ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: I Won an IRNE!

News   ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: I Won an IRNE!
 
A week in the life of actor, radio host, music director and writer Seth Rudetsky.

Seth performs Deconstructing Broadway.
Seth performs Deconstructing Broadway.

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I won! First of all, let me say that for weeks I had "The Teddy Awards" written on my iPhone calendar. I could not remember what the H it was. Was I hosting? Nominated? I did a search of all of my emails and couldn't find any mention of it. I Googled it and saw that is was a gay/lesbian award…in Berlin. Was I nominated for my piano playing on the German tour of A Chorus Line in the early '90s? Why did I write down "The Teddy Awards"?

Finally, I realized that I was referring to [AUDIO-LEFT]the Independent Reviewers of New England Award, for which I was nominated. I had thought it was so hilarious that the acronym was the "IRNE" and therefore basically unpronounceable. I finally found out it's pronounced "Ernie" but I had put it on my calendar as the Teddy Awards because it reminded me of the awards ceremony that Mary Tyler Moore was always going to on her show. Remember? One year, she doesn't hear the name of the winner and Rhoda tells her she won but she didn't? And she goes up to the stage? Hilarious and devastating. Anyhoo, I wanted to travel to Boston for the ceremony but I had a read-through of my new Disaster musical on Monday and couldn't make it up there in time. I sent a speech to read in case I won and, turns out, I did! Deconstructing Broadway won "Best Visiting Show" for when I did it at SpeakEasy Stage Company. I wish I had seen my speech read, but this is what I made the representative from SpeakEasy read:

"Hi, everyone. It's Seth writing on my laptop because, unfortunately, I had to be in New York tonight. Let me first say 'Yay! I'm so excited I won. If that 'yay' seemed a little low energy it's because the person reading it didn't convey the energy I wanted to express. Perhaps he or she is tired after a long day. Let me also say thank you so much for voting for my show. If that 'thank you' seemed a little disingenuous, yet again it's because the person reading it wasn't able to convey my gratitude and perhaps he or she has difficulty in his or her own life saying 'thank you.' Finally, let me give a big thank you Speakeasy for bringing me up to Boston and if any of you missed my show, I'm happy to say I'll be doing it all summer long at the Art House in Provincetown. Hopefully, the reader of this speech conveyed my internal desperation for an audience and my annoying penchant for self-promotion. Peace out!"

Now, on to the next piece of business: Attention theatre audiences — stop applauding at the end of scenes! I can't take it. I went to see The Normal Heart, which was phenomenal in so many different aspects — which I will relate — but first, let me address my initial comment. There were so many incredible scenes that ended with me riveted and wanting to bask in the various emotions that were stirred, but instead, because there was a blackout, some idiot in the audience felt "When there's a blackout, we must applaud." No, we mustn't! It was so infuriating. There was electricity in the audience that no one wanted to break, but then the idiot, or idiots would start their crazy clapping and the rest of the audience felt the peer pressure and joined in. Stop! Have some sense of theatricality! That's right, I've had it.

Joe Mantello in The Normal Heart
photo by Joan Marcus

Now, back to the show. It was so fantastic for many reasons. First of all, the history lessons were fascinating. The fact that no one knew what AIDS was at first, yet people kept dying. I remember talking to Dick Scanlan, who wrote the book/lyrics to Thoroughly Modern Millie, and he told me how scared everyone was in the early '80s when they were trying to figure out what the disease was and how people caught it. He remembered one theory about people getting it at discos when their sweat flew onto someone else. In The Normal Heart it makes it so clear how the mayor refused to address the disease as more and more people literally died in the city that he was the mayor of. How President Reagan, the so-called "Great Communicator," didn't even mention the word AIDS until 20,849 people had died in the country that he was the president of. It's so shameful, I'm mortified writing about it. The play is by Larry Kramer and it describes how he founded, and was ultimately kicked out of, the Gay Men's Health Crisis. Joe Mantello is fantastic playing the play's version of Larry. The character, Ned Weeks, is so angry and bombastic (basically the reason why he was kicked out of GMHC) yet Joe is able to play so many layers of him. After I lauded him in an email , he wrote me back that he had seen the original production back at the Public Theater and it stayed with him ever since. "That's why I'm up there on that stage every night," he wrote me. I have to say the whole cast was so good, I wish there was a Best Ensemble Tony Award. Ellen Barkin portrays the doctor based on Dr. Linda Laubenstein who, at one point, was seeing more AIDS patients than anyone in the world and she developed the chemotherapy combinations that are still used to this day. There's a scene in the play that gave me one of those theatrical experiences I'll always remember: the doctor is addressing the National Institute of Health, the leaders of which have decided to deny ample funding to AIDS research despite the fact that within two weeks of the Tylenol poisoning case (where seven people died) $10 million was spent. Ellen Barkin lashes out at them in such a brilliantly scathing yet devastating way that I had the same reaction I had when I went to the ER with a finger infection. In 2003, I was doing Rhapsody in Seth, where I had to play Rhapsody in Blue, and I had this infection on my finger that was getting worse and worse. I finally couldn't sleep and went to the Roosevelt Hospital ER. The doctor told me she would take care of it but the anesthesia would hurt, so I could just skip it and get right to the lancing. When she cut it, it hurt so much but I was so happy to have it over that I was crying and laughing at the same time. Ellen Barkin's diatribe against the National Institute of Health was so scathing yet oddly hilarious that when she yelled her last line I sat in the blackout literally crying and laughing just like I did in the ER. The Normal Heart makes you realize how much impact theatre can have and how incredibly important it is for everyone to have access to it. What a difference it would make if everyone could see the struggle those early AIDS pioneers faced and how bravely they overcame the incredible obstacles put in front of them not only by the government by their own gay community. Go see it ASAP!

Don Richard and Jen Cody
photo by Peter James Zielinski

Speaking of AIDS organizations, I went to see the Easter Bonnet Competition. So many great moments, but of course one of my favorites was Jen Cody and Don Richard as their Urinetown characters dishing Broadway. They came out in hazmat suits and Officer Lockstock said, "Well, Little Sally, after a long absence, we have been asked back by BC/EFA to head their new disaster response team. We are here to help prevent any disasters before they hit Broadway." Jen responded, "Too late." Then, I loved the fact that Jen is married to Hunter Foster yet has no shame dishing him. At one point, Officer Lockstock offers a way to protect audiences by asking if they should find "a large, empty space where people can find shelter." She asks, "How about Million Dollar Quartet at around 8 PM?" Hunter literally stars in that show! Brava future marriage counseling. I love my latest Obsessed video because I did it with my old friend, Traci Lyn Thomas, and we re-hashed stories from the last 20 years, including her Les Miz audition where she tried to end Cosette's song on a Mariah Carey whistle tone. Horrifying. Yet she got cast! Watch I here:

It's now May, which means that "Seth Speaks," my new radio talk show, is about to debut on Sirius/XM! Tune in this Sunday from 5-6 PM (ET) on the Stars Channel (107) for my premiere episode. If you don't have Sirius/XM, you can get 30 days for free by going here

PS, I got sassed by a Tony and Emmy Award winner on Twitter. I posted: "35 min on stair climber! I want to look 1970's skinny for my Disaster Movie Musical. 23 days to go." I got mostly laudatory comments and then Andrea Martin posted: "Someone might want to commit to more than 35 minutes, if you get my drift. But good for you." Sass! Speaking of Disaster!!!, I had lots of the actors over at my apartment to read the script for the first time. One of my co-writers is Jack Plotnick and he was "at" the read-thru on Skype. It was so modern-age. The only mind-boggling part was when we all saw the computer moving around on his end and we finally realized he was taking us with him…to go pee. Wow. Tip o' the hat to Urinetown? I'm just glad he didn't double book the read-thru and a colonoscopy. Regardless, the script got so many laughs. Now we just have to finish it. Ouch. Nonetheless, I'm very excited about the show! You can get tickets by calling (646) 336-1500. And now…peace out!

(Seth Rudetsky has played piano in the pits of many Broadway shows including Ragtime, Grease and The Phantom of the Opera. He was the artistic producer/conductor for the first five Actors Fund concerts including Dreamgirls and Hair, which were both recorded. As a performer, he appeared on Broadway in The Ritz and on TV in "All My Children," "Law and Order C.I." and on MTV's "Made" and "Legally Blonde: The Search for the Next Elle Woods." He has written the books "The Q Guide to Broadway" and "Broadway Nights," which was recorded as an audio book on Audible.com. He is currently the afternoon Broadway host on Sirius/XM radio and tours the country doing his comedy show, "Deconstructing Broadway." He can be contacted at his website SethRudetsky.com, where he has posted many video deconstructions.)

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