Special Reports

5 Revelations From the Tonys Press Room, From Helen Mirren's Future to Kelli O'Hara's Potty Mouth

It was a night of big reveals behind the scenes at the 69th Annual Tonys.

On Tonys night, the obvious place to be is in one of the 6,015 seats at New York City's Radio City Music Hall. But, of course, most of what happens there is televised and the stars are (mostly) on their best behavior. The place to get a behind-the-scenes look at the Tonys action is in the press room. Not only do the stars stop by after their wins, but the ladies and gentlemen of the press are also privy to a special feed from the event which includes the presentations of nontelevised awards like those for design — presented, this year, by 2014 Tony winners James Monroe Iglehart (Aladdin) and Jessie Mueller (Beautiful — The Carole King Musical).

TheaterMania's evening among the stars found us loading up on Tony-winner trivia — and more than a few tiny sandwiches. Here's what we learned:

1. We could use more women working in the theater.

(© David Gordon)

In the press room, one of the most consistent themes that emerged throughout was the representation of female artists on Broadway. Several women, including Fun Home creators Lisa Kron and Jeanine Tesori and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time director Marianne Elliott, were honored for their contributions. And while the mood of all of the night's female winners was festive, there was also a pervasive sense that there's much work left to be done in making a place for women in the industry: While Alison Bechdel hasn't "checked on" how many shows on Broadway pass her famous Bechdel Test, one journalist assured her it wasn't many.

"Statistically, [the number of women working in theater] is ten percent better than it was — in the not-for-profits, anyway," Kron told the room, but "it's still unacceptably low." That's a problem because, as Tesori put it, "You have to see it to be it."

"When I was growing up I didn't know any female directors," said Elliott. "I assumed that you had to be a man. I assumed that until I was about twenty-eight when I thought, Oh, I guess I'll give it a go."

"[Our awards are] a huge deal y'all because its two-thousand-one-five, and it's time," Tesori chimed in, and Kron put a button on the conversation: "People take chances on men based on their potential, and people take chances on women based on their accomplishments, so hopefully this will make people look at women and see their potential."

2. Helen Mirren isn't shy about wanting an EGOT.

(© David Gordon)

The Audience's Best Actress Dame Helen Mirren may be a first-time Tony winner but she isn't shy about hitching her wagon to a much loftier star. Just minutes after delivering a heartfelt acceptance speech before all of America and the regal Radio City Music Hall (a stage fit for the queen that she is), Mirren came strolling back to the press room ready to take on her next hurdle in the world of awards. "I really want a Grammy," she said.

Already an Emmy and Oscar winner, the taste of the EGOT was almost as vivid as that of the vodka gimlet she came in sipping. "I'll have to do an audio book of some sort," she clarified, lest anyone should wait with baited breath for a Helen Mirren solo album with guest tracks by Kanye West. When asked if she had any specific plans for her award-winning recording project, she replied, "Not at the moment, but I'm thinking about it." So you heard it here first, folks. Future Grammy winner Helen Mirren is ready to take the audio universe by storm. The one thing standing in her way seems to be the intoxicating allure of Broadway. "You come out and the streets are packed with people," she said, describing her magical experience working on the Great White Way. "And there's the Naked Cowboy…It’s so fun!"

3. Big winners Curious Incident and Fun Home could become movies.

(© Joan Marcus)

While the guests in the press room are just as much a group of theater nerds as the attendees in the audience, they're also journalists in search of the next big scoop. After hearty congratulations to the creators of Curious Incident and Fun Home, the many noses for news in the room started asking big questions, like, "Is there a movie in the works?"

In both cases, the answer was a rumor-baiting "There could be." Curious Incident director Marianne Elliott coyly explained that Warner Brothers has the rights, so "that's up to them," while the producers of Fun Home are "open to" a film. "Alison [Bechdel] will often say," said producer Kristin Caskey with a chuckle, that after she wrote Fun Home she was "often approached about a film but liked the idea of theater because if it was bad it would just go away."

But with five Tony Awards under Fun Home's proverbial belt, maybe Bechdel will be ready to put her life on the silver screen.

4. Ruthie Ann Miles was almost a dentist.

(© David Gordon)

Ignore everything your Little Shop of Horrors cast albums taught you. Ruthie Ann Miles is here to say, "Don't be a dentist." This is one nugget of wisdom she offered her past self in the press room after accepting her award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for her performance as Lady Thiang in The King and I. Apparently, if she had gone the route initially set out for her, she'd be cleaning teeth in a sterilized office humming "Something Wonderful" quietly to herself instead of performing it at Radio City Music Hall. While she thanked the Broadway gods for instead bringing her down the theatrical path, she also gave a shout-out to her mother. "My mom is everything," she said through tears. "She was a single mom. She worked three jobs but she pushed me hard." Looks like all that hard work is paying off in spades (and fortunately for Broadway, not in root canals).

5. Kelli O'Hara self-edits her language…sorta.

(© David Gordon)

When you've just won your first Tony Award (especially on your sixth nomination), emotions are running high. But that's no excuse for foul language, at least for Broadway's classiest act, Kelli O'Hara. Over the years (10 since her first nomination, to be exact) she's learned to replace her saltier phrases with words from that most expressive of languages, Yiddish. "She's a very strong independent trailblazer, and I want to be like her," O'Hara said, describing The King and I's bold protagonist…"Chutzpa is what I was told to say instead of balls." Good thing you kept that one to yourself, Kelli.

As for her sweet dance moves, those can't be edited — particularly when they're part of a hard-won victory celebration. One reporter asked for the jig's official title. "I see why you're asking," O'Hara responded in all earnestness, "because it was really professional-looking. That's called 'Shuffle Off to Buffalo.' I thought they were gonna tap me off so I thought I'd beat them to it."

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Closed: June 28, 2015