A Producer's Pre-Tonys Diary, Week 3: Auctions, Awards, and a Big Announcement
Saturday, May 13th
The Dear Evan Hansen family has developed a rich camaraderie by this point, from bonding in rehearsal rooms throughout the city to the summer we all spent living in DC together two years ago for the show’s world premiere at Arena Stage. Even now, we still seize opportunities for “extracurricular” hangouts. Today, we’ve been offered an after-hours tour of the new Post-War & Contemporary art sale at Christie’s. As it happens, the department head is a tremendous fan of Dear Evan Hansen -- especially cast member Will Roland -- so between shows, we all venture over to Rock Center in the rain to enjoy a brief field trip.
Auctions are in Will’s blood -- his family is the longtime proprietor of Roland Auctions -- and while many performers wait tables or take catering gigs between acting jobs, Will returns to his roots in the auction world. It’s been fun to see him in action off-stage over the years, and when it comes to our Christie’s tour, the role of tour guide actually seems to fluctuate between our hostess and Will himself. Soon enough, it’s time for the cast to get back for the evening performance, and we all part ways -- but not before the Christie’s rep graciously volunteers herself as a Tony Awards date.
Monday, May 15th – Thursday, May 18th
The Spring Road Conference is upon us -- an annual industry event where presenters and marketers from theaters all across the country convene in New York to discuss the state of the touring industry and familiarize themselves with the current Broadway offerings. Our office is there to support Dear Evan Hansen throughout the event (think: luncheon tables, hosted breakfasts, panel discussions, gift bag items and custom cookies), as well as to embrace the chance to meet with the teams from “the road” who will soon be welcoming Evan in their own hometowns. (We were excited to officially announce during this week’s events that Dear Evan Hansen will indeed be going on tour in 2018!)
While the focus of the conference is mainly on meeting members of our theatrical community from outside of the city, it’s also a great opportunity to reconnect with New York-based friends and colleagues with whom our paths don’t cross as often. After an afternoon roundtable, I run into the producer who gave me my first theatrical internship when I was still a bright-eyed NYU graduate film student. That initial yearlong internship provided a general understanding of the theatrical landscape -- not to mention early introductions to members of this community who I’m grateful to continue to call friends and colleagues.
Friday, May 19th
This afternoon is the 83rd Annual Drama League Awards Luncheon, and we're all here to toast Michael Greif receiving the Founder’s Award for his storied directing career – as well as the show’s nomination for Outstanding Musical and Distinguished Performance nods for two of our cast members, Ben Platt and Rachel Bay Jones.
When accepting his award, Michael salutes fellow honoree Bette Midler, citing an admiration that began in adolescence when he’d sit on her Barrow Street stoop for hours, just hoping for a glimpse of her. Much of my early passion for theater was ignited by Michael’s own work: I was the teenager who took the train from college in Virginia to spend many weekends and breaks in the city, splitting time between the East Village’s Life Café (RIP) and the lobby of the Nederlander Theatre just hoping to score some of the coveted front row lottery tickets to see Rent yet again.
Alongside Michael and Ms. Midler is another equally legendary honoree – animal trainer Bill Berloni, whose career took off after he rescued and trained the very first “Sandy” to appear in the Broadway production of Annie (and nearly every subsequent Sandy of note since then). I witnessed Bill’s work first hand while working with company management on the 2012 Annie revival, and it was always fun to help facilitate post-show meet and greets with the pair of pups sharing the Sandy role.
The afternoon becomes a momentous one, with Ben Platt becoming the youngest recipient of the Drama League’s prestigious Distinguished Performance Award, as well as the show receiving the overall award for Outstanding Musical! Flanked by Michael Greif and the show’s authors (Benj Pasek, Justin Paul and Steven Levenson) lead producer Stacey Mindich offers her heartfelt remarks, concluding by thanking our fearless leader Michael Greif for giving us “so many seasons of love.”
An already eventful afternoon doesn’t end with the luncheon, though. It’s the time of year when the beloved Hell’s Kitchen bakery Schmackary’s hosts their “Broadway Bakes” event, when cast members from across Broadway come together to sell cookies and greet fans, all to raise funds for Broadway Cares / Equity Fights AIDS. Dear Evan Hansen cast members Michael Park and Kristolyn Lloyd have the afternoon shift today, and it’s a treat to watch them interact with eager fans before selling us our own box of Schmackary’s cookie creations to take back to the office as an afternoon pick-me-up. With so much of the week spent out of the office for various Evan-centric happenings, there are plenty of loose ends still standing between myself and the weekend.