I WENT TO A FANCY AWARDS SHOW!
THEY GAVE OUT AWARDS! AND CASH PRIZES! IT WAS THE MOST AMAZING NIGHT OF MY LIFE! THERE WAS A PODIUM! AND PRESENTERS! AND MONTAGES! I FUCKING LOVE MONTAGES! (I’m so serious here, I love montages. They are my 7th favorite thing in the whole world. I LOVE MONTAGES!)
ACTUAL FOOTAGE OF ME WATCHING A MONTAGE
Okay, I promise this whole post won’t be in caps lock.
JUST KIDDING, I LIED. AN AWARDS SHOW! I WAS THERE!
ACTUAL FOOTAGE OF ME BEING THERE
My company, 1812 Productions, was nominated for a big award at this year’s Theatre Philadelphia Celebration. It’s like the Tonys. Which is the Oscars for Broadway. But you knew that already. And if you didn’t already know what the Tonys are, I’m not sure we can continue this relationship.
ACTUAL FOOTAGE OF YOU AND ME JUST NOW
Anyway, we were nominated for a phenomenal show we did last spring called It’s My Party: The Women and Comedy Project. This was a pretty big deal for two reasons 1) there was a $25,000 cash prize associated with the award and 2) Philadelphia theatre is no joke. We often get overlooked because of our proximity to New York, but there are artists working here at the top of their games with impeccable training and far more freedom than a lot of Broadway productions.
There are over 100 professional productions that go up each year in Philadelphia and surely as many semi-professional productions. There is a level of craft here that rivals every other city in the country. I’ve seen some of the most incredible sets and lighting and costume design and performance I’ve ever encountered in this city. This is a legitimate theatre town and there are people who work year-round at the highest level. And they’re famous for it.
AND THEY WERE ALL GOING TO DRESS UP AND GO TO THIS AWARDS SHOW.
Caps lock. Yo. I’m sorry. I’m just, you know…
ACTUAL FOOTAGE OF MY INTERNAL MONOLOGUE
My first order of business on the day of the awards was to buy a sports coat. Because my 6th favorite thing in the world is running around Center City’s upscale stores at the very last minute and my 5th favorite thing is spending money even though I have a perfectly good clothes at home.
I spent hours looking for a sports jacket that would convey effortless Diane Keaton-meets-Diahann Carroll glamour and would simultaneously cover my ridiculously long monkey arms (is it racist if I call myself a monkey? Whatever. SORRY INTERNET.) Along the way, I bought a shimmering copper tie. Even though I have a hundred ties. This tie is the color of a Tony, I thought. This tie is my vision board!
I also bought a shimmery blue tie and a blue and red checkered tie because I just have to accept that I’m a fancy pants crazy person and I like dressing up. At that moment I realized, this is my life calling: dressing up and going to awards shows. This is what I was put on Earth to do. I want to do it all year round, just put on a suit and show up at places where they are giving out awards. Does this make me Jack Nicholson? Actually, to be fair, everyone at any awards show knows who Jack Nicholson is whereas though I knew who most people at the Theatre Philadelphia Celebration were, precious few knew me. So, I guess that makes me Ryan Seacrest. I’ll take it!
I had originally planned to wear a bow tie and suspenders. BECAUSE THAT IS THE DEFINITION OF FANCY. But one of the things I’m working on in therapy is accepting the fact that I just don’t look that good in bow ties. And I had to wear a belt instead of suspenders because I bought my pants at the beginning of the summer right before I lost 17 pounds in a tragic not eating for two months accident. And yes, that is totally a thing. Thank you for your condolences. I’ve gained some of it back since then, but it seems to have only gone to my face, so no pictures please. I said no pictures!
I eventually found the one sports coat in the whole city that would fit me without tailoring, fixed my face, did a twirl, hopped into a cab and off I went. If I weren’t so modest, I’d tell you I looked amazing.
ACTUAL FOOTAGE OF ME YELLING OUT THE CAB WINDOW
When the ceremony finally began I found myself legit emotional. I was just so happy to be there and so proud of the show we were nominated for and so grateful. It’s My Party was the last show of my first season at 1812. It was an exhilarating year but also one that, like the most productive experiences, was totally disorienting. With our final show I began to get my legs. But the show itself was hard. It was a new work, it was a massive 3-hour, 3-act piece and it was a labor of love for our brilliant, fearless director, Jen Childs. I can’t really explain what made it so difficult without talking about experiences that aren’t mine to talk about. But suffice to say, we were all so heavily invested in it that it became personal. I guess if you love and believe in something so much and work on it for so long, when you release it into the world even the most rapturous embrace can feel brusque.
When It’s My Party opened, there were rapturous embraces. But there were also some bruising comments that incited angry tears. It had a healthy run, it was a show to be proud of, but at the end of it we were all exhausted. It had been an exhausting year.
And, sitting in the audience at the awards, I thought back on that exhausting year and was overwhelmed by how proud I am to have been a part of it. This is the first year that I really worked full time in my field and I looked around the room and realized that I felt at home. For the first time. And I started to cry. IN PUBLIC.
ACTUAL FOOTAGE (TIE NOT PICTURED)
The ceremony was, of course, everything. Montages! Presenters! Musical numbers! A confetti cannon! Even though I was expecting to see all of my friends and idols and co-workers from the theatre community, I still felt a giddy rush each time someone I knew waved or sidled on stage in a fancy dress or sat next to me telling me to stop crying so loudly please.
ACTUAL FOOTAGE OF ME WHEN THE MANAGING DIRECTOR OF OUR COMPANY WALKED ON STAGE
After the awards came an after-party that defied all of my expectations. It was two floors of activity–a cabaret with rotating live performances, a speakeasy (which was basically just a dark room to get pregnant in), a dance floor (with laser lights!), a photo booth, and the most amazing buffet I’ve ever seen. This is what I love about theatre people: we don’t just have one idea, we have all of them. The same goes for feelings. If someone tries to encourage moderation, we just burst into the chorus of “Don’t Rain on My Parade” until they relent. I thought, This is like the best bar mitzvah I’ve ever been to. And then it hit me, this wasn’t like a bar mitzvah, this was my wedding reception! Talented crazy people running around in fancy clothes, food that never runs out, live musical performances in every corner, a make out room, me in a suit! (Are you taking notes, Dr. Boyfriend?) All I needed was an elaborate proposal that goes viral and all my dreams would be complete. Still, even without a dude standing outside my job blasting “My Love Is Your Love” on a juke box while my entire family looks on uncomfortably, the party was a dream. It was everything. EVERYTHING. I couldn’t decide what to do first.
ACTUAL FOOTAGE OF ME WALKING INTO THE AFTER PARTY
My friend, Amelia, and I were torn between our desire to find a cute actor to make out with and our desire to make out with the entire make your own macaroni and cheese bar. We chose the mac; the actors would just have to come to us. People I knew were walking around, talking, rubbing elbows and I found myself completely unable to make any small talk because I was totally overwhelmed by the process of eating until I exploded.
ACTUAL FOOTAGE OF EVERY CONVERSATION I HAD
When I looked up from my plate and saw a table piled high with brisket sliders and bamboo boxes filled with potstickers I literally let out a yelp and broke into a full on sprint, like I was Celie in The Color Purple seeing Nettie for the first time in decades. Finger foods are my long lost sister and nothing but death will keep me from them.
ACTUAL FOOTAGE OF ME AND BRISKET FOREVER
I stayed for hours, running the halls, sharing beautiful moments with dozens of people–people I’d worked with, people I’d admired, people I’d always wanted to talk to, people I really want to make out with (I’m looking at you, cast of Theatre Exile’s Cock). I ended the evening dancing up a sweat in my fancy clothes and then escaping into the cold night, shimmering and vibrating with life.
So often, my feeling that I’m getting closer and closer to being the person that I want to be is dampened by the self-doubt that tells me I’m not doing it well enough, I’m not educated enough, I don’t have a strong enough vision, I’m not as successful as the Tony-nominated actor I went to college with or the friend from school who wrote the most produced play in America two years running or the composer friend who has an opera playing at the Met. Ironically, all that doubt disappeared at an awards show, an event designed to say (in part) some of you are doing it better than the rest of you. I felt, for the first time, I’m doing it. Without qualification, good or bad; I’m just doing it. The work, the hard work, is showing up every day for your own life. I’m going to keep doing it. I belong here–Philly, the theatre community, in this seat, in this inexplicably perfectly-fitting jacket, gripping this potsticker like it owes me money.
I wasn’t nominated for anything. I never set foot on stage. But, I’ll be damned if I didn’t win.