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Tony nominees react with pleas for voting, equity, and the importance of the arts

October 15, 2020 by Suzy Evans
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Happy Tony Awards nominations day! While this year might look a little different than past years, with a season cut short by Covid-19 and a virtual ceremony, some things remain the same: We love theatre and the nominees are honored just to be included.

With shows like Moulin Rouge!, Jagged Little Pill, and Slave Play leading the pack of nominees, we heard from some of the performers, writers, designers, musicians, and more about what it means to be nominated for an award this year. Many used this opportunity to advocate for a more equitable theater landscape, the importance of supporting the arts, and why voting is paramount.

Find out what they had to say below!

Laura Linney, My Name is Lucy Barton
Actress in a Leading Role in a Play

I am so proud to be amongst a small handful of great actresses representing the past Broadway season, truncated as it was. Now more than ever, we need to value the power and necessity of the performing arts, especially the theater, in American Culture. I send my love and thanks to the Tony Committee and everyone involved with My Name is Lucy Barton.

Mary Louise Parker in The Sound Inside

Mary Louise Parker, The Sound Inside
Actress in a Leading Role in a Play

At this moment Broadway may be dark longer than it ever has, but I’m praying it’s just waiting for us and I have my own ghost light on and burning bright until those stage doors open again. I’m longing for my theater family but grateful we have today to connect and that I can celebrate my Sound Inside collaborators as well. Thank you for your faith in us, I can speak for the entire theater community when I say we cannot wait to tread the boards again.

A Soldier’s Play

Blair Underwood, A Soldier’s Play
Actor in a Leading Role in a Play

I’m so very honored to be nominated in the midst of such uncertain times in our world and industry. My most fervent wish is that the patrons of the arts and theatre will be able to return sooner rather than later, and realize our most necessary power of congregation. My deepest gratitude to The Roundabout Theatre, the nominating committee, the entire cast, crew and team affiliated with A Soldier’s Play.

Elizabeth Stanley in Jagged Little Pill on Broadway. (Photographed by Matthew Murphy)

Elizabeth Stanley, Jagged Little Pill
Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical
When I began the lab of Jagged Little Pill three years ago – almost to the day — I couldn’t have even dreamt that it would lead to this morning. Cue me today…finally getting cell service at the end of an off the grid hike squealing into the Colorado wilderness with joy for the acknowledgment that our show has received (the wildlife was terrified). Thank you, thank you, American Theatre Wing, I am honored.  

Bringing the role of Mary Jane to life has absolutely been the highlight of my career. The entire experience has taken me to the depths of my soul and taught me so much. I am continually in awe of our generous creative team, and I have been humbled each night by my incredible cast mates — every one of whom poured their beautiful hearts in to creating each track with vulnerability and integrity.  I am humbled to be telling the messy story of a fierce mother, a fighter, a survivor, and an addict. I’m thrilled that our show has been recognized, and I feel very proud to be a part of a production that is doing what I think art does best: helping us see ourselves and encouraging us to heal — which feels more necessary than ever. Immense gratitude to the many, many people who have shared your personal stories with me as I studied to play this role with respectful accuracy and tenderness.

Adrienne Warren in Tina. (Photographed by Manuel Harlan)

Adrienne Warren, Tina: The Tina Turner Musical
Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical

During this time, I wasn’t sure how to feel about today…then my heart is exploded with pride for our entire show and everyone involved. Thank you to the nominating committee for this recognition! I am truly honored and grateful.

Aaron Tveit and Karen Olivo in Moulin Rouge! The Musical on Broadway. (Photographed by Matthew Murphy.)

Aaron Tveit, Moulin Rouge! The Musical
Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical
It’s a huge honor and I am so grateful to be nominated!! It’s also vitally important to highlight that this recognition represents, collectively, thousands of hours of work by hundreds of individuals working on Moulin Rouge! The Musical. All the brilliant craftspeople, technicians, stagehands and crew that run our show night to night, those in the front and back of the house, inside and outside our stage doors, our incredible audience and fans, and of course the cast, creative team, and producers. 

A day hasn’t gone by since the shutdown began that I haven’t missed the theater and I look forward to when we can all return. I hope this can be a positive lift amidst an industry shut down with an ever-changing timeline, as well as a reminder of power of live theatre, and what it can do for us as individuals. And for our world.

Karen Olivo, Moulin Rouge! The Musical
Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical

Not one of us in the theater does ANYTHING by ourselves. And that is why I am so happy that the work of A.J. Littlefield (dresser for Satine), Daniel Mortenson (Hair/Makeup Supervisor), and Ashley Loren (standby for Satine) is being highlighted by this nomination. I hope that the spotlight on the Tony Awards will illuminate the fact that arts workers everywhere, not just on Broadway, are struggling. By all means, let’s celebrate the work of all of these artisans but let us also seek the government-mandated financial assistance that will ensure we exist beyond this global pandemic.

Lauren Patten and the company of Jagged Little Pill on Broadway. (Photographed by Matthew Murphy)

Lauren Patten, Jagged Little Pill 
Actress in Featured Role in a Musical 
I am incredibly grateful for this Tony nomination, which is made so much more special for me because I share it with my entire Jagged Little Pill family. I am deeply proud of our show and everything that it stands for. I can’t wait until we are all able to return safely to our theaters to share the brilliant work of the shows that opened, and the shows that were not able to open because of the coronavirus pandemic. As a country and as an artistic community, we are going through deeply difficult times, and I hope that this moment of reflection and celebration can fuel and inspire us to return to Broadway stronger, and with true equity and justice for our entire community.

Lois Smith, The Inheritance
Featured Actress in a Play

I have a Tony nomination! For my role in The Inheritance, which I found to be a celebration all the time. 

A day of good news, not many of those lately. Thank you Tony committee.

Now let’s vote, and keep well, and instead of working for Law and Order, which has come to have a frightening meaning, let’s rename it Justice and Civility, and see how much of that we can offer each other. Then we can celebrate.

Danny Burstein in Moulin Rouge! The Musical on Broadway. (Photographed by Matthew Murphy.)

Danny Burstein, Moulin Rouge! The Musical
Featured Actor in a Musical

I’m humbled and honored by this nomination. I just wanted to take a moment to acknowledge every member of the Moulin Rouge family; the producers, artistic staff, stagehands, dressers and, of course, the company. I know this nomination is because of them. I’d also like to say that my heart is with every person suffering in any way because of this pandemic. It’s been a hell of a year. Please vote.

Sahr Ngaujah, Aaron Tveit, and Ricky Rojas in Moulin Rouge! The Musical on Broadway. (Photographed by Matthew Murphy.)

Sahr Ngaujah, Moulin Rouge! The Musical
Featured Actor in a Musical

I am overjoyed to be recognized in this way! I hope that my nomination serves to inspire young artists for whom the idea of working in an elite sector of this field seems so far away.  It is definitely hard work, and the tireless efforts of thousands of theater practitioners all over this industry are seldom recognized in such a big way. But these types of awards would never be given out were it not for the daily passion and craftsmanship that so many of our colleagues come to work with every day. We thus inspire each other to do our best work again and again. Until we all meet again to conjure magic in dark theaters and bright rehearsal halls all over this planet, please VOTE!

Ricky Rojas and Robyn Hurder in “Moulin Rouge! The Musical” on Broadway. (Photographed by Matthew Murphy.)

Robyn Hurder, Moulin Rouge! The Musical
Featured Actress in a Musical

The two things I’ve kept repeating this afternoon: “This isn’t real. Is this real life?” When I saw my name appear on the screen, I burst into the most horrific ugly cry and roared like a dying lion. My husband and son latched onto me and we cried. Hard. I am so unbelievably honored to have received this recognition from The Broadway League and American Theatre Wing.  I truly was not expecting this at all. I will cherish this day for the rest of my life, and I cannot wait to get back on that beautiful stage at the Hirschfeld and welcome everybody back into our gorgeous underworld, The Moulin Rouge.

Alex Timbers, Moulin Rouge! The Musical
Direction of a Musical

I’m so excited and honored to be nominated alongside such incredible directors I admire and for Moulin Rouge, a show I love so much. There’s obviously great sadness right now, and the fact that we’re in a period without plays and musicals in New York can feel like an incomparably small part of that. But Moulin Rouge itself is a musical about “show people” and their resilience in times of struggle and I take inspiration from it every day and the knowledge that Broadway will be back – and that we’ll all be reunited with our own “show families.” It’s wonderful that the American Theater Wing and Broadway League have made the choice to celebrate the theater industry and a season that we all felt very lucky to be a part of.

Sonya Tayeh, Moulin Rouge! 
Moulin Rouge! The Musical is made up of one of the hardest working teams I’ve ever been a part of, both on stage and off. It is a show where the craft of dance is celebrated and honored. Our beloved ensemble fires off an electricity that echoes, and I’m so grateful to them. As an Arab-American queer choreographer, it has been an honor to work on a show that celebrates otherness and a freedom for all humanity. Even though unpredictability abounds for the arts in this uncertain time, I am proud to celebrate this year with my fellow nominees. This moment serves as a giant reminder that we’re still here and of just how vital the arts are – as the heartbeat of New York City, and beyond. 

John Logan, Moulin Rouge! The Musical
Book of a Musical

I’m thrilled to be nominated alongside my Moulin Rouge comrades. The show really was a labor of love for us — and until the theater makes its long awaited and desperately needed return, I’m heartened by all the memories of Truth, Beauty, Freedom and Love.

Ian Barford and Caroline Neff in Linda Vista on Broadway. (Photographed by Joan Marcus)

Ian Barford, Linda Vista
Actor in a Leading Role in a Play

Muhammad Ali once uttered a two word poem that may be my favorite of all:  “Me.  We.”  In this time of extreme polarization, when our nation is consumed with righteous hatred toward ‘other’ — I am reminded of how  theatermaking is fundamentally collaborative.  Let’s find our way to Ali’s “we.” Any recognition for ME is shared with ALL of my collaborators, most especially Tracy Letts whose writing is second to none.  I am sincerely honored to be recognized. 

Grand Horizons

Jane Alexander, Grand Horizons
Featured Actress in a Play

It thrills me that Bess Wohl’s beautiful play was nominated and that I have been recognized for my role in it. This has been an extraordinarily tough time for theater artists so any chance to celebrate is wonderful. Theater will never die as long as we have a stage and an audience to watch. Hold tight dear company of players, you’ll be back! Love, Jane

Bess Wohl, Grand Horizons 
Best Play 
I am incredibly honored that my work and that of our entire company and crew was recognized, and am deeply grateful to Williamstown Theatre Festival and to Second Stage for producing Grand Horizons. At the same time, my heart is with the countless arts workers who are currently unemployed or have been otherwise devastated by the pandemic. Wear a mask. Vote. And I look forward to when we can all gather together again on Broadway. 

Annie McNamara and Sullivan Jones in “Slave Play” on Broadway. (Photographed by Matthew Murphy.)

Clint Ramos
Scenic Design of a Play, Slave Play
Costume Design of a Play, The Rose Tattoo

Thank you very much for the nominations and for honoring all the many shows and peers who created joy through their work. May we always remember that this is only intermission. May our desire for a more equitable American theatre reflect the immense love we have for it.  In addition: #Vote #BlackLivesMatter #BeAnArtsHero #costumeindustrycoalition #savethecostumeindustry

Kenny Leon, A Soldier’s Play
Direction of a Play

So honored to be recognized in this way. This gives us fuel to continue to tell everyone’s story on a raised stage in front of the whole community. We stand on the shoulders of Charles Fuller, August Wilson, Ruby Dee, Harry Belafonte, and so many others as we continue to build a better Broadway inclusive of all.

Lauren Patten, Derek Klena, Kathryn Gallagher, and Celia Rose Gooding in “Jagged Little Pill” on Broadway.

Tom Kitt, Jagged Little Pill 
This is a huge honor. I share this with my entire Jagged Little Pill family, especially the brilliant Alanis Morissette, and all of the wonderful collaborators who inspired my work. I also want to acknowledge all of the shows that were not able to open, so today I’m thinking of all of the great artists who were supposed to be a part of the 2019-20 season, and I can’t wait to see all of their beautiful work when Broadway returns.

Justin Townsend
Lighting Design in a Musical for Moulin Rouge! The Musical and Jagged Little Pill
I’m deeply honored and thrilled to be nominated for two Tony Awards.  Both Jagged Little Pill and Moulin Rouge! The Musical hold a special place in my heart as singular and vital storytelling. I’m grateful for the reminder of the joy and camaraderie that these productions have brought and will bring again. I especially am thankful for the huge support and work from Programmer Brad Gray who worked with me on both productions as well as for Moulin Rouge the associate Nick Solyom, assistant Katy Atwell, and the production electrician Jeremy Wahlers.  All who worked tirelessly to keep track of the countless cues, lightbulbs, and dreams.  On Jagged Little Pill — associate Christopher Thielking, assistant Kate McGee, and production electrician James Maloney and Justin Freeman. Truly without all of these people’s support, tenacity, and care they and so many other people on our team helped achieve the design. Broadway is a handmade art form and I long for the times that we all may be back in each other’s presence to make and share world class productions.

Adrienne Warren in “Tina.” (Photographed by Manuel Harlan)

Katori Hall, Tina: The Tina Turner Musical
Book of a Musical

Being nominated this year is a bittersweet honor. The intermission our industry is experiencing is unprecedented and its impact will undoubtedly be felt for years. But the curtain being down has allowed many to lift the veil on the pervasive and stubborn roots of racism that still infect our nation. In this dark moment, we are plagued by the virus of Covid-19 and the virus of racism. But both Goliaths can be slain. I feel so blessed to have laid my hands on a musical about a woman who slayed — who conquered the Goliaths of domestic abuse and industry-wide sexism and racism. The story of Tina Turner is truly an inspiration for these dark and turbulent times, and I’m so proud of our team for bringing Tina: The Tina Turner Musical to the world.

Ethan Popp, Tina: The Tina Turner Musical
Best Orchestrations

I’d like to express my profound thanks to the Broadway League, The Tony Awards, and my entire TINA family. We have so many reasons to be thankful and to celebrate our industry and our show through these awards. Seven months after the lights went down on Broadway, however, we need the public’s support more than ever. Hundreds of thousands of actors, musicians, creatives, stage hands, ushers and more have been furloughed without an indication of when we might return to our beloved jobs. Thousands of small businesses in New York City and across the country that rely on Broadway, touring and regional theater to bring patrons to their doors have been severely affected or have shut their doors forever. The arts aren’t a “luxury” — we’re a cultural necessity that allow creators to inform, entertain, and act as a social barometer in our society. Broadway will be back, for sure — but for now, please reach out to your representatives and let them know you care about the arts and that they should, too. AND VOTE!!

The cast of Moulin Rouge! The Musical on Broadway. (Photographed by Matthew Murphy.)

Catherine Zuber, Moulin Rouge! The Musical
Costume Design in a Musical

During this unprecedented time, I often think about all the theaters of NYC patiently waiting since March 12, for their performers, crew, and audience to bring the energy of live performance back to our beloved city.  Moulin Rouge exemplifies an explosion of the celebration of love, of life, of deep friendships, and artistic freedom. With my brilliant team of associates and collaborators, I am so honored to be recognized with this Tony nomination.

Peter Hylenski, Moulin Rouge! The Musical
Sound Design in a Musical

I’m honored to be nominated alongside my Moulin Rouge family. Our shows’ ideals of Truth, Beauty, Freedom, Love are something we can continue to strive for, even during the challenges of 2020. Now, more than ever, it’s crucial for us as an industry to support one another, to become leaders of change, and examples of strength and compassion.

Derek McLane
Scenic Design of a Musical for Moulin Rouge! The Musical
Scenic Design of a Play for A Soldier’s Play

“I am so honored and grateful for to be recognized for these two shows “Moulin Rouge” and “Soldier’s Play”, both of which have meant so much to me. In the midst of an enormously difficult and painful year, this is a great moment of joy!”

Justin Levine, Moulin Rouge! The Musical

I’m so proud and grateful for my team and the many music makers who helped bring this score to life. I hope this time off we’ve been granted/forced to take is used to make our industry a more just, equitable and inclusive place to create. We as artists and performers can do a lot within our own circles to achieve this and I am committed to being part of the change so many of us wish to see.” 

Matt Stine, Moulin Rouge! The Musical

It has been an honor and a joy to work on Moulin Rouge and to be a part of this brilliant music team led by my dear friend Justin Levine. I’m thrilled to be nominated and thrilled that the Tony Awards will go on this year so all of us who work in the theater have something fun to look forward to this year!”

Katie Kresek, Moulin Rouge! The Musical

I’m so very grateful for the opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate the work of my colleagues and the life force that is Broadway. Collaboration and unity is at the heart of what we do, and I’m so moved to know we will have this moment to come together during such tumultuous times. I hope this year’s Tonys shines a light on our industry, that has been so devastated by this pandemic, and reminds us all that the arts are essential to New York City and the world.

Charlie Rosen, Moulin Rouge! The Musical

Thrilled to be recognized by the community! It’s a strange time and climate to become a Tony nominee, but I am honored none the less to be considered! Huge thanks to my fellow orchestrators, and anybody who has exposed me to any music ever in my 30 years of life!

Carmen Pavlovic
Lead Producer of Moulin Rouge! The Musical
Moulin Rouge! The Musical is so grateful to The Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing for providing the chance to come together as theater lovers and theater creators in this history-making moment. This year’s Tony Award nominees share the most unusual of bonds. At such a difficult time for so many people, including the thousands who make up the industry behind the scenes, we welcome this opportunity to take a moment to celebrate the remarkable achievements of our finest artists. We are humbled by these nominations and honored every day to stand with the Broadway community. We look forward to joining all the nominees to acknowledge our industry’s work and everything Broadway is rebuilding itself to be in the future.

Daniel Kluger
Original Score for The Sound Inside
Sound Design of a Play for The Sound Inside
Sound Design of a Play for Sea Wall/A Life

I’m so surprised and honored by the nominations – it was a huge privilege to be a part of both special productions Seawall and The Sound Inside. We’re all mourning the loss of live theater right now, and this is a reminder that our community of artists and workers are struggling under the weight of this recession and pandemic. The industry desperately needs support, and I implore us all to elect competent progressive leaders who will fight for working people, a functional government, and a progressive society.