I have a confession to make. As a theatre artist in NYC, who’s been involved in theatre for most of my life, it’s rather shameful.
I have not intentionally watched the Tony Awards since 2012. I have not even been tempted.
In all honesty, when the Tony’s come around, I feel a mild sense of burn out and guilt that I’m not more excited.
Not to say that I am not over the moon for the familiar faces and names. I scour the nomination list in the NY Times, and I look up the winners the next day. I squeal to see colleagues, friends, mentors, even the kid I babysat have their names up in lights.
A Juilliard grad I worked with won a few years back. I caught that clip when the bar I was in changed the channel on the screen. I screamed to see him accept the award and laugh myself to tears remembering how I had creatively threatened him into being on time for rehearsals (with only moderate success).
But I have no interest in watching the awards show. I avoid social media the day of and after because the hype around it always annoys me, it gets under my skin in a way that I have never been able to name.
It’s not jealousy, I know envy and how it tightens my shoulders and sends a lead weight straight to my intestines.
This is itchy. It’s an irritant, like a wool sweater that doesn’t fit.
This year, the kid I babysat, (who is now 19 and no longer a kid), was part of the cast that won Best Play. His posts and photos show a glowing face and the awe of someone who is young and achieving their dreams. He’s in shock. Another winner worked at my company when he became Equity. I filled out the paperwork and contracts to make him a union actor. Now he’s a Tony winner in a show that he tells us changed his life and helped him celebrate his identity. His smile might break his face in two.
And suddenly I realized why it is I have such a physical and visceral reaction to the Tony’s.
This isn’t my dream. It never has been.
As a theatre artist, a stage manager, and a producer, this is supposed to be the goal. The award and party you are always working towards in everything that you do. And I’ve discovered that I genuinely do not care if I never get to see a Tony Award up close. It is not my dream. I would not have the same glow as those people I care about and celebrate.
So what does that look like? Is this the post where I publicly denounce my undergrad degree and walk away from the industry that I’ve been connected to my entire life?
Of course not.
But as I’ve come to terms with my life patterns shifting, I do know one thing. I have gotten involved in theatre and the arts, not for awards or glory, but for the people. The best people I have known are people I have met through art and theatre. The people who inspire me, who taught me to hustle, who give me such amazing stories to tell, are artists, are people who have dedicated their craft to the theatre in all its forms, including the Tony’s.
But it is time to change direction. If Broadway has never held much appeal to me, why I am so dedicated to living in New York? If I don’t care about the Tony’s, what do I care about?
I care about people. I care about making people smile, changing lives, changing perspectives, I care about taking care of people, about learning new things, about being challenged, about problem-solving, and about having fun in my work.
I care far less about a statue and national recognition than I do about the about the ice cream cake, bad jokes, and homecooked meal my company put together for my birthday this year. There are photos of me nearly in tears surrounded by these once-strangers from all over the world who went out of their way to spoil me (before once again driving me crazy about 10 minutes later).
And I’m sorry, but pretending to my south Indian crew that Tres Leches is an American cake (they were so proud of themselves for finding an American sweet for my birthday!) will always rank high on my happiest and proudest moments.
So while I love New York, and recognize it will always be home, I don’t think I love New York theatre. And that’s okay.
So one step at a time, to a new path, a new adjustment, and another global experience. Or at least defining what that looks like.
In the meantime, to all the Tony winners, nominees, and dreamers; Congratulations on achieving and being one step closer to your dreams. I am always so proud to share a city with you dreamers.