Friend of the podcast and The Great Comet investor Mike Rognlien shares his thoughts after his show won two of the twelve Tony Awards it was nominated for this year.
A handful of people have reached out to offer "condolences" that The Great Comet didn't win more Tony Awards last night. I hope to re-frame that thinking a bit.
First and foremost, I hate awards shows. Of course, I'm happy when people are recognized for doing amazing work, but awards shows lend towards the belief that if you don't win awards, you didn't do great work or your work was lesser-than when compared to others. It's why we roll our eyes at people who say - even earnestly - what an honor the nomination was. They're not joking - most of the thousands of people working in the theater world in NYC are not nominated for anything, ever. It IS a significant achievement to be nominated.
19 out of 20 (or thereabouts) shows that make it to one of the 41 official Broadway theaters don't recoup their initial production costs, and fewer still win -any- awards. If making money or winning an award or even selling a set number of tickets was the only measure of success, Broadway and the arts wouldn't exist. For every Hamilton, there are a thousand ideas that never see the light of day because they weren't seen as being commercially viable. Or they came at the wrong time (I'm looking at you, The Last Five Years). Or they got crowded out by something that created more buzz.
I invested in Comet, but I also saw most of the nominated shows this year. I saw shows like the stunning Significant Other that didn't last or get any Tony nominations but should have. I saw shows that I thought were bad or not nearly as good as I'd been led to believe by word of mouth or marketing.
But in all cases, I was seeing art being made, live, by real people with incredible talent. These people - both on and off stage - who have the courage and the drive and the ability to withstand years of (sometimes petty) rejection and withering feedback, increasingly obnoxious audiences, complaints about ticket prices and availability and a million other things do it because THEY LOVE THEIR ART FORM. They wear themselves out physically and emotionally and even mentally for our entertainment, and even when they hit the 'bigtime' many of them still live check to check (when they're actually working) to put on 8 shows a week for the rest of us. Every single show that was nominated for a Tony - and every one that wasn't - had that in common. And despite the pettiness of the press or fans about who wins or loses on awards nights, these artists also overwhelmingly support each other in their work, even or especially when they're in direct competition for dollars and praise.
I have learned a lot about the theater world (and, by proxy, the corporate world) in the last couple of years, and awards or no awards, I'm deeply grateful for the work and for the people who make it. And this year, I'm especially grateful to the people who brought the Comet to life on Broadway. And I especially can't wait to see how it evolves and grows and changes when Okieriete Onaodowan takes over the role of Pierre on July 3.
I hope you go see it (and everything else). ♥
Listen to our podcast episode on Awards Season here.