Monday, November 5, 2012

Ten Tony Winners Talk About The Importance of Voting

I vote (and you should, too) because I recognize that it is both a privilege and a responsibility to do so.  I want my voice to be heard.  I want to know that I am honoring all who came before me who FOUGHT for me to be able to make my voice and conscience count. I believe in the collective consciousness that we share - but we must use every opportunity to express what comes through us as individuals. And what better way to do that than to say, "I believe in this person to represent me, to guide and govern our town, region, city, state, country forward towards being the best it can be..." My vote speaks volumes; together with others, it makes decisions that define our lifetimes.

Donna Murphy is a two-time Tony Award winner for Broadway's Passion and The King and I, and has received additional Tony nominations for Wonderful Town, LoveMusik, The People in the Picture. An Emmy and Cable Ace Award winner, she currently stars in PBS's Mercy Street, and is soon to appear in Hello, Dolly! on Broadway. @DMurphyOfficial

I vote because I'm not a white, Christian, heterosexual male. 
America is my country and my vote is my voice. 

Actor, playwright and librettist Harvey Fierstein is a four-time Tony Award-winner for Torch Song Trilogy, La Cage aux Folles and Hairspray, and an additional Tony nominee for his work on Kinky Boots and Newsies. He is also an Emmy Award winner whose many TV and film appearances include Torch Song Trilogy, Bullets Over Broadway, Mrs. Doubtfire, Death to Smoochy, Mulan and Independence Day, Nurse Jackie, How I Met Your Mother, The Simpsons and Cheers. @harveyfierstein

When I step into the voting booth, I am filled with emotion. The act of voting is really quite sacred to me. I know that people have fought and died for this privilege, and that it is my responsibility to see that these patriots did not fight and, perhaps, die in vain. I am fulfilling the most basic duty of citizenship, and it makes me proud.

Judy Kaye received Tony Awards for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for both Phantom of the Opera and Nice Work If You Can Get It, and an additional Tony nominee for Mamma Mia! and Souvenir.

I'm voting because I can.  I don't like the feeling that something might have changed, something might have mattered, if only I had done one thing – the one thing I can do in this election is vote, and so I'm going to do it. 

In California, while the presidential election is (like New York) not much in question, there are a number of propositions on the ballot that need the support of liberals and urban dwellers like myself. There are also senators and representatives, not to mention judges, who I am going to be living with for a long time, so I might as well have some say now in how they get elected. 

— Composer, lyricist and playwright Jason Robert Brown received three Tony Awards, for Parade and The Bridges of Madison County, and an additional nomination for Urban Cowboy. His additional Off-Broadway and Broadway success include 13, Honeymoon in Vegas and The Last Five Years. @MrJasonRBrown

After too many years of not engaging in political discussions,  I became an American this year.  
Very moving and long overdue.  
And I voted.  
Very moving and long overdue.  

— Toronto-born Joanna Gleason received Drama Desk and Tony Awards for her performance in Into the Woods, additional nominations A Day in the Death of Joe Egg and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. In addition, she received Drama Desk Awards for her performances in It's Only A Play and Social Security Off-Broadway. Her many film appearances include Hannah and Her Sisters, Heartburn, Crimes and Misdemeanors,  Mr. Holland's Opus and Boogie Nights. @TheRealJGleason

It's one of my rights as an American citizen... If you don't vote, you can't complain.

Karen Ziemba received Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards for her portrayal of "The Wife" in Contact and additional Tony nominations for Curtains , Never Gonna DanceSteel Pier and a Drama Desk Award for And the World Goes 'Round. Film and TV appearances include The Producers, Once More With Feeling, Scrubs, all three Law and Order series, The Kennedy Center Honors and PBS’ Great Performances.

The only VOTE that does not count is a VOTE not cast.
Here's to LIBERTY and JUSTICE for ALL!!!
It's the "for ALL" part that will ALL-ways get my VOTE!!!

— Director and choreographer Jerry Mitchell received Tony Awards for choreographing Kinky Boots and La Cage aux Folles. His many Broadway credits include On Your Feet, Catch Me If You Can, Legally Blonde, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Never Gonna Dance, Gypsy, Imaginary Friends, The Rocky Horror Show, You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown, Grease and additional Tony nominations Hairspray and The Full Monty. An Emmy-nominee for his choreography for The Drew Carey Show, he created the enormously successful Broadway Bares benefits for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. @jammyprod

I vote because it is our right and duty to participate. As an African American, voting hasn't always been available to us. It cost blood, sweat and tears for black people to have the right to vote, and we've got to use it in order to make a difference in the United States — and hopefully it will make a difference for the better,  for everyone. 

Lillias White received Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards for her performance in The Life. She has also appeared on Broadway in Fela (Tony nomination), Barnum, Dreamgirls, Cats, Rock 'N' Roll! The First 5000 Years, Carrie, Once on This Island, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying and Chicago, and received Obie and Audelco Awards for her prolific work Off-Broadway. An Emmy winner for Sesame Street, her screen credits include Hercules, Anastasia, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Game 6, Pieces of April and Then She Found Me.  @diamondlillias

I vote because it is a privilege.
Democracy is not something to be taken for granted. 
My family in Cuba doesn't have this luxury.
I vote because NOT voting equals silence/apathy/disconnection/disrespect, and I don't want anything to do with those.
Voting is an honor.
My voice is important, and so is yours. 
Voting is how we speak and participate in politics.
I vote because I can.

Alex Lacamoire received Grammy and Tony Awards for his groundbreaking Music Direction and Orchestration for Hamilton and In the Heights. His additional credits as Music Director, Orchestrator, Music Supervisor and Arranger include Broadway's Dear Evan Hanson, Annie, Bring It On, Wicked and High Fidelity, national tours of Godspell, Legally Blonde and Captain Louie and Off-Broadway's Bat Boy: The Musical. @lacketylak


I like to vote. It feels good.

I have an early childhood memory of election night. Much to the delight of my parents, I hatched an impromptu campaign, making a spirited and ridiculous speech. I railed as the opposition candidate. Even for a five year old, he was an easy target. My acting style has been greatly informed by Texas politics. I shook my fist and banged the ethereal podium.  But the quixotic desire to amuse my parents did not evolve into a life-long love of politics. The passion faded and was only slightly rekindled by a high school civics class.

The first election in which I was eligible to vote, I saw as a rather dreary right of passage. Yes, I wanted my guy (of course, it was a guy) to win. But I went into the booth, a jaded Iphigenia, not quite believing that this action would affect change or have any consequence. 

I continued to vote in this way for many years. Until one year, I ignored the polls all together. I even had a candidate I liked, but I was out-of-town working and hadn't bothered with an absentee ballot. I returned home after the election, and was spending the weekend with one of my dearest and most admirable friends. As we cooked dinner in his upstate kitchen, he said, "I hope you voted." I admitted that I hadn't. He took a pause - the pause of a second with the half-life of a century - and said, "You must vote." The son of concentration camp survivors, my brilliant and generous friend was gently schooling me in responsibility. And I realized voting was my duty as a friend. What I think may matter, what I do matters more. My vote is an attempt to fulfill not only my wishes but what I wish for all of my friends and neighbors.

Years have passed since that dinner and as they have, the love of my friend and the longing to vote have deepened. They are inextricably linked. I look forward to my lonely walk to the polls. Whether it's a private act with public implications, or a public action performed privately, I don't know. But it is exciting either way. Placing your vote is opting in. Your vote builds community and ultimately defines the character of the individual and the country. 

Harriet Harris received Drama Desk and Tony Awards for her performance as "Mrs. Meers" in Thoroughly Modern Millie. A Drama Desk nominee for her Off-Broadway work in Bella, Belle of Byelorussia and Jeffrey, she has also appeared on Broadway in Cinderella, Cry-Baby, Old Acquaintance and Four Baboons Adoring the Sun. She is best known to TV audiences for her roles on Desperate Housewives and Frasier. @MsHarrietHarris

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Gamechanger: Ilona Royce Smithkin

"At my age, everything I see is twice as beautiful."
- Photo by Mike Schreiber,

In 2005, Kinetoscope, a film in which I appeared, screened at a film festival in New York. Also featured that night was a documentary, Ilona, Upstairs, about one of the most exceptional women I've ever met: 92 year old Ilona Royce Smithkin. 

An acclaimed painter and portrait artist whose subjects have included Tennessee Williams, Ayn Rand and Bobby Short, her landmark TV series, Ilona's Palette, established the instructional painting genre on PBS and was followed by Painting with Ilona (which spawned a companion book by the same title) and Finishing Touches with Ilona. She continues to paint and maintains studios in both New York and Provincetown. 

In recent years, Ilona's emergence as a chanteuse, style icon and modern-day oracle has inspired admirers ranging from David Bowie and Dita Von Teese to Cee Lo Green and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.  In fact, she has grown so popular from appearances on The Today Show, CNN, LX-NBC and on the StyleLikeU and Advanced Style wesbites that I'm lucky to have her to myself once in a while!   

Here, the indelible, long-lashed "fairy godmother" shares her views on a variety of subjects. In her own words, "I'm well aware that I'm here for a very limited time. Since I've discovered who I am and that I have something to give, perhaps somebody else can benefit from what I have learned." 

"I handle difficulties with amusement."
- Ilona is pictured in the Japanese fashion magazine, Maquia.

Each individual
has been given limited strength and energy - no more, no less.
If you take that precious energy and piss it away, that's one thing -
but if you hold on to it and utilize it, that's quite another.
The choice is yours.

They are no shortcuts in life -
and that is something nobody wants to accept when they're young.
You only learn through the bad times.
The good times you take for granted and waltz around -
but the bad times really make you think!

You can't dance at two weddings
with one derrière! 

"I feel such a new stream of love and life at this time,
it's almost like being reborn."
- Ilona flirts with the media at an Advanced Style party.

Sometimes just a sentence 
can pull you out of the darkness.

There ain't such an animal!
Sure, we want to get better,
but if we are too fussy about being perfect,
we take our precious time and destroy what it is we do have.

Just as in painting - you have to know when to step back from a canvas and let it live.

My grandmother used to say,
Never throw out an old rag 
before you have a new one!

 "If you're oblivious to the little things, you miss a lot." 
- Photo by Laura Revercomb

In der Kürze liegt die Würze!
(In shortness is the spice!)


 "Der mensch rennt nach dem Glück. Das Glück rennt hinter her." 
("Man runs after happiness while happiness runs behind him.")
- Ilona lives it up at Vanity Fair's StyleLikeU book release party.

Our expectations can mislead us.   
We have a certain idea we've been dreaming about, an ideal - 
and when that doesn't come through the way we imagined, we're disappointed.
But we're not open to what may be standing on the next corner! 

What you need as a lover
is someone very calming.
Someone who knows their way and will accept you smilingly,
but who also calms you a bit and has things in hand -
like sunshine you can bathe in without being burned.

The lovers you have that just take?
They'll grow non-existent.
The ones you learn from?
Those you'll remember!

 "To like yourself should be natural, but it's actually an art." 
- Ilona basks in the limelight at The Lake and Stars fashion show.

When people ask,
What made you change and suddenly come into your own?  
I can't say "such-and-such happening produced it."
It's actually step-by-step. 
Each life experience - the good, bad and intermediate -  
develops you more and more  
if you're aware, if you permit it, if you look more deeply -  
instead of just walking by and accepting it.
It is a very slow process of recognition. 

It's wonderful thing to realize
you have something to give.
 It's your job to discover what it is - that's your treasure!

Don't ever forget: 
Take time to rest - no matter if you're young.
You need some time which you give yourself as a gift... better than chocolates! 

 "Most people don't hear the raindrops - just the trumpets.
- Ilona as pictured in Time Out New York

For more information about Ilona and her work, 
please visit Ilona and Friends and join her Facebook page
If you have a favorite quote you'd like to share, 
or a comment or question for Ilona, 
please enter it below and we may feature it in a future blog.