I did not watch the 2009 Tony Awards on broadcast tv. Although I did want to see Neil Patrick Harris host the awards that wasn’t a significant enough reason to remember to watch them; I didn’t know much about any of the shows nominated and the only ones that I had heard about were Billy Elliot and Shrek, The Musical and that did not provide a significant impact on me watching the awards (to see my review of Billy Elliot click here). It wasn’t until my mother-in-law told me about Neil Patrick Harris’ closing number that I regretted not watching them. So I went to YouTube hoping to find the closing number and I did (this is why clips should be allowed on YouTube, Google, so please listen up). And while I was not interested in the shows being honored, one of the reasons I do like watching award shows is that there are usually one or two acceptance speeches that are inspiring, so I started searching for the speeches and I found this:
My reaction was “who is this person who was so genuine, open, strong, passionate, and yet feminine? She’s so cool! She’s the kind of person that I want to be like. And what is this show Next to Normal?” My next step was to find the clip of Next to Normal.
Again, CBS, YouTube, Google, do you see that I would not have known about this show at all if it hadn’t been for the clip on YouTube? (end of snarky comments).
I was hooked. I knew at that moment that I had to see that show and that it was worth the money for the trip. With my husband, for two tickets, hotel, and bus the total for the trip was between $460-560 (see previous post for my comment about spending lots of money in a depressed economy). It was beyond anything I could imagine. Next to Normal is raw, real, and honest; As it was a time when I was just starting to be honest with myself, the show moved me to my core. It is the first show I ever cried at (yes, it’s not so rare since then) and it was one of the few shows that I had ever completely been swept away to the point that I was not analyzing the directing, the acting, or any of the technical elements, but was fully immersed in the show.
I had forgotten–well, I had hidden–well, I had lied–to myself that theatre was not my passion. I had taken on the world’s idea of being practical and sensible and had lost my heart, because if I had listened to it, my heart would have ached with longing. From that point on, I had little choice but to follow my heart–my other options were misery or numbness and once you’ve had a moment of truly breathing, it’s hard (not impossible) to return to a cold, dark place.
Next to Normal reminded me how powerful theatre can be because every individual was putting their whole heart into that production. This was not only evident on the stage but also at the stage door as the actors were sincere and took time not only to sign Playbills, but also to hear how the show affected their fans. Although the show was draining, physically and emotionally, Alice Ripley graciously took time to meet everyone on the many occasions that she came to the stage door. The amount of life and energy that flowed from everyone in the production to everyone in the audience and was multiplied exponentially during and after the show reminded me that as human beings we need connection in body and spirit and how rare that is in our world today.
I wished that I could share this experience with everyone, but that was not possible. However, I did get to share it with two people that I love and dozens of strangers who connected in this place–some who became my friends; It was amazing how over the space of four facebook profiles, created by Alice Ripley, thousands of people connected, shared stories, feelings, and their hearts. This sense of connection compelled me to adopted for myself the Red Sox principle (don’t be offended, I live in Boston and I’m not too fond of sports). If I love and care about something and want to support it that’s where my heart and my money should go. I saw the show twice on Broadway and six times on the tour. People are willing to spend hundreds to thousands of dollars on sports–why not theatre?
More people grow up and have access to sports than the arts; Many never even get the chance to see any theatrical performance let alone a professional theatre performance. I was teaching high school at the time and took my class to see The Crucible at Trinity Repertory Company. For some, it was their first time to go to a play; For others, it was their first time to see a professional production. It made me wonder… If theatre was more affordable would it be more popular (without having people swing on harnesses that aren’t properly secured)? What would it take to make theatre more accessible to a larger amount of people?
I saw this show connect people across the world and break down some of the facades that people had put up (including my own). This show dared people to be open and honest–and realize that “something next to normal would be okay.” It helps to see humanity with its flaws because it reminds us that we all have them and that we don’t need to try to be perfect to have love and acceptance. This is what theatre does; It shines “a light in the dark.” What if the entire world heard that and believed it?
This is why I’m here and why we’re going to try to keep it real.