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This is a Lortel Awards Piece That Is Not About Hamilton

The Mick chats with host Jesse Tyler Ferguson, while Claybourne Elder photobombs.

I mean, I guess there’s no real way to NOT mention Hamilton, because there was no real way that Hamilton was not going to win every damn thing at the 30th Annual Lucille Lortel Awards last weekend. So like. Yeah. Hamilton happened. They took home hella awards. Lin-Manuel Miranda rapped his acceptance speech for Outstanding Musical, making it all about how he’s glad that Hamilton is a part of the Public Theater’s ongoing history off-Broadway. It was great.

My favorite speech from anyone in the Hamilton crew, though, came from actress Renée Elise Goldsberry, who found herself overcome at the podium, and apologized saying “I’m sorry, it’s just… I’ve been doing this for a long time and I’ve never won an award for my acting.” I may or may not have gotten a bit choked up myself, watching.

So even though Hamilton winning everything is already non-news, it seems fitting, I think, that Goldsberry won her first acting award there, at the Lortels. And not just because we’ve all seen her in a ton of off-Broadway shows these past few years. It’s more just… The Lortels themselves, really, and how I’ve come to know them these past few years — as a communal celebration of good things — felt like the right place to honor Goldsberry this first time.

Because honestly, it’s that very vibe– that sense of community gathering, and honor, and celebration, which has made the Lortels my very favorite of the awards shows each year.

It starts on the carpet, I think. It’s just… the best. Maybe because the actors aren’t exhausted by awards season yet (even the ones visiting from uptown on their Tony campaigns), so they’re bright and excited to chat and thrilled to be exactly where they are. Maybe because the carpet is just… crazy organized, and full of theater-focused journalists (as opposed to the Tonys, which are overwhelmed by international and pure pop-culture press), so it’s less of a shit-show and more of a bonding experience. (Seriously. It’s to the extent that this year, while waiting for the first few actors to make their way past the photographers and video journalists, we writers (and some tweeters, too!) took a quick dance break to perform a bit of High School Musical’s “We’re All in This Together.”)

And maybe that’s all crazy inside-baseball information, but I really do think it contributes to the whole vibe of the show. The journalists are happy to be there and the actors are happy to be there and happy to chat with us and everyone is just happy times happy times happy, which is like… happy cubed? Which, I don’t even know what that is, but I’m just telling you the result is so awesome.

Plus, like I said, that awesome feeling doesn’t stop on the red carpet. The show itself feels like such a lovely, warm celebration of a community, and the excellence of the body of work they’ve created together over the course of a season, that it’s just lovely to watch. There’s a warmth to everyone’s interactions. There’s a generosity of spirit as people listen to winners take their moment. There’s an honesty to everyone’s speeches — whether they’re accepting an award, or introducing an icon — that seems to get leeched out, or sanded down, or just become somehow less at some of the bigger awards shows. Maybe it’s the lack of cameras, or the smaller audience, I don’t know. But everything feels really… well, real, at the Lortel Awards. And even as a writer, there in the audience, you feel like you’re a part of it.

And then afterward, everyone files out of the theater, laughing and chatting and smiling, congregating in the entries and lobbies for ages, and it’s super lovely, but really, the party hasn’t even begun yet. Because you’re about to decamp into an elevator with like… Terrence McNally and head out for the after-party, which is just one big, chill hangout. There’s tons of booze, and cheese cubes, and some delicious pasta. But mostly, there’s just… conversation. No showboating or grandstanding. No cliques hiding in the corner. Just theater people of all stripes — actors, marketers, producers, lighting designers — hanging out, having a drink and a chat. And a drink and a chat. And a drink and a chat. And another after that.


PS. Just to talk about Hamilton one more time in this post that is not about Hamilton… Because the Lortels took place on Mother’s Day, I asked all the actors about their favorite ‘theatrical mother’ on the red carpet. This could be a real person, a character, anything. Hamilton star Daveed Diggs, who would go on to win Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical, told me that co-star (and follow winner) Renée Elise Goldsberry is his favorite theatrical mother. Not only because she’s a great mom to her children, but also because she took care of the entire cast. Sweetest thing ever, right?! #swoon


Photo: David Levy

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