This little actress is still on Cloud Nine, thinking about all of the beautiful people and interactions I was able to make last night. I’ve never been on a red carpet (or gray in this case – I guess they’re allowed to call it whatever they want. It’s got that kind of reputation). The energy surrounding this venue is palpable. Everyone was excited to be there, from the many other journalists I met who were new or seasoned to the actors, directors, and lyricists. For the recognition of their hard work? Sure! But also thankful that after a pandemic forcefully caused a shutdown (and one which is still affecting many performances and theatres), theatre is back and thriving!

Michael R Jackson wins Tony Award for Best book of a Musical (Contributed Photo)

And what a comeback! It’s inspiring to hear how many creatives are empowered for the future of live theatre. Phylicia Rashad, who earned her second Tony Award for her performance in Dominique Morisseau’s Skeleton Crew, said, “You don’t come to this place alone… it’s the work of many people”. She was not the only one who brought attention to the often-overlooked groups of people keeping this world of theatre-going. There was strong support for recognizing the understudies, swings, and COVID officers. And it is clear that from the audience and press to the talent and the crew, it must take thousands of people to make an event like this happen – many of whom will never be recognized fully but are appreciated. If you extend this to the performances at the many Broadway and off-Broadway shows being presented daily, the small world of theatre feels like an enormous community.

Cast of Take Me Out Winner of the Tony for the Best Revival of a Musical (Contributed Photo)

It is refreshingly inspiring to see underrepresented voices and stories being told and celebrated! The winner for Best Musical, Strange Loop, a show boasting the tagline of a “big, Black, and queer-ass American Broadway” show, is proof that the much-deserved narratives are being noticed. After speaking with some of the cast and creatives of the show, I can say their hard work (and almost two decades for Michael R. Jackson) has paid off! By the way – they were all so charming and generous with their time, which sweetens the triumph. Additionally, Company by Stephen Sondheim – remembered fondly by many, including Bernadette Peters’ beautiful rendition of Children Will Listen from Into the Woods – took home a few wins too. This story is also essential because the gender-swapped revival gave a platform to represent a new group of characters adequately.

As a first-time Tony Awards attendee and aspiring artist and actor myself, one of the many things that impressed me – and my overall takeaway – was the encouragement and support that everyone had to share. Beginning a career in this industry often seems daunting and confusing (and it is!), but being able to see such successful actors and directors uplift and motivate others was heartwarming. Deidra O’Connell, who won Best Leading Actress in a Play for Dana H., had encouraging thoughts to share, but the one echoed by so many was “to make the weird art.” It certainly resonated with me.

A multitude of new stories are being told, and, collectively, the theatre world is shouting, “you belong here – there is a home for you”!

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