Twenty-One Tony Awards!
Twenty-One…..that is how many Tony Awards Hal Prince has won. More than anyone else. Producing, directing and special awards were the categories. He has always been a hero of mine, and as I was watching the PBS special about him recently, I was struck by several of the things he said.
First, he traced his theatrical career from beginning to present. Then, he provided a kind of “blue print” for what a director does. (He said that is the number one question he receives…probably from “non” theatre folk.)
His big hits include PAJAMA GAME, CABARET, A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC, PACIFIC OVERTURES, FOLLIES, EVITA, THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA and many more. Some of his shows were not hits at all…..and his wife advised him to change his vocabulary from “Hits and Flops” to “Successful and Not Successful.” She encouraged him to celebrate his artistic successes even if the shows lost money and closed early.
Here are some of the things that I thought were very special:
- He talks daily to the collaborators about the project. Asking questions, bringing up topics that may be uncomfortable, sharing research and of course, planning. I got the feeling that he really wants everyone to not only be on the same page, but stand up for their opinions and at the same time, as well as encourage everyone to have an open mind.
- He brings on the designer (usually set designer) early in the collaboration. As he “develops” the musicals, he wants…almost needs….to have an environment in mind. For example, in SWEENEY TODD, the designer created a world that looked like a factory. So, Prince told his actors to imagine they were in a sweat shop, in dirty, smelly London. That decision was part of his concept from the beginning.
- When he first started producing Broadway musicals, producers only got paid after the show recouped the initial investment – which could take months after opening, so to make money to support his family, he was one of the stage managers of the show. He tells the story of opening night of PAJAMA GAME – he was backstage in his tuxedo (ready for the opening night party) but had no tie on because he was calling cues for the show.
But mostly what I learned from this television special was his grace. He expressed gratitude for everyone and everything. And he revealed an inspiring ability to pick himself up after some big flops. That is something we all can admire and I can certainly learn from.