BROTHERs: Tommy & Tony

A brother ain’t always blood, a brother is birth in love.

Growing up, I always wondered what it would be like to have a brother, someone who might look like me, act like me, and I didn’t care if he was older or younger, just a brother. I’ll admit, my sisters are pretty great and helped to set the bar high for me in life (being the youngest I believe there’s an unspoken rule to do as well, if not better better than my older siblings — but in no way is it a competition.) I always wondered what life would be like if the universe was just changed by the slightest degree. Trust me, in an alternate universe I do have a brother. In another universe he’s really great, and another- I hate him. But this universe, my very world, has lent me a brother that I am eternally grateful for.

I met my brother in 2011, freshman year at Duke Ellington School of the Arts. He was a big guy, bigger than me, and he wore this massive fro on his head, glasses, and I’m not sure if he were wearing Coogi in the 9th grade (maybe). The first thing I noticed about Tommy was that he was very smart, not because we had classes together or because I had ever seen him solve an impossible mathematical equation, instead because by the second day of school Tommy knew EVERYONE’s name. I was impressed (I still struggle with the names of people I met last year). We made no immediate connection. We were in the same ensemble and spent at least 15 hours a week together studying theatre, but I had no idea what we would grow to be.

In November 2011 (if I’ve got the date wrong Tommy will correct me, he’s better at that than I am), we were pulled into room 117 of the old Ellington by Mr. Johnson. Jennifer Nelson, who was preparing to direct Necessary Sacrifices at Ford’s Theatre was sitting in a chair in the middle of the room. At the time, we had no idea who she was, why we were in the room, or what would happen next. Johnson then revealed that Ms. Nelson needed two actors, and there we were — two actors, two strangers — Tommy & Tony. When we started the production process, learned how to play a violin, tried on our costumes for the very first time… we were still strangers. Until one day, we were in a late rehearsal at Ford’s Theatre (possible Tech Week), we sat in our dressing room and started talking about life. Two 9th Grade boys, gearing up for a professional show at Ford’s, talking about life. In fact, the first conversation we had as brothers was rooted in love. It was at that moment that we connected. I realized Thomas was much different that I was, we were two complete opposites, and yet the same person. We made our way down to the stage, we stood in the wings and until this day I can remember looking at Thomas, just before the cue light went off, and saying, “I think we’re gonna be really good friends…”

Tommy & Tony, circa February 2012 in rehearsal for Ford’s Theatre Production of Necessary Sacrifices

From that moment forward, good days, bad days, on and off — Tommy became my brother. We watched each other grow and helped each other along the way. He we are, turning 20 and it feels like he and I were separated at birth. We’ve given each other advice, coached monologues, cried together (yes, because real brothers wipe each others tears), and grown to be some incredible young men destined to change the world with our mere presence. We jokingly talk about our friendship and look to the future at all the possibilities that life and the universe have for us.

I don’t know where life will take us. I’m so glad that I don’t know. This only means that anything is possible. I know one day I’ll be sitting on the front row of a theatre, with flowers for my brother. I’ll be on stage sending and receiving life with my brother, I’ll be standing at the altar with my brother (Who’s the groom? Who’s the best man? Time will tell), I’ll be up late one night thinking about life with my brother, I’ll be crying tears of joy and sadness with my brother, I’ll be 80 years old on a porch on Sherman Ave. eating chicken wings and Mumbo Sauce from HoChi with my brother, because that’s just the way life works. Tommy & Tony.

Happy Birthday Thomas, I love you madly!