Although I've never written, directed, produced or starred in a play or musical on Broadway, I received notice of this forthcoming honor a short time ago.
I have spent decades being an advocate for musical theater throughout the world and more specifically in our schools, even more specifically for all grade levels. I elected to write this piece because this is Musicals In Our Schools Week.
This week raises the profile of musicals in schools, and the significance and long term implications in learning, both traditional subjects and others necessary to succeed... call them life lessons in character building to help young people learn how to function collaboratively as a members of society.
NBC's Smash has been a principal sponsor for the week of events... and the astrological stars are aligned as this is also the week The Kennedy Center Sondheim Inspirational Teacher's Awards are announced.
Do a musical... write a musical... stage a musical... and in so doing you will discover that your school will educate, the community will celebrate, they all will participate and that will serve to motivate an encore next year and the year after.
Read about it on Facebook and check out the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities. This is not about singing contests and becoming a stage or screen star. Our future is in our kids. We should be stimulating and recognizing inventiveness, creativity and imaginative thinking by our young population, galvanized by the uniqueness of America where anything can happen... with fortitude resilience and deep inner passion for what we do and living in a country that honors and nurtures those attributes. This is more about the Google founders, the Bill Gates' and the Steve Jobs' of the future than it is about getting a standing ovation!
It is in that context, in this dedicated week of musicals being celebrated that I say THANK YOU to the Tony Awards Administration Committee for their Tony Honors for Excellence in the Theatre.
I'm appreciative of the recognition by the theater community and my colleagues and feel honored and humbled at the same time. However, it is impossible to create something new without the collaboration of many people with different talents. The same is true when authors work together to create a new musical, then again when a musical has to be transformed three dimensionally for its actual performance. In developing the MTI Broadway Junior Collection of musicals, I am blessed with the Musical Theatre International family of talents who have served as my collaborators in helping to implement it. They are 'Team MTI' and my secret weapon, along with the young incubation company iTheatrics that evolved from Team MTI. These passionate strategic family partners have continued to re-conceive the student materials with invaluable feedback and are indispensable collegial collaborators. Disney Theatrical Group also trusted us in another strategic alliance to adapt their unique and beloved titles for stage adaptations.
Without teachers, there are no productions... and iTheatrics in collaboration with our friends at The Kennedy Center created teacher training seminars so concentrated and so well honed that one eight hour session prepares a group of elementary teachers how to cast, stage and direct a show using their students as performers as well as the theater crafts team.
MTI's Broadway Junior Collection resulted from the catalytic epiphany which I perceived as a challenge when presented to me by Arthur Laurents and Stephen Sondheim. They identified with visionary prescience the contracting world of young people in the audience and the general lack of opportunity for exposure to the arts and musical theater in particular. The challenge was to engage kids and let them discover the magic of theater for themselves, so that it stays vibrant and robust for multiple generations by being insinuated into the culture of our country.
MTI Broadway Junior Collection that resulted changed the world for the better and enhances young people's lives by encouraging them to become better citizens and ultimately more well-rounded, happily walking away from the musical theater experience.
Knowing that the MTI Broadway Junior Collection has been embraced by so many and that they learn through experiencing is most gratifying to me. The recognition of a Tony Honors is a validating "cherry on top." I am grateful to Arthur and Steve for 'tweaking' me with their challenge... and to the many people who then gave of themselves (and continue to give) to make this new approach to arts and education an American institution that I believe has implications far beyond the arts.
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