This was Tom Viola, executive director of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, modestly and amusingly taking the podium June 12 in the Manhattan Room of the InterContinental New York Barclay Hotel to collect a special Tony for Excellence in the Theatre. This Tony Eve cocktail party, hosted by the American Theatre Wing, spotlighted this year's special Tony Award recipients — The Eugene O'Neill Theatre Center, Marian Seldes, Sir Alan Ayckbourn and David Hyde Pierce, the latter two winging from London to receive their awards on the telecast the following night.
There was also a heavy cloud of NYPD blue in the room — winners as well: The Tony committee opted to honor the men of Midtown North and South Police Precincts "for ensuring the safety and well-being of the millions of theatregoers and tourists who visit Midtown Manhattan's Theatre District, as well as those who work in the Broadway community."
The ceremony was sprinkled with a lot of working-actor stardust — Jan Maxwell, Katie Finneran, Chad Kimball, Montego Glover and Tony host Sean Hayes. They were easy to spot. They were the ones standing around, looking decorative, sipping glasses of water with twists of lemon and lime, between their matinee and evening shows. The Avis vans that transported then from and to their respective theatre bore the message: "Congratulations Tony Award winners and nominees. We love it when people try harder."
Viola, who started on a modest note, carried it to a touching level: "I want to thank everyone here for making a place for Broadway Cares in the midst of this incredibly creative, collaborative, contentious billion-dollar business. And the fact that my name can be inscrolled on this is really just a small part of that which you honor in all of the Broadway Cares year after year. The incredible opportunity you have given me to have a meaningful life, truly, means more to me than you can imagine.
"At the Tony luncheon, where I realized I needed to buy a decent suit, they gave us these little cards that said 'Describe your life in six words.' I sat there and didn't hand it in. But, truly, I can end by telling you those six words. 'Fortunate, grateful . . . to work . . . with you.' And there are four more: 'Thank you very much.'"
— Harry Haun