Portraits of the 2022 Tony nominees

The Broadway season that just ended, the first since the pandemic stopped, will be remembered for many reasons – the persistence of Covid, the death of Stephen Sondheim, weakened tourism and indispensable studies. It was a season of renewed appreciation: of songs and shared stories and experiences, of a beloved art form and a recovering industry. And it was a season that featured an extraordinary volume of work by black artists, catalyzed by the social unrest of 2020. Tony Awards 2022, which takes place on June 12, offers the opportunity to honor some of Broadway’s best work; in anticipation of this event, we photographed and interviewed many of the artists, and some of the writers, directors and choreographers, nominated for awards. Below are portraits and edited excerpts from the interviews.


“MACBETH”

“I always wanted to be an actress, from a very young age. I love stories in all shapes and forms. And for me, there’s a totally different attraction: there’s an aspect of the artist, the peacock – something lovely to look at, while I’m quite shy in my normal life, so that’s an interesting dichotomy.” – Ruth Denies


“POTUS”

“People really want to laugh. Laughter is like hyper laughter. Maybe this tastes like a pandemic. Obviously I’ve done a lot of comedies, but on this one you can feel the laughter coming out of the audience. I think it’s because people have been locked up for so long.” — Rachel Dratch

“All the women show up – we’re all keeping our clothes on. It’s the boys who are taking them away. I feel like it’s a step in the right direction.” — Julie White


“TAKE ME”

“I decided at age 5 that I would become an actor, baker or zookeeper. My dad reminded me that keepers would have to pick up a lot of poop, and so I narrowed it down to the baker and the actor, and the acting seemed more fun. So it was a very early decision and I’m glad it worked out.” — Jesse Tyler Ferguson

“I’m making discoveries every day. It’s really liberating. It’s incredibly stressful. And it’s a lot of pressure.” — Jesse Williams

“This is something I never thought about, and it’s kind of all I ever thought about at the same time. Not so much the Tonys, but being in a position to have the opportunity to be in a play, in a production that is seen by people, that moves people, that gets talked about.” —Michael Oberholtzer

“I was going to be a snowboard instructor at one point if the acting didn’t work out. I came back after getting that qualification and then I got a role in a movie.” -Alfi Allen


“Paradise Square”

“There is hope in the community. There is hope in love. There is hope for this country. And I think the more we see things that are similar within us, the less we see the differences.” — Joaquina Kalukango

“There are 40 of us in this squad. Singing in a large group like this, which has been insecure for a long time, is wonderful. In that first rehearsal, when we were all singing together, we were all crying.” — AJ Shively

“I hope that by being in this space and doing what I am doing, I can inspire young black boys and men and inspire young hearing impaired people to believe that they can do this – that there is nothing, nothing that can stand in your way as long as you stay strive for it.” —Sidney DuPont


“Dana h.”

“Because everything had stopped so radically, it felt like there was a very open spirit in the way people went to the theater.” — Deirdre O’Connell


“funny girl”

“I started dancing on the subway. We set up the frame and just danced.” – Jared Grimes

“To experience any of Steve’s work is to realize what a human being is capable of. He is complex, deeply human, nuanced and bold. He dares to write about all aspects of the human condition with his heart beating deeply.” — Patti LuPone, in Sondheim

“Thank God Stephen actually came to the first preview. It felt like a rock concert. He loved it and laughed from head to toe.” —Jennifer Simard

“The first preview back was so magnificent and overwhelming. And having Stephen Sondheim sitting there with us is a night I will never forget.” – Matt Doyle


“the man of music”

“I get tired of myself. I think that’s why I like acting. With acting, you have complete freedom to do all sorts of things.” — Hugh Jackman

“The pandemic was crazy. I remember when the movie theater closed and you suddenly realize, ‘Wait a minute, what I do for a living just doesn’t exist now.’ I don’t think anyone plans that.” — Sutton Foster

“It feels like a great privilege to be part of the group of people who have banded together to reopen Broadway and do so as safely as possible.” — Jayne Houdyshell

“For Colored Girls Who Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow Is Enuf”

“I didn’t grow up on the internet, so we went to the library and we took videos of our favorite musicals and we watched them over and over and the dance sequences and I learned them.” — Camille A. Brown (appointed director and choreographer)

“I welcome this tribe of sisters who have shown me what it really means to be a sister.” — Kenita R. Miller


“How I Learned to Drive”

“I didn’t think the play would be produced. I thought I would never find actors who could do that. I thought I would be tried and convicted for writing it. I realized that I shouldn’t be afraid to tell the truth.” — Paula Vogel (nominee as playwright)

“Just living in a world right now where other people’s judgment comes quickly and is harsh. And what Paula wrote, doesn’t allow you to do that. It just opens you up.” — David Morse

“We all have darkness. We all have things we need to be forgiven for. And I think that’s kind of an important thing to remember.” — Mary Louise Parker

“I’m a writer because I have questions, and I have things that scare me, and the only way to get over my fears is to face them directly.” —Michael R. Jackson (Nominated as Writer of Books and Sheet Music)

“I grew up watching musical films. I was obsessed with them. ‘Dreamgirls,’ the movie: As soon as I saw Jennifer Hudson singing, I thought ‘I want to do this!’” — Jaquel Spivey

“In many ways, I feel like it took the world to be turned upside down for me to begin to find some sense of visibility.” — L Morgan Lee

“When I first moved to this town, and I was auditioning, I’d hear things like ‘Oh, your pearls are falling out of your mouth,’ or ‘You’re not a bad guy enough.’ So to be able to be on a show where I can be as queer and as flamboyant and as gay and as big as possible, and that’s not only necessary but celebrated, is amazing.” — John-Andrew Morrison


“Sir. Saturday night”

“People are hungry for entertainment, and you look outside and they’re all masked up and yet they’re laughing as hard as they can and we’re getting the same energy we would have. It’s so important for people to have fun and have some sort of normal life. This show has been very healing for all of us in so many different ways.” – Billy Crystal

“The first night we had an audience and we heard that mass laughter: it sucks. It’s crazy.” —Shoshana beans

“There was a lot of apprehension and a lot of doubts. I wasn’t sure if a person would show up. But one of the things I discovered is that people need theater as much as we need people to need theater. Human beings need to do what is innate in us, which is to be social creatures and have shared experiences with one another.” — Ruben Santiago Hudson


“MJ”

“What I appreciate most is getting here – the journey it took before I even took the stage for the first time, and learning about myself, learning more about Michael, meeting my castmates for the first time. It’s little moments like this that catch my attention the most.” — Myles Frost

“The last few months have been full of ups and downs and a lot of fear, just about whether we could really get up and run, keep our cast on stage, get our audience at the door. I learned a lot about my ability to deal with fear as an artist and also, like the rest of the world, as a human being, and really find the best ways to turn that fear into positive, creative energy. .” — Christopher Wheeldon (appointed director and choreographer)


“Clyde”

“It’s exciting to be part of what people want, which is the community. Theater has always served as something that is more than just entertainment, but this time, even more than in the past, it feels like a cure. Some days when the curtain goes up, I’m not even sure they’re cheering the show. A layer of it seems to be for another need.” — Uzo Fertilizer

“I have to admit that I was really looking forward to working. And because those were the cards that were dealt, I really embraced that moment with all of me.” — Kara Young


“Clyde’s” and “MJ”

“I feel very proud to be a part of a season where we’ve had more representation from black writers than in probably Broadway history in its entirety.” — Lynn Nottage (nominated playwright for “Clyde’s” and book writer for “MJ”)


“Skeleton Gang”

“Theatre is always unstable. That’s not news. But it was great to be back in the theater.” — Phylicia Rashad

“He came back in such a big way. And we were closed two years ago. I think that’s why it’s really exciting.” — Sam Rockwell (shown with Neil Pepe, who is nominated as director)


“Problems in Mind”

“We need more stories that show the diversity in our community, not just the broad strokes.” — La Chanze

“I just hope that those who arrived at our little theater and were able to follow our journey with us, I hope they left the theater feeling emotional, thinking and curious.” – Chuck Cooper


“North Country Girl”

“I learned that marinating in paper is very good.” — Mare Winningham

“When I was 15, I saw a community theater production of ‘Sweeney Todd’ that changed me, and by that I mean my DNA. I entered that theater as one person and left that theater a different person. It was a magic trick I didn’t know existed. And then I discovered that I could provide this magic trick to other people. And that’s why I act.” — Rob McClure


“THE SKIN OF OUR TEETH”

“When a play is good – and I feel like everyone is struggling and striving for that – you walk out of the theater feeling more alive. And for me, wrestling with what it means to be alive is the eternal question.”—Lileana Blain-Cruz (nominated director)

“This character is completely free. She has no limits or self-awareness. So I feel like inhabiting that energy has made me expand as a person.” – Gabby Beans


“the minutes”

“I have never felt more camaraderie with my fellow theater artists. This doesn’t feel like a competition to me, these Tony Awards. It feels like a celebration – returning to our art form.” — Tracy Letts (nominee as playwright)

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