In 1988, I attended an American Theatre Wing panel discussion that featured Michael Crawford, Judy Kaye, Blythe Danner, John Lithgow and B.D. Wong. I was so taken by the discussion of M. Butterfly that I scurried over to the TKTS Booth afterward and purchased tickets to the show, which I would be attending with my father. Following the show, he and I went backstage to meet John Lithgow, as my father had met him back when he did The Changing Room. I was all of 19 years old at the time and when I handed my Playbill to Mr. Lithgow for his autograph, he inscribed upon its cover: For Alicia, We’ll work together soon. John Lithgow.
In 2008, I saw a musical that changed my life: [title of show]. I learned that creativity, perseverance and talent can, in fact, get you to Broadway. Shortly thereafter, I arranged for Susan Blackwell to teach her Die Vampire, Die! creativity workshop at the theatre I was affiliated with at the time. I need to say this: Susan Blackwell is my spirit animal. She has taught me how to unleash my creativity and how to kill the vampires. She is also one of the classiest ladies I’ve ever met. I don’t know if she realizes what a tremendous impact she has had on me. But I think she does.
Also in 2008, shortly after In The Heights won the Tony Award for Best Musical, I braved a virtual hurricane to see my friend Robin de Jesús in his Tony nominated performance. Minutes before curtain, as I raced to the Richard Rodgers in a torrential downpour, I lost my wallet on Manhattan street Despite this unfortunate turn of events, I was blessed to have experienced the original cast perform the work of a fresh, new voice in American musical theatre: Lin-Manuel Miranda. After the show, when I was telling Robin my tale of the lost wallet after the show, Lin stopped by to nuzzle Robin’s neck and posed for a picture.
On Sunday night, my husband and I had the enviable pleasure of attending a performance of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton at The Public Theater. The sold-out run has extended three times prior to its scheduled opening on Febuary 17th. To say it is the hottest ticket in town is an understatement.
When we arrived at the theatre, my husband and I were commenting on how large the stage looked compared to the last time he had been there, which was for another contemporary musical with an historical figure as its focus, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson. I mentioned that I was taken by the size of the space when I went to see Fun Home there last year. He asked me if I saw it alone and I reminded him that I saw it after I attended Susan Blackwell’s full-day creativity workshop in January.
As we sat in our seats reading our programs, my husband leaned over to me and said, “Isn’t that Susan over there?” Sure enough, a few rows in front of us, Susan was taking her seat. It was a little freaky, actually. As much as I respect and admire the woman, I assure you that I don’t frequently find myself bringing her up in conversation.
During intermission, I ran into Susan and we exchanged the brief pleasantries suitable for the ladies room. Afterward, I hastened to the bar to grab, appropriately, an ale to enjoy during the second act. As I placed my order, I looked up and standing there, in all his tallness and grandeur, was John Lithgow.
I shit you not!
I wanted to say, “Hey, remember that time a quarter century ago when you said that you and I would work together soon?” Instead, I averted his gaze and thought to myself, “Oh my God, he’s the Trinity Killer!”
I am going to reserve my review of Hamilton until the show opens one week from today. I will, however, say this: this show alters the landscape of contemporary musical theatre in ways you cannot imagine.
So, to Mr. Lithgow, who gave a young girl the hope that she could have a career in this crazy business of show, I say, “Thanks for letting me believe that I have a shot.”
To Ms. Blackwell, the loveliest vampire killer I know, I say, “Thanks for showing me how to have faith in the words that will allow me to take the shot.”
To Mr. Miranda, the man who has raised the bar for every theatre artist living today, “Thanks for inspiring me to stop throwing away my shot.”
Who lives? Who dies? Who tells your story?
I now know the answer. Here I go.