Inspiring quotes from the 2022 Tony winners
The 2022 Tony Award winners are beacons of success in acting, writing, directing, design, and more. They represent just a small fraction of the immense talent on Broadway right now and to come. And for rising talent, established talent, and casual audiences alike, they had plenty of wisdom and inspiration to share.
From Broadway-debut acting winner Myles Frost motivating other young artists to veteran, record-holding director Marianne Elliott reflecting on entering an all-male directing landscape years ago, read some of the most inspiring quotes heard in the 2022 Tony Award winners’ speeches and in the press room.
Michael R. Jackson, A Strange Loop
Jackson’s show took the Best Musical award, and he himself won for Best Book of a Musical. In his acceptance speech, he reflected on how far he’s come in nearly 20 years, from when he began work on A Strange Loop until Tony Sunday.
“I started writing this musical when I was 23. I’m 41 years; I’m old as hell. I wrote it from an old lady’s house in the middle of Jamaica, Queens, I wrote it at a time when I didn’t know what I was going to do with my life. I didn’t know how I was going to move forward. I felt unseen, I felt unheard, I felt misunderstood, and I just wanted to create a little bit of a life raft for myself as a Black, gay man to try to just get through the day.
“I’m all about representation, but let’s make sure that we are staying on our grind and our art and that we are doing the very best work that we can do… Never settle for anything less than the best you can do. Never settle; just do your best. And that’s my message to everyone in this room, every artist out there.”
After giving this message to other artists, he later shared the wisdom he’d give to his younger self.
“I would tell him to relax, have fun, and save his money. But I also want to tell him that you’re okay. There’s nothing wrong with you. You’re anchovies, and not everybody likes anchovies — until they do.”
Barbara Whitman, A Strange Loop
The lead producer of A Strange Loop shared a vision for the future of theatre while accepting the Best Musical trophy.
“I have to give a special shoutout to my grandson, Zachary. My dream is Zach will grow up in a world where stories like A Strange Loop are told on stages everywhere all of the time.”
Joaquina Kalukango, Paradise Square
Kalukango, who won Best Leading Actress in a Musical for her portrayal of tavern owner Nelly O’Brien in Paradise Square, looked to the past Black actresses that made her win possible, now that she’s joining their historic ranks.
“I keep thinking of Melba Moore, I keep thinking of Jennifer Holliday, I keep thinking of Pearl Bailey. I think of all of these women who paved the way.”
Myles Frost, MJ The Musical
Lots of Tony winners thanked their family in their acceptance speech, but Frost gave an especially heartfelt tribute to his mom while accepting the Best Leading Actor in a Musical Tony for his performance as Michael Jackson in MJ The Musical. As Jackson himself grew up with a harsh father and a caring mother, his speech was even more touching.
“Mom, I love you so much. Without you there would be no me. You have taught me and showed me what a strong Black woman is and what it means to raise a strong Black man, and I just pray that I made you proud. And I want to say this to all the little Black kids out there who may not have a good relationship with their father: you can do it, first of all, and second of all, that I love you, because we support each other and we are Black men and we are strong Black men at that.”
In addition, 22-year-old Frost became the youngest solo winner for Best Leading Actor in a Musical in history. He reflected on that achievement in the press room.
“I came into this very, very green to show that even someone coming in as new as myself can come in and learn the true essence of Broadway and the true essence of theatre, and make a huge impact.”
Marianne Elliott, Company
With her Best Director of a Musical win for Company (the Best Musical Revival winner), she became the first woman to have won directing Tonys for both a musical and a play. She also became the only woman to win a directing Tony three times, beating her own record from 2015 as the only woman to have won twice.
“I really never imagined that I’d ever do a show on Broadway. I came to New York when I was 20, and I was having quite a bad time. I flew to New York on the day that I should have graduated, and I was on my own. I had a backpack… and that was it.
“I’ve always struggled with insecurities and vulnerabilities and I never imagined I could be a director because I thought all directors were men, which they were when I first started out. So I suppose it just shows that you just have to keep going and maybe eventually you’ll get a job.”
Deirdre O’Connell, Dana H.
Deirdre O’Connell’s Best Leading Actress in a Play win, for her performance as Dana H.‘s title character, was a victory for the future of small, experimental theatre on Broadway.
“I would love for this little prize to be a token for every person who is wondering, ‘Should I be trying to make something that could work on Broadway or that could win me a Tony Award? Or should I be making the weird art that is haunting me, that frightens me, that I don’t know how to make, that I don’t know if anyone in the whole world will understand?’ Please let me standing here be a little sign to you from the universe to make the weird art.”