My phone rang tonight and I knew exactly who it was.
It was my mentor and friend, Thomas, reminding me not to be late for Tony Tuesday. I had read his mind. I think of Thomas every Tony Tuesday but let me explain it to those of you who work in different industries.
It’s usually the first Tuesday in May and it is when the Tony Awards announce their nominees. There are celebrities at the podium reading off the list. It’s like the Oscar nominations only much smaller and more intimate.
There are awards not only for Best Actor and Actress but for Best Musical, Best Revival of a Musical, Best Play, Best Revival of a Play, you get the idea. Maybe you tuned into the Tony’s when Hamilton won a ton of awards.
I went to the Tonys once. I was working on “Hair” and “Billy Elliot”. Both musicals won and we partied the night away. I wore a beautiful dress and sprung for a room at the Hudson Hotel. It was as magical as I had dreamed it would be.
Most years, I just watched and did the work. My first Tony Tuesday was almost my last in this industry. You see I had come to Broadway and taken a job at an ad agency. Thomas was my boss and he was wonderful but also very strict. I had a lot to learn and he was there to teach me. We spent hours together working, talking and going to shows. He instilled in me not only my day to day tasks but the full appreciation of all things Broadway and the people who made up this magical business. He loved Broadway and then so did I. We were so close that we’d reached a point where all I had to do was look at him to know if I was doing well or screwing up royally. He was and remains, one of the best people in my life.
I was a hard worker. But I was also young and cocky and thought, “This is just the gig I have until I’m a famous producer or playwright”. In fact, I was producing my first play that Spring at the same time I was working 12 hour days at the ad agency. My play had opened that week and Thomas had surprised me by coming out and supporting me. It meant a lot.
Now let me get back to that, after I explain the importance of this day. Tony Tuesday at an ad agency means it’s all hands-on deck, early in the morning. The nominations come out and you have prepped ad shells with many different scenarios of what might unfold. How many nominations will a show get? Will they be shut out completely or just get a nomination for something like Best Set or Best Choreography? You must be ready for any way this could go. And you need those ads ready to show producers for approval. And when your entire ad agency just does Broadway, this day is insanity in the best possible way.
This year in which this story takes place was BIG. Thomas was overseeing the account for “The Producers” which was one of the best shows in Broadway history. We had the chance for more nominations and wins than any show ever.
Well, exhausted 23-year-old me, had been up late the night before working on my own project and as I sauntered to the subway, I looked down at The New York Post, as I had been trained to read Michael Riedel, (a theater columnist for that paper) every Wednesday and Friday. And there on the paper was the date…and the day…”Oh No!”, I raced down the stairs to the subway, bolted off the train and ran to our office in Times Square. The Nominees had been read already, the agency was abuzz with activity and I had to go face this boss I was devoted to after having committing one of the worst mistakes ever. I was late on the most important work day of the year.
I went into his office to face his wrath. My head was down. My mouth was shut. No excuse would be good enough. I would have to just take it.
“Sit down”, he told me. And shivers ran through my entire body and I felt like I was going to cry.
“You missed a part of theater history today. Our show received more nominations than any show ever. And you weren’t there to see it happen. Go get to work.”, He looked away from me and back at his computer monitor.
By the end of the day, the ice had melted between us. Me and this man who had done nothing but love and care for me, I had betrayed by simply not showing up on time.
I would make other mistakes in my career. But I will never forget him or that day or Tony Tuesday ever again.
I recently had a moment in life where I was taking on far too much. I was trying to balance my new job, my family, my friends, my home and a possible campaign for City Council. In trying to be all things to everyone, I realized I needed to prioritize and not take on too much.
It was hard to admit I needed to scale back. But it may also have been the most mature thing I have ever done. I dropped out of consideration for the local election to focus on my new job and my first love, Broadway. I have this new job in this world I hold so dear. I don’t want to screw it up.
I took on too much once. I was late for Tony Tuesday. I disappointed Thomas.
I won’t make that mistake again. I will be so excited to watch those nominations with my new team tomorrow. And we will witness a piece of Broadway History together.
None of us can do it all. There are consequences. But there are also lessons we learn and mistakes we don’t have to make again.