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I Did Not Watch The Tonys

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I did not watch The Tonys, but I did watch Rachel Chavkin finally win her award.

I watched her stand on the stage, full page speech in hand, edits made even on the ride to the theatre — the black Sharpie of a director who appreciates a cut, who pushes for a rewrite, who patiently lives with a play for so many years. I watched her tie this beautiful musical — one written 13 years ago with rewrites and revisions keeping the pace every step of the way. “It reminds us that that is how power structures try to maintain control: by making you feel like you’re walking alone in the darkness, even when your partner is right there at your back.”

I watched her lament the fact that she was the only woman directing a musical on Broadway that season. I watched her correct those who continue to call this atrocity “a pipeline problem.” “There are so many women who are ready to go. There are so many artists of color who are ready to go.” I watched Anaïs Mitchell, Hadestown’s incredibly imaginative writer, composer, lyricist, win her own Tony Award, making her only the third woman in history to win the Tony for best score. I watched Rachel Chavkin and Anaïs Mitchell win as a team for best musical. They are the first female director-writer team to win a Tony. The first.

I didn’t watch The Tonys, but I did learn from André De Shields as I watched him collect his award.

I watched him kiss his hometown hello, shouting to Baltimore as he took his time. I watched him be proud of where he comes from. I watched his home be proud of him in return. I watched him share with the audience, with me, with everyone who’s come in contact with his speech in the 12 hours since, his three cardinal rules.

  1. Surround yourself with people whose eyes light up when they see you coming.

  2. Slowly is the fastest way to get to where you want to be.

  3. The top of one mountain is the bottom of the next. So keep climbing.

I did not watch The Tonys, but I did watch Terrell Alvin McCraney talk about Choir Boy, a play I saw at The Studio Theatre in 2015, mere months before I moved to Seattle. I did not watch The Tonys, but I did watch my best friend text me that our time is coming, that we’ll be on that stage in the next decade. As McCraney finished speaking, my husband said, “I hope you get to do that one day.”

I did not watch The Tonys, but I did lay in bed next to my husband as I played “Hey, Little Songbird” on Spotify.

I am both Orpheus and Eurydice in this moment: poetic and penniless, looking for another way to live, another way to create, another way to start and restart my life. I’m Hades too, tempting myself to simpler ways. Tricking myself into thinking I could happy without, warning myself not to look back. My husband asked me if I was crying. No. This ear infection I have makes me look like my face is under attack. Turn it up. Turn it up.

I did not watch The Tonys, but I did watch Pass Over by Antionette Nwandu.

I don’t know if this is truly ironic; I’ve never been so great at identifying those truths. But as the Tony winners were being announced, I was at ACT Theatre watching Pass Over by Antionette Nwandu. I watched two young black men take up space on that stage. I watched them be louder than any Tonys broadcast could ever be. I sat in the theatre and then had to keep sitting, because I felt unworthy of this play, of the way it echoed our world. Someone died on that stage last night. And for once, I was grateful for the talkback. I needed to collect myself.

I did not watch The Tonys, but I watched myself wake up.

I watched my friend’s two-year-old play; I watched her say “no.” I watched antibiotics flow through my system; I watched the pressure of my ear drums build up and up and up. I watched myself write these words. I watched the final episode of Fixer Upper. I watched myself take photos of articles I’ve written. I watched myself refresh my email again and again and again. I watched myself eat, do laundry, check things off my calendar, prepare for the class I’m teaching tonight. I watched the work.

I may never be on that stage. It’s not a goal, mainly because it’s entirely outside my control. But every year, it’s an event. Whether I watch or not.