And the award goes to...
On Sunday June 11th, 2017, the annual Tony Awards will take place at Radio City Music Hall. The Tonys (sponsored by The American Theater Wing) are as coveted by the Broadway set as the Oscars are by the Hollywood crowd.
As an unabashed theater geek, and proud New Yorker, I try to see as many of the top-nominated plays and musicals as I can before the awards ceremony airs so I can vote in the party pool with at least some degree of credibility.
But beyond thejoyful magic of sitting in a dark theater waiting for the play to begin, I often walk away from these shows thinking about how some aspect of the play applies to my life -- workwise and other. Here's my two cents on the takeaways from a few of this year's top Tony contenders.
Dear Evan Hansen: Nominated for best musical.
The plot. Awkward (and possibly on the autism spectrum) teenage boy weaves a web of lies with a good intention, which eventually (of course) gets out of hand.
The takeaway. As the tagline for the show goes -- "You will be found." No matter how successful we may seem on the outside, everyone feels some degree of aloneness and isolation -- often exaggerated by social media. In one poignant song, titled Waving Through a Window, the show's Ben Platt (in the title role) faces a backscreen full of Facebook-type posts and sings...
"On the outside, always looking in
Will I ever be more than I've always been?
'Cause I'm tap, tap, tapping on the glass
I'm waving through a window"
The bottom line. Commit investing a percentage of the energy and attention you normally put into your online life into more real-life connections. For example, instead of texting back and forth with a client or friend, invite them to lunch or pick up the phone -- you'll feel less alone and more seen. In fact, a slew of recent studies has suggested that there are direct links in some cases between social media use and isolation, depression and ill health. So forget about being online for an evening and go stand in a real line and see a play. You might just come out the better for it.
Hello Dolly: Nominated for best revival of a musical.
The plot. The classic role of Dolly Levi, matchmaker extraordinaire, is brought back to life with Bette Midler in the title role.
The takeaway. 70-year-old short women can storm a stage and captivate an audience as well as any 25-year-old hottie in a cabaret getup. Oh, and by the way, the night I saw her she was overcoming a cold and not at her singing best -- it made no difference at all. Her energy, enthusiasm and sheer onstage presence carried the day.
The bottom line. You're never too old to be a star -- in your own life or at the office. There is something to be said for 6 or 7 decades of experience and passion, as many employers are rediscovering. The trend toward hiring retired seniors as greeters, customer service agents and more takes advantage of a valuable human resource. Considering a career change or new challenge? Don't let your age be the determining factor.
Sweat: Nominated for best play.
The plot. The winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, playwright Lynn Nottage tells the story of a group of friends who work together on a factory floor and whose friendships are falling apart due to economic and emotional issues.
The takeaway. To know the world (and people) around you better, consider things from their point of view. Not a stunning realization, but Nottage has managed to show the subtle differences in how 8 different characters see the same situation -- without judgement.
The bottom line. Everyone has a story to tell -- and that story usually explains a great deal about why they act the way they do. Curiosity about how others see the world can be the difference that makes the difference. A recent study even pointed out that considering how another person might be feeling in a situation (as opposed to putting yourself in their shoes) creates a better outcome for both parties.
The Little Foxes: Nominated for best revival of a play.
The plot. Consummate actresses Laura Linney and Cynthia Nixon play sisters-in-law in Lillian Hellman's classic 20th century drama, which takes place in in a small town in Alabama in the 1900s. The play, featuring characters struggling for control of a family business (and their own identities), was first performed in 1939.
The takeaway. More than 70 years later, The Little Foxes is still timely and relevant. Even so, I don't think the play would have been nearly as successful if not for the extraordinary range of flexibility exhibited by its female stars. Linney and Nixon regularly switch roles, each playing the other's character on designated nights of the show -- and both are so good that at various times during the performance I attended, spontaneous applause broke out after their razor-sharp deliveries of a line. Both have also been nominated as actors for a Tony as well.
The bottom line. Don't let yourself be typecast by your own competencies. Getting stuck in what you do well can be a trap. I continually hear successful executives, entrepreneurs and business owners complaining about how bored they are with what they are doing. Stretching yourself beyond what's usual is a good way to grow and find your learning edge.
As always the Tonys promise to be an entertaining (and sartorially spectacular) evening with emotional speeches and occasional sentimentalism. But beyond the fanfare, the shows on Broadway this year can bring new life to some old ideas -- you just have to open your eyes wide enough to see them.