, Promises — vodka stinger in hand. Photo by Jessica Palopoli.

Marissa: In Promises, Promises, Marge gets drunk on vodka stingers. Did you drink any of these as research for the role? What’s in a vodka stinger, anyway?

Corinne: I am fully committed to important character research such as this. My professionalism cannot be doubted since I willingly consumed crème de menthe mixed with vodka for the sake of my art. Yes, that’s what’s in a vodka stinger — crème de menthe and vodka. My only thought is that it’s for people who want to get drunk in a bar and still have minty-fresh breath if anyone hot shows up. And if you think that’s gross, consider this: the reason “vodka” is specified in the drink name is because the original “stinger” is brandy and crème de menthe.

Marissa: They also must have been associated with a certain type of woman during that time period: Joanne in Company, which came out two years after Promises, Promises, drinks vodka stingers too. (Joanne’s a lot angrier and more cynical than Marge is, but they’re both well-to-do, drunkenly promiscuous Manhattanites.)

Corinne: Honestly, though, the vodka stinger was surprisingly drinkable despite being inherently disgusting. It kind of reminded me of the spearmint snow-cones that used to be served at our community pool.

Marissa: Still, it doesn’t sound like vodka stingers will become your drink of choice any time soon. What do you typically order at the bar?

Corinne: CHAMPAGNE! But, of course, that is too expensive for starving actresses, so I am usually seen at the White Horse with a Trumer Pils. I’ve also been known to enjoy a Hendrick’s Gin on the rocks, or any drink that is free.

Marissa: At this point, the Bay Area is your “home away from home.” What are you looking forward to doing in San Francisco this festive season?

Corinne: I love being back here! I’ve been having a lot of fun going to my old haunts and seeing friends. In terms of holiday cheer, I’m currently accepting applications for ice skating partners… doesn’t anyone else like to do cheesy things like that?

Marissa: Is it hard to stay connected to loved ones when you’re in a show and can’t go home for the holidays?

Corinne: This will be my third Christmas where I’m in the Bay Area doing a show and everyone else in my family is in Florida. My family is fantastically nerdy, so we do a reading of A Christmas Carol every year. When I can’t be there, I Skype in — usually as Marley’s Ghost, which is fitting for someone who’s not really in the room.

Marissa: Apart from Promises, Promises, what’s your favorite holiday show? And what’s the movie that you HAVE to watch every Christmas?

Corinne: I guess I like holiday movies better than holiday shows. I’m not terribly familiar with the stage versions of most of them. But you know what, haters? I really like seeing various versions of A Christmas Carol. That said, I can be super picky about them. As for movies, THE one for my brother and me is Muppet Family Christmas. NOT Muppet Christmas CarolMUPPET. FAMILY. CHRISTMAS. This article from AV Club nails it.

Marissa: Several of us Theater Pub folks will be involved in Stuart Bousel’s production of The Desk Set next summer — which, like Promises, Promises, is a mid-century Manhattan workplace comedy that features a wild office Christmas party. Got any tips or advice for us?

Corinne: There’s no such thing as too big when it comes to hair, ladies. Bump it, tease it, rock it. Otherwise, I feel wild partying is solidly in the skill set of most theater people. Tell the men they have a free pass on butt pinching and ta-da! It’s mid-century!

Marissa: Corinne, it was a pleasure catching up with you and even more of a pleasure to see you back onstage in the Bay Area! Happy Holidays and best wishes for 2015!

Promises, Promises runs at the San Francisco Playhouse through January 10. Tickets here. If you’d like to hear more from Corinne Proctor, check out her contributions to Theater Pub’s roundtable on Into the Woods.

Marissa Skudlarek is a San Francisco-based playwright and arts writer. Find her blogging at marissabidilla.blogspot.com or on Twitter @MarissaSkud.

Falling With Style: All I Do is Win Win Win, No Matter What

Helen Laroche on her reaction to the Tony Awards this past weekend.

I’m still reeling from the Tony awards. I mean, if you watched the opening number and weren’t moved, even a little bit, by the sight of so many talented people working in tandem to deliver a mind-blowing spectacle, then you might be dead inside.

Didn’t Debra’s slack-jawed look of childish wonder speak for all of us?

Didn’t Debra’s slack-jawed look of childish wonder speak for all of us?

And yet there was a teeny-tiny piece of me that refused to enjoy it, and instead was jealous. Jealous of the dancers, who are so much better than I’ll ever be! Jealous of the singers, who have the drive to get to Broadway! Jealous of my many fellow CMU graduates who swept the Tonys! If I hadn’t intervened, that little voice might have ruined my enjoyment of the whole thing.

I find myself hearing that little voice a lot when it comes to performance. I hear about others’ achievements and instead of feeling pride, love, or awe, I feel jealous instead. Sometimes (and I’m not proud of it) I take some happiness or solace knowing, for example, that an oft-hired female of my type was not cast in a particular show. It’s as if I’m operating under the assumption that either that person can achieve, succeed, and be happy, or I can. Their loss is my gain, and vice versa.

But the gains I make by listening to that little conniving voice are hollow; the losses, utterly devastating. And worst of all, I miss out on enjoying other people’s heartfelt artmaking.

I’m reminded of a mantra I’ve heard many times in the past few months, first at the Theatre Bay Area ATLAS program and many times since: “A rising tide floats all boats.” Instead of listening to the little voice that hopes others lose in order for me to win, I’d like to focus instead on rejoicing in others’ big art-making achievements. Some days, that’s easier said than done … but I’m a work in progress.

If you’d like to join me in my visualization, picture this: your mortal artistic enemy (the guy that keeps getting cast over you; the gal whose play keeps getting slotted while yours languishes) on a podium accepting the Pulitzer-Tony-Oscar for Best Artist. And just keep sitting there until it makes you smile!