On Sunday, June 10th, New York City’s Radio City Music Hall was abuzz with the glamour and thrill of Broadway’s brightest stars, all gathered together for one magical night: the 72nd Annual Tony Awards.
Hosted by Broadway music luminaries Sara Bareilles and Josh Groban—self-proclaimed “losers” of the Academy Awards—the ceremony focused not only on the Tony-winning artists themselves, but on artists and actors across the nation who haven’t yet been recognized, and are patiently awaiting their time in the spotlight.
This was a particularly great message for teen performing arts students:
You haven’t lost, you just have not been recognized—yet.
Showing retro photos of the Tony Awards presenters in their first theater productions as young children, Bareilles and Groban urged Tony viewers at home to do the same: tweet photos of their first performances with the #TonyDreaming. These photos were featured on a scrolling screen throughout the night, a la DEAR EVAN HANSEN style. This interactive campaign celebrated the joy of participating in live theater, and encouraged everyone at home to keep reaching for their theater goals, whatever they may be.
This was a second great message for performing arts students:
Celebrate your first role and every role thereafter. If theater is your passion, stick with it!
Presenters and nominees also made impactful global and political statements to spur positive change in the world. Here are three powerful life lessons to unite us all:
Ask for Help:
In his powerful acceptance speech for Direction of a Musical, THE BAND’S VISIT Director David Cromer urged people struggling with mental illnesses to reach out to those around them for support and help. He stated,
“One of the things THE BAND’S VISIT concerns itself with is people who, due to loneliness [or] isolation, may have started to lose hope. And I wish that I had the words or the wisdom to say [something] to the people out there… whose despair is overwhelming their hope. I wish I had a way to convince them to continue looking, to have the patience and the courage to keep trying to find hope…. If you are suffering, please, please call out. And for those of us who are fortunate enough not to be suffering so deeply, let’s make sure that we answer them.”
Be the Change:
Both Ari’el Stachel (Tony Award Winner for Featured Actor in a Musical) and Orin Wolf (Producer of the Tony Award Winner for Best Musical) of THE BAND’S VISIT focused their speeches on messages of unity across cultural borders in their acceptance speeches, encouraging citizens to be agents of positive change despite divisive political atmospheres. Ari’el Stachel passionately stated:
“Both of my parents are here tonight, and I have avoided so many events with them, because for so many years of my life, I pretended that I was not a Middle Eastern person…. I’m just so thankful to Orin Wolf, John, and John for being courageous…. [and] for telling the small story about Arabs and Israelis getting along at a time where we need that more than ever.
I am part of a cast of actors who never believed that they’d be able to portray their own races, and we are doing that. And not only that, we’re getting messages from kids all over the Middle East thanking us, and telling us how transformative our representation is for them….
I want any kid who’s watching to know that your biggest obstacle may turn into your purpose.”
Orin Wolf echoed this heartfelt sentiment:
“Although the characters are strangers to each other, with great political divides, our show offers a message of unity in a world that, more and more, seems bent on amplifying our differences…. In the end, we are all far more alike than different. And I’m so proud to be a part of a community that chooses to support that message.”
Cure Hate with Love:
In the middle of the Tony Awards ceremony, Drama teacher Melody Herzfeld of Parkland, Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School gave an eloquent and empowering acceptance speech for her Special Tony Award for Excellence in Theatre Education. She spoke about the responsibilities of being a theater educator: not just to instruct students in performance techniques, but to teach them to cultivate creativity and resilience and compassion. She continued:
“We all have a common energy. We all want the same thing. We cannot deny it. To be heard. To hit our mark. To tell our truth. To make a difference. And to be loyally respected. We teach this every day in every arts class…. And ours is only one small part, but it is the most important part of a child’s education.”
Following her speech, a group of her students—drama student survivors from the Parkland high school shooting on February 14, 2018—took to the stage to sing “Seasons of Love” from RENT.
The undying message of these high school students—that love is more powerful than hate—serves as a reminder to us all.
As you look forward to the upcoming Broadway season, remember the lessons of this year’s Tony Awards nominees: reaching out for help when you need it, stepping up to provide positive leadership, and choosing love over divisiveness every time.
Remember, Camp Broadway readers: every one of us has the power to change the world for the better.
Were you inspired by the positive messages of unity from the 2018 Tony Awards? Share your positive messages in the comments below!