So, seat-filling starts when you arrive at Radio City Music Hall at 4 PM. That's right, four hours before the telecast begins. Plenty of time to train, stretch and warm up before you have to run around the orchestra from seat to seat. There were roughly 150 seat-fillers, so there was plenty of time to meet new people and chat about what we do in show business and how we got to the Tonys. I met a few new folks and saw some familiar faces from the Theatre Intern Network.
Once the telecast began, there was a mad dash to fill any empty seats. Seat-fillers were practically bouncing off the walls trying to beat the cameras, which I think of as the "spectator sport" aspect of the Tonys. Throughout the telecast, as nominees got up to accept awards the seat-filler captains signaled to seat-fillers where they needed to sit. Many lucky seat-fillers got to fill in for winners and get some on-screen time.
Now, time for some name-dropping. Last year I filled Sophie Okonedo's seat when she won Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play for A Raisin in the Sun. She was seated in the second row, directly behind Estelle Parsons and Orlando Bloom, my favorite Hollywood couple. I'm not sure what was going on in the press room, but Ms. Okonedo didn't come back for about an hour and a half, so I got to sit back and take in some amazing onstage moments. Lucky me!
What was really lovely from my seat was getting to overhear Estelle Parsons chatting with another seat-filler and Theatre Intern Network member about what he does. Gianfranco Lentini was interning with Playscripts, Inc. at the time and Ms. Parsons was so sweet asking him all about it. That's what the best part about seat-filling is: being surrounded by folks you've only ever seen onstage and finding out that they are ordinary people makes the theatre community feel less like an exclusive club and more like a welcoming family.
This year I was seated directly behind Laura Michelle Kelly and Tommy Tune, and in front of John Cameron Mitchell, and there I stayed for the whole telecast. Being a part of Broadway's biggest night, surrounded by performers, directors, producers, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera (I'm really glad The King and I won), was such a thrilling experience that I was lucky enough to have thanks to the Wing. The American Theatre Wing has amazing resources they make available to budding theatre professionals. For me, the Theatre Intern Network has been incredibly important in making connections among other young theatre folks. I have managed to intern at companies like Primary Stages, Boneau/Bryan-Brown and the American Theatre Wing itself over the past few years, and none of these would have been possible without the connections I made through TIN.
For more information about the Theatre Intern Network, visit americantheatrewing.org/tin.