My First Tony Nomination: 2019
The first-time Tony nominees of Hadestown, Ain't Too Proud, Tootsie, and more share memories of other notable "firsts" from their lives.
Several members of this year's class of Tony nominees are first-timers, a major honor that they'll not only remember forever, but that will also change their lives. As we've done in the past, we quizzed several of these newbies on the other major firsts that they've experienced, from the first award they remember winning to the theatrical event that initially set them off on their path to Broadway.
Name: Camille A. Brown
Best Choreography, Choir Boy
First Job: Clerk's assistant at Elmhurst Hospital in Queens
First New York City Apartment: I was born and raised in Queens, so I moved to an apartment within the same complex I grew up in. I wanted to be close to family and away from the city.
First Theatrical Experience: Hansel and Gretel at the Met when I was 4 years old.
First Role You Played Onstage: I was in the "3-6" class at Bernice Johnson Cultural Arts Center and performed a tap and ballet number. I started when I was 4 years old.
First Award You Remember Winning: Young Arts (formerly named ARTS Recognition) when I was 17. Throughout my dance education, I struggled with body image. I was told by some teachers that I did not have "the ideal body." Though not all my teachers said this, it still was very discouraging. I didn't feel like I fit in anywhere, and always had to work twice as hard. The award made me feel seen and encouraged me to keep going.
Name: Patrick Page
Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical, Hadestown
First Job: Magician
First New York City Apartment: Fourth-floor walk up — 89th and Riverside
First Theatrical Experience: Going to rehearsal with my dad (Robert Page) who was an actor at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
First Role You Played Onstage: A Venus Fly Trap in Arthur Kopit's Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mama's Hung You in the Closet and I'm Feeling So Sad.
First Award You Remember Winning: Poetry contest in the 3rd grade
Name: Amber Gray
Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical, Hadestown
First Job: Carmel apple stand manager at Arena Farms in Concord, Massachusetts. All day I picked apples, melted vats of caramel on burners, and told customers not to swat the bees,
First New York City Apartment: I didn't know any better. It was in Nolita, and I stupidly payed a small fortune for it.
First Theatrical Experience: Church
First Role You Played Onstage: Minimus in Animal Farm, the musical
First Award You Remember Winning: The Bette Davis Prize, for promising talent, while at Boston University, from the Davis Foundation. It was a cash prize, and I spent it on laser eye surgery, which is one of the best decisions I've ever made!
Name: Caitlin Kinnunen
Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical, The Prom
First Job: My first real job was playing Annie when I was 11!
First New York City Apartment: A small two bedroom apartment that I shared with my mom and sister. It was essentially two bedrooms connected by a hallway (that had to also be a living room and kitchen).
First Theatrical Experience: My parents taking my sister and I out of school to go see children's theatre in Seattle. We saw a production of The Midwife's Apprentice.
First Role You Played Onstage: A snowflake! In a musical about a snowflake's journey from the clouds to earth.
First Award You Remember Winning: I won student of the month when I was 14. Which is weird because I was homeschooled.
Name: Lilli Cooper
Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical, Tootsie
First Job: Counselor at the after-school program of my elementary school where my mother still works.
First New York City Apartment: Born and raised! I moved into my own apartment in Harlem in 2015.
First Theatrical Experience: Doing homework backstage at my dad's Broadway shows.
First Role You Played Onstage: I sang "Bless the Lord" in my 8th grade production of Godspell
First Award You Remember Winning: Fastest changer at a summer day camp
Name: Joe Iconis
Best Score, Be More Chill
First Job: I ran the musical theater program at Hofstra Summer Camp on Long Island. I played piano, musical-directed, wrote the shows with my best friend Kevin Manganaro and my brother Phil. We essentially did illegal jukebox musicals based around songs the kids happened to know or songs that we, as theater geeks, forced the children to perform. We were definitely the only theater camp that managed to fit "My Strongest Suit," " Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah," "Livin' La Vida Loca," Elvis Presley's "Burning Love," and "The Ladies Who Lunch" into a well-constructed narrative musical starring 12-year-olds. I'm actually very proud of the work I did there and a good number of those kids I worked with (none of whom were performers to begin with) went into theater or became teachers or did both of those things! A couple of the kids I worked with there almost 20 years ago (Brooke Shapiro, Chris Brick) still perform with me all the time. I met them when they were 6!
First New York City Apartment: I lived in the NYU dorms through undergrad and grad school. My first proper apartment was in this building called Herald Towers in the middle of Herald Square. It's a massive old hotel. It was located in a horrific area to live, it was way too expensive for what it was, there was a massive roach problem, and I loved it and lived there four years. I was able to live there because I won some fancy and generous musical theater writing awards right out of school. I've always been horrible with money and so I basically spent all the money I won on rent (and mounting productions of my shows and cheese plates) and when the money ran out I had to leave the apartment. I was so sad. On the November night I was packing up four years of memories, I heard the late-night rehearsal for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, which was happening the next day. John Gallagher Jr. was literally singing "I hope you had the time of your life" as I threw out old playbills of concerts of mine starring John Gallagher Jr. It was very surreal. Smash was a documentary.
First Theatrical Experience: Little Shop of Horrors at the Orpheum Theater. I saw it right before the end of its run, I was 6 years and 5 days old and it absolutely changed my life. I vividly remember more about Howard Ashman's production of that musical than I do about 95 percent of the things I've seen since. I've yet to go back to the Orpheum. It's a dream to do a show there. Maybe I'll join the cast of Stomp. If you think I'm a good piano player, you should see me with a garbage can and a monkey wrench.
First Role You Played Onstage: I played the letter E in a kindergarten alphabet pageant. My performance was unremarkable at best. My debut as a songwriter was in an elementary summer theater camp show. I wrote a song called "Muthers R Speshel (Wen Yer Sad)." The lyrics consisted of the title repeated four times through. I've always been fond of repetition. [search for the song on YouTube!]
First Award You Remember Winning: I won the vocal music award at Stratford Elementary school in 5th grade. Mrs. Werring gave it to me. I did not deserve this award (my voice was not very good), but she gave it to me because I was a nice kid and she recognized I was ambitious and musically inclined. She gave me that award and now I'm Broadway. Here's to giving awards to the weird, quiet, scrappy, ambitious kids who show promise and not the Homecoming Kings.
Name: Anaïs Mitchell
Best Book of a Musical and Best Original Score, Hadestown
First Job: I was a diner waitress! It's where I learned to call everyone "honey," man, woman, or child.
First New York City Apartment: I sublet various places in Brooklyn...one memorable one was a room in a house full of musicians. Everyone was practicing clarinet or something; no one was washing the dishes.
First Theatrical Experience: I remember seeing my brother (five years older) play the son of Anna in The King and I. I remember him practicing the line: "Mother, the prime minister is naked!"
First Role You Played Onstage: I played a young "initiate" or acolyte of a goddess character in this community solstice pageant called Night Fires that happened annually in my home state of Vermont.
First Award You Remember Winning: I was obsessed with horses as a girl, and I won second prize in a horse show once... It wasn't my horse, but a neighbor's beautiful piebald.
Name: Gideon Glick
Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play, To Kill a Mockingbird
First Job: Sold cookies at Hope's Cookies in Narberth, Pennsylvania.
First New York City Apartment: East Village, baby! 14th between Avenue A and B. We have '"Rent'' to thank for this.
First Theatrical Experience: I just called my mom to confirm because it's hard to believe, but it was Jelly's Last Jam…when I was 4 or 5 years old…
First Role You Played Onstage: Toto in The Wizard of Oz. We had to pick our parts out of a hat and it was the only part I wanted. Kismet.
First Award You Remember Winning: The Ugly Monster Pageant at summer camp.
Name: Ephraim Sykes
Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical, Ain't Too Proud — The Life and Times of the Temptations
First Job: First job was Abercrombie and Fitch on 5th Avenue
First New York City Apartment: A tiny studio in Harlem that I shared with my best friend...yes, we had bunk beds.
First Theatrical Experience: First theatrical experience was the lead toy soldier in The Nutcracker when I was 10.
First Role You Played Onstage: My first role was Paris in my high school's production called Helen of Troy.
First Award You Remember Winning: The Icon Award my senior year of high school.
Name: Dominique Morisseau
Best Book of a Musical, Ain't Too Proud — The Life and Times of the Temptations
First Job: Dining room attendant at a retirement village in a suburb of Detroit.
First New York City Apartment: In Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn on Greene and Marcus Garvey, and (this most importantly) right across from the Bed Stuy ambulance training center. God, I love Brooklyn. Bed-Stuy was my only NY community for over 15 years.
First Theatrical Experience: Stephanie Mills in The Wiz in Detroit. I was hooked.
First Role You Played Onstage: Blanche de Maletroit in The Sire de Maletroit's Door. No one seems to have ever heard of this play, but I was in 6th grade. It was epic. (Unless you count the "Understudy" in the MLK play in 2nd grade. But who wants to be remembered as understudy for "Speaker #1"?)
First Award You Remember Winning: The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Essay Contest Award in 1st grade. (Side note if anyone cares: I was literally just talking about this. I remember thinking how impossible it was for me to win because there were just too many kids at my school to compete with. When I won, my mouth dropped open. I received the book The Black Poets, edited by Dudley Randall, as a prize. I still have that book as a reminder that it's possible to beat the odds. It also has great poets in its anthology.)
Name: Tarell Alvin McCraney
Best Play, Choir Boy
First Job: My first official job was as an actor. I played the Lord High Chiller in Santa Goes to Oz with the M Ensemble Miami back in 1991, I believe. I know I was around 10.
First New York City Apartment: Never had one. I have never owned or rented an apartment in NYC. Never been a resident. 305 till I die. But the Public put me up in New York for about two months at the Maritime Hotel. I guess they had a donor who donated it. I love that place. I still take meetings and eat there 'cause it feels like home.
First Theatrical Experience: Alvin Ailey's Revelations
First Role You Played Onstage: (See Question 1)
First Award You Remember Winning: I won critics choice for a play I wrote at the Dade County Youth Fair in, I believe, 1999.
Name: Heidi Schreck
Best Play and Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play, What the Constitution Means to Me
First Job: Sorting cherries in a cherry factory — sometimes for 14 hours a day!
First New York City Apartment: It was in Carroll Gardens above a pizza place that really smelled like pizza — really good pizza.
First Theatrical Experience: The Scottish Play, when I was 7 years old, at Oregon Theatre Festival, in an outdoor theatre. It gave me nightmares for weeks.
First Role You Played Onstage: Hermia in A Midsummer Night's Dream. I was 6.
First Award You Remember Winning: 2nd place in the 50-yard dash in the 5th grade.
Name: Andy Grotelueschen
Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical, Tootsie
First Job: Corn detasseling!! Iowa for the win!
First New York City Apartment: Astoria-Ditmars stop
First Theatrical Experience: Timber Lake Playhouse, Mt. Carroll, Illinois. Children's theater. My mom took me every summer.
First Role You Played Onstage: I played a carrot in Peter Rabbit in kindergarten, but my first human role onstage was Joe, a farmhand, in The Wizard of Oz in middle school. Dorothy asks, "Joe, what you figure's over the rainbow?" and I'd say, "I never give it much thought, Dorothy." Then, she'd sing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." It was great.
First Award You Remember Winning: I played in the all-star game one year in little league. I was the final pitcher in a losing effort. But the ump gave me the game ball, and that was a huge win. Except that once I got home, I played catch with it and promptly threw it in the sewer. Don't worry though. My dad helped fish it out. I still have it.
Name: Bob Mackie
Best Costume Design in a Musical, The Cher Show
First Job: Mowing Lawns with a cast Iron push mower
First New York City Apartment: 38th & Park
First Theatrical Experience: I was the Easter Bunny at Bullocks Department Store in Downtown LA.
First Role You Played Onstage: Professor Rigatoni in a grammar school musical that I can no longer remember the name of.
First Award You Remember Winning: The very first Emmy Award presented for Costume Design in 1967.