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Ep8 – John Benjamin Hickey (The Normal Heart – 2011)

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Unknown Speaker 0:00
Hi, i'm john benjamin Hickey and you're listening to and the Tony goes to

Unknown Speaker 0:07
magical guy with a special guest Have you ever dreamed of winning a Tony Award? Did you ever practice your Tony acceptance speech in the bathroom mirror? Did you grow up watching the Tony Awards every year? Do you have a collection of Tony award shows on VHS tape that you refuse to throw out? Well, then this is the podcast for you. Every week I interview your favorite Tony Award winners. And together we go down memory lane as my guest share intimate and never before share details about their Tony experience. By the end of every episode, you're going to feel like you just went to Tony. Welcome to the Tony goes to. I'm your host Ilana Levine welcome today's Tony winner, john benjamin Hickey.

Unknown Speaker 1:07
The American Theatre Wing Tony

Unknown Speaker 1:09
goes to

Unknown Speaker 1:13
john benjamin Hickey.

Unknown Speaker 1:20
Thank you so much. This is such an amazing honor. Thank you American Theatre Wing and the Broadway League. To be included on a list with these other actors is and to be a part of this season in New York is such an incredible honor. Being a member of the ensemble of the normal heart has been the greatest privilege, proudest moment of my career. We we love this play. We

Unknown Speaker 1:42
love doing this play. We

Unknown Speaker 1:43
love supporting the mighty mighty Joe Mantello. And this is for all of us. Thank you Joel gray for bringing me on board and knowing that the time was now. Thank you, George seawolf forever so gently taking us all by the throat and dropping us into the mouth of the cannon. Thank you Darrell Roth for making it all possible. Wendy orsha Jeff Wilson, Heidi and Ron, everyone at 101. Thank you to the aptly named Tim sage and everyone at paradigm. Thank you Laura Linney and Michael angler and everyone at the Big C who all got me to the stage door on time every night. I so appreciate it. Thank you to Laurita Hickey, my mother and my family in Plano, Texas. You better not be watching the Mavericks game. Thank you to all of my friends who are here and who are in here. Thank you to my wife and my wonderful and my exceedingly patient Geoffrey Richmond my partner. But mainly thank you to Larry Kramer, the great badass of the American theater.

Unknown Speaker 2:44
john benjamin Hickey

Unknown Speaker 2:46
iolanda. Well,

Unknown Speaker 2:51
do you want to say anything?

Unknown Speaker 2:52
I want to say I'm sure others might have said this. That's the first time I I have heard that. The only other way I've heard that is Laura Linney was in Connecticut watching it that night with two of my oldest friends from Texas. And she instead of filming the camera, she turned the camera around and filmed them react to buy and speech. So that's the only way I've ever I've ever heard or seen it. Wow, it really does take me back. And it made me incredibly proud and also made me a little bit want to throw up.

Unknown Speaker 3:34
What What is it? Like? If you can recall, the moment you heard your name, like just take me through from your beautiful face sitting in the audience and somehow you had to get your body onto that stage? Can you kind of walk me through what that was?

Unknown Speaker 3:51
Well,

Unknown Speaker 3:53
in my case, you know, you really do want to win. I mean, nobody know. Few very, very, you know, saintly people who don't really care about that, but if you're if your name is in that mix, you of course want to win. And I did want to win and I kind of heard I not Didn't you know reading any papers or do anything I was working a whole lot of time we were doing the play and I was also shooting the Big C so I really stayed away from all the handicapping for fear of reading something good or something bad. But I had an like people that said oh, this might happen for you and and I wanted it and then I got there I sat down in the theater and I was sitting right behind alpa Chino, and my first thought was like, I can't win an award in front of an outfit. No. He doesn't want to hear me give a speech. And my and I really was like, Oh my God, please call anybody's name but my own I got really nervous and I've taken a beta blocker and everything. My partner turned to me and said, Are you okay? It's like, I've gone very white. And then by date, Viola Davis came out and she's an old friend of mine, and of course, somebody I love and admire so much. And I was like, oh, okay, well, that would be cool if she called my name. And then she did. And, and I was prepared. You know, I had a little at least I have the names of the people I wanted to thank. But my regret is, is that I handed I said to VI, I don't think I would have said this to anybody. I didn't know. Like, if Julie Andrews was giving me the Tony, I wouldn't have said to her, Will you hold my Tony? Well, I give my speech. And, and I wish I'd been holding the Tony as I gave that speech. But, you know, once I got up there, I had prepared enough to where I didn't come, I wouldn't and didn't completely fall apart. Because so many people I know, who have won over the years have said had said to me, you're going to get up there and you're going to completely lose your shit. So have it together as best you can. And they were right.

Unknown Speaker 6:08
I feel like when I watched the speech recently, it was like a speech written on something the size of a postage stamp, like you have the

Unknown Speaker 6:18
little piece of paper, and like an index card. That's all I had. And I just had like people's names like, you know, the producers name, and then Joel Gray's name and George Wolf's name and just to kind of get myself like wrote marks, you know, and when it was the evening was over, I was leaving the theater. And somebody who was sitting next to me not alpa Chino, but somebody was sitting right near me came up to me and said, You left this on the floor under your seat, and it was that index card. So I'm glad they returned it to me. I hope I still have it somewhere.

Unknown Speaker 6:52
Oh, I feel like it should be framed like in your bathroom. Exactly. Exactly. And to do that, tell me what playing Felix Turner meant to you?

Unknown Speaker 7:04
Well, I mean, you know, we're having this conversation. I'm not sure when it will air but we're, it's okay to say that we're having this conversation today. After we received the news that we we lost Larry Kramer and I really thought even in the world that we're living in right now. I really was so profoundly shocked because I, I seriously thought nothing would ever get him. I just was one of those people who would never die. You know, I think so many of us felt that way. Like, nothing will get that guy. Death is not good enough for him. And, or he's too good for death. You know what I mean? So, so losing him yesterday has made me reflect on that play and getting to play that part. And I've been texting with Patrick Breen and Lee Pace and Joe Mantello and Ellen Barkin, and a lot of the cast and all of us were saying like it was a perfect experience, doing that play at that time with that group of people, and having Larry be so omnipresent. And being outside the theater every night, handing out flyers about where we are in the fight against this epidemic, this calamity, this pandemic was just it was like Lee paste what we back and said it was the perfect experience. And you know, it's so weird, because when I say to people that that was the most fun and the best time I've ever had in the theater, and there's like, Oh, yeah, well, that's Yeah, you won the Tony for that. And I was like, cut that. So outside of the when I think of it, I don't think of that. That's not you know, that has as much as I loved getting that honor. You know, it kind of had nothing to do. It had nothing on getting to do that play. And I think we all felt that way. So it was it was the ride of a lifetime. And it was the role of a lifetime. I had such a great, amazing and tragic journey in that play. That getting to do that every night. Weird. It's weird to say this, but it was so much fun. It was so much fun to get to be in such a sad play.

Unknown Speaker 9:17
Well, I had the privilege of being at the original reading that Joe gray directed, which was a fundraiser. Talk about that reading, and then how that reading turned into the production, which literally felt like to those of us who are friends with you like a second later. Like I felt like I saw the reading. And then I was at your opening night with no time in between, which isn't literally true, but almost true.

Unknown Speaker 9:43
Yeah, it certainly felt that way doing it in, in my memory. That's it completely. It's all been conflated into one kind of very, very Hot Cheeto moment in time. Yeah. And so quickly, you know, I'm not really right for that. apart on paper, he's like a, you know Felix Turner is like a young, stylish, maybe, um, stylish. You know, whatever the he's a lot of ways they describe him at that play. I did not feel that. That's who I was.

Unknown Speaker 10:19
But who did you see when you say that? Or when you read the character description, like cast it for me what what did you envision in your head?

Unknown Speaker 10:27
Well, dw Moffett, who's an old friend of mine, and a great great actor, and he played it originally in at four or five at the public with Brad Davis. And he was feeling so he was in his late 20s, then it's always been playing it someone in their late 20s Matt bomer played it brilliantly in the movie. Oh, God, I thought he was just amazing in the movie. And you know, Matt, it's like a matinee idol. He's so he's so gorgeous and so gifted. So I felt like a like, oh, you're kind of asking a character actor to play this part. But it was, I think that was, I don't want to take any credit away from Joel because I think it was partly Joel's idea as well. But I think it was Joe Mantello, who's an old friend of mine, ours, and had directed me in love valour, compassion many, many years before and other plays a play with Viola Davis. And he was like, I'm going to do this reading of the normal heart. Joel's asked me to do it. And Joe, Joe had basically really stopped acting. I mean, he hadn't done anything since Angels in America. And he said, I think you should do Felix with me. I, you know, I don't even know if you're that right for but I think we would have a lot of fun being partners in that. And one of the things that I thought we could bring to it, and hopefully we did was, there was a chemistry between me and Joe just being old friends. And they seemed like partners, the way we played it, you know, they seem like they really did belong together. And they were contemporaries, and they were equals. I'm patting myself on the back by saying I'm equal to Joe and acting because he's such a great, great actor. But you know what I mean, we're just as far as this being the same age, we were contemporaries. And so we did the reading, and it went really well. And Ben, I don't know, it was like, within the next six months, Daryl Roth wanted to produce it just as a very small kind of almost concert like, experience for the audience. I mean, I think we sort of saw it, like maybe like The Vagina Monologues, you know, like we'd all be on concert stands with scripts, and people would be able to kind of rotate like, I was shooting the big scene at the time. So I might only have been able to do two or three nights a week. So they alternate actor, Wayne Wilcox to not as an understudy, but as a as an alternate Felix. But very quickly, once we started rehearsing, and we only had 10 days rehearsal with George Woolf, Joe wasn't available at that time, because he was doing anything goes it very quick, quickly became aware to all of us that, Oh, this is not just going to be a reading, this is going to turn into a production, because it's it just so grabbed you by the throat that play that it was impossible not to fully invest in it.

Unknown Speaker 13:21
So so so can you explain that a little bit meaning when you first started, you described the idea of it's sort of love loss and what I wore, or some version of different actors coming in and out. Was that going to be on a Broadway stage originally, was that always the location for it?

Unknown Speaker 13:41
It was always the intention, and the destination was Broadway. And right off wonderfully intrepid Daryl had had raised the money. And I think everybody signed on knowing that it was going to be maybe a rotating cast, maybe, maybe, you know, not off book holding, holding books, and music stands. And then a couple of us, and I think I might have been, I might have been one of them, came to it. And very quickly, we're off book and I had Patrick green was coming from LA. And he didn't really know that he really thought it was going to be a music stand situation. And after the first two days of rehearsal, he was like, holy shit. together right now. And Joe, I would walk home from 890 Studios to to the West Village, every night with Joe and Ellen Barkin. And Joe was like, well, you guys might be off book, but I'm not going to be off book. So I'm just letting you know that when we go in front of an audience, for the very first time, I will be holding the script, because there's no way I can learn all this. And you know, not so slowly but very, very shortly. Joe was off book just a few days later. It really was that kind of a thing. And at the end of every Either day or every other day, George would make a sit in a circle, just chair and chairs in a circle and read and say the play to each other. And in we just, you know, we just learned it. So it turned from one thing into another very, very quickly because as I said, there was only 10 days of rehearsal. And almost imperceptibly, like, I think if you had told us that this is the way it was going to be, we all would have fucking freaked out, we would have just walked out.

Unknown Speaker 15:29
But it is so slowly does furniture appear one day in the rehearsal studio? I mean, it was a very sparse and spare and beautiful set. And all the names on the walls. I mean, it was it was haunting in in its originality and beauty in terms of the design concept. But how did you suddenly slip into locking and fully realizing this production? And what happened to Wayne?

Unknown Speaker 16:03
We, I remember furniture really didn't completely appear. And until we got into Tex at the Golden on Broadway, and there was only two days of text, by the way, usually, were a straight play. There's at least a week of tax. Yes. And and there was only two days of text. So it really was like Williamstown. It was like it was like summer stock. I remember Mike Nichols ran into Joe, very late in our run, like in the last week or so have I run a run? And he said to Joe is like is it falling apart yet? And Mike had seen it and loved it so much. And and Joe was like, Yeah, I think we're all starting to wobble a little bit and losing our lines. And Mike's like, that's the that's the downside of not rehearsing for three weeks or four weeks. You get shot out of a cannon and that adrenaline feels great and seems like Oh, look at this, we really don't need that rehearsal. But what you're missing is like a really sound Foundation, you know, a structure, which I just thought was really interesting. Yeah. not advocating only 10 days of rehearsal. Right. terrifying. But we we started to see that it was a, like you said a very sparse thing. But there were chairs and there was a desk, and there was a hospital bed. Or a gurney at one point. I at the end, it was George's idea that there was no bed for me to die in. And I was going to die standing up and I was like, Okay, well, how that happens work. And as far as Wayne Wilcox, who's such a wonderful actor, I mean, you know, I think it was a little bit of a bummer because he was like, God, those guys the Big C are really letting you come to work every night. Yeah, I know, dude, I'm sorry. But I was also in a position where I was like, I'm not missing one moment of this. And Laura Linney was my champion. I mean, Laura, who of course, you know, her life is the theater was like, we're gonna make this happen for you. And, and there were nights where I would get on a train in Stamford, Connecticut, where they were filming that at 636 15 and be at Grand Central at 724 or five, and have to basically run to the theater because you can't get a cab. You couldn't, you know, take the the shuttle, I would just get to the theater at like 734 and I was on stage at 740.

Unknown Speaker 18:29
That sounds so stressful.

Unknown Speaker 18:31
Yeah, it was really stressful. It only happened a couple of times. I mean, I've made it a little apocryphal. I'm now you know, Elaine Stritch has that story where she was in New Haven in New York where she was understudying Ethel Merman. I've turned it into that for myself. But if I only that only happened to me a couple of times.

Unknown Speaker 18:48
Okay, it didn't actually happen, but it could have happened.

Unknown Speaker 18:51
Yeah, exactly. Exactly.

Unknown Speaker 18:53
So then, you guys are are in the, in the presence of the great Larry Kramer. And I wonder, you know, all of us who got to see the show, got to really experience him standing outside the theater, as you you know, talked about earlier, but what was it like? Was he in the room with you guys?

Unknown Speaker 19:14
Well, I I I can say I was gonna say I can say this now that he's gone. But I I would have said it. I mean, we would laugh about it. You know, Larry is a very famous agoraphobia is a fear of heights. Yeah, right. agoraphobia. I think agoraphobic is fear of heights. Yes.

Unknown Speaker 19:38
I think that's fear of being out in the outdoors. Outdoors. Yeah.

Unknown Speaker 19:44
So Larry was afraid of heights. Yeah. And he had a gore phobia and he had any head fear of heights. And so we rehearsed on the fifth floor of 890. So very won't go above the third or fourth floor. So we Have them in rehearsal. And I don't think that was by design. But I think we felt some sense of relief that we were getting to kind of do it. You'd never want to play right around 24 seven, you know, especially when it's somebody who's formidable and as scary as as Larry could be. So we rehearsed it without him. And then once we got into the theater, he was there so much of the time and was so Oh, he was just amazing, because he was loving what he was seeing. He loved the company. And he loved getting to see his play, go to Broadway. I mean, think about it, you know, he's this play, which was this masterwork. And a play that was defined kind of a generation had never had never had anything but an off Broadway success. Right. And, you know, this was this was, after all that talk, you know, for many years, I don't know if you remember all through the 90s. There was talk of Barbra Streisand was going to direct a movie of it. And it's it's all fell apart. And so I think Larry thought, well, that this play will I will never see this play have that kind of success in my lifetime. Not only did he see this Broadway revival be so successful, he got to see that wonderful movie.

Unknown Speaker 21:20
So Agra phobia

Unknown Speaker 21:22
agrifood. Yeah,

Unknown Speaker 21:25
I think it's accurate, anyway.

Unknown Speaker 21:27
Yeah, yeah, I knew it was close to that. But I also knew I was wrong.

Unknown Speaker 21:31
And that's what I love about you. Admit it, you will admit when you're wrong, I get close to it. But don't

Unknown Speaker 21:39
I? So yeah, it was amazing to have him there. And then, of course, once previews started, and none of us knew that Larry was going to do that, it's just, we would talk to people who saw the show the night before. And, and people would start talking about the fact that, you know, when I left the theater, Larry was standing outside handing out flyers about where we are in the fight of this plague. And it was like, This, again, I'm trying to look for the right word, meta, whatever the thing was, like, you saw this play about this character, who was, you know, a Cassandra, like standing on top of a mountaintop screaming his lungs out? And then you left the theater? And there he there was the real thing?

Unknown Speaker 22:29
Yes,

Unknown Speaker 22:30
no. I mean, it was just a crazy, a crazy thing for the audience to experience. And, and as if you didn't already go through enough, watching that extraordinary play you. You walked outside and there was there, the real was crazy. But what

Unknown Speaker 22:51
was incredible about that moment is as an audience member, you sort of felt slightly, I mean, you've been through something and then very satisfied with yourself for having seen this play. Yeah. And then you got outside. And this person was saying, don't be complacent, it's not enough to see my play, this is still happening. And so he turned theatre audiences, into activists in that moment. And it was, and it was such an extraordinary thing, which was, it's not enough to see other people talking about it, you must still fight the fight. And it was, I mean, it was a little like getting splashed in the face with really cold water, right after coming up, you know, you're sobbing, none of us could get out of our seats for a long time. And I want to know what that was like to be doing, you know, to come out for a bow to an audience that, you know, could not move, because they were so deeply, deeply shocked and saddened. And I'm blown away by by the performances that felt so real, it felt like watching a documentary, it was an extraordinary thing to behold, it really, it really was,

Unknown Speaker 24:07
it was such a amazing thing to be a part of that as well. And I just want to say that you articulated that thing about Larry and what he was doing afterwards. so eloquently because Larry who had a massive ego and loved being in it was the most stylish human being I've ever been around. so incredibly chic, and, and it was like a movie star. So it's not like the attention, the attention, but it wasn't about him going out. It wasn't about him standing out there. So you could tell him how great his play was. It was about him telling you what you now can do. You know, so that that was that was Larry in a nutshell, it was like, you know, both of those things at the same time. Doing that play and listening to an audience, collectively, you know, fall apart It was it was really incredible. You know, it was 30 years after we had been through it. And there were so many young people who hadn't been through it. So it was like this extraordinary history lesson for them. And for those of us who had, it was like, there was just something about the time, the time was right to unlock that, that, you know, that incredibly stored away, padlocked box of grief and emotion, and you could really feel it, you know, about halfway through the play is when everything starts to really fall apart. I mean, the thing you don't realize about the normal heart is is really, really funny. And the character of Ned weeks, the Larry character is a real asshole. And, and, and it's like, something out of like a Jacobean tragedy or a comedy. He's so hilarious in his pigheadedness. And then, and then you start to see their worlds fall apart. In it, it starts Lee Pace, played a character who describes, he plays Bruce and he's describing, trying to get his lover who's dying on and off of a plane. And the kind of the entire plane turns on him that they won't come near him, and he starts to shoot himself on the plane. And story came to describe it without breaking. It's, it's the most horrifying story. And Lee did it so beautifully. And you could hear the audience start to go, you could hear them start to lose it. And I remember one night, there was a woman in the audience who, who sobbing was it was like a kick, she started to clean, you know, she just started and you could hear it was like, you could hear that she had not gone there since that time. And it was, and we would all come off stage. That night, especially I remember Jim Parsons. And Patrick, people came offstage. And we're just sobbing just like they could, because of what you heard happening to the audience. So there was that we got to collectively feel those emotions with the audience. And it also turned us into very big drinkers. You weren't already, I mean, and also we traffic and a lot of real gallows humor, you know, we weren't afraid of, of making fun of ourselves and, and each other, there was the only way you could get through it. And by the end of the run, we there were these wonderful pieces on the show. And we would make like kamikazes or, or, or, you know, very strong cosmopolitans, and they just be in shock glasses, and we'd walk offstage and take a shot of whatever liquor was in store that night, just to kind of like, take the edge off. And that's what I think I mentioned that earlier. It's so it's so weird to say this, but when something is that, it's, it was really fun. It was really, I've never had more fun doing a play. Because when you're in something that good that's having that much of an effect on an audience. It's just a dream come true, isn't it?

Unknown Speaker 28:13
Yeah. And I mean, honestly, you know, having seen you more recently in the inheritance, it was pretty incredible to be in an audience again, where, especially at the end of the first part, really, really felt like that, again, this new generation, being taught in this very elegant way. where their freedoms came from, how the how the war was fought, and it felt like a real tribute and couldn't have happened. Without the normal heart having come before without Angels in America. I mean, the things that had to be part of the canon of great American plays that honor our community in that way.

Unknown Speaker 29:02
Love valour, compassion, you know, yeah. Just also last week, we were losing real Titans. You know, Barry gurmann.

Unknown Speaker 29:11
It's been, yeah.

Unknown Speaker 29:13
And I think Matthews plays a beautiful tribute to the to that generation that came before. He's very much his own voice. But he is very much on record as saying I owe everything to Larry. And it's echoed in that play. You can feel that in his play. It has a very generous spirit, the inheritance and it was for me, that extraordinary thing to get to kind of like, oh, oh, wow, I got to be in this generations version of what my generation has already done. So I felt really lucky.

Unknown Speaker 29:52
Yeah, yeah. You you Well, I don't know if it's lucky. I think this is a career earned with such a Incredible integrity. And I wonder when you think about Felix Turner, the character that you played and the character for which you won your Tony award?

Unknown Speaker 30:11
Do you think about him? Yeah. Like, like, Can you just talk a little about that?

Unknown Speaker 30:18
Yeah, you know, we never knew who he was, Larry would never tell anybody who he actually was. There are a few people that they feel like it was based on there was a writer for The Times, then who wrote the style section, who, if I remember this correctly, who was gay was closeted, who was not dealing with the situation, you know? Because he could, because the times could, you just didn't write that way back then. You know, 3040, short years ago, you couldn't be the style editor of the New York Times, and be out really insane. So, you know, Felix was, all of the other characters in that play are very, very much based on very identifiable real people. Felix was a was a real person to Larry, but he was a composite of a lot of people who lived and died in that time. And you know, the fact that Larry, it's, it's an incredibly romantic and heartbreaking play, because Larry makes the face of death, the physical, tangible face of death, in that play, being the thing that he finds, so too, almost too late in life is love is great love. And they only have a short year together. And that was just, it was just heartbreaking to to get to play that person who, who really did seem like he was conjured from Larry's imagination. And that, you know, like I said, I got to, I got to really do a great journey that because he starts out to play incredibly robust and full of strength and life. And you see that completely taken away from him. Yeah, that was amazing. And also, you didn't get to you get that there's that amazing scene that we're Ned throws the carton of milk up against the wall. And it kind of goes all over my clothes. My shoes smelled like spoiled milk. For the entire last half. Nobody would even come near me. If they're just the physical. You know, stuff that you got to go through in that play. It was like, it was like getting to be, you know, in a boxing ring. I've never been in a boxing ring. But I would imagine that's what it would be like.

Unknown Speaker 33:00
Yeah. Yeah. Well, congratulations.

Unknown Speaker 33:05
Thank you very much.

Unknown Speaker 33:07
You're welcome. I want to ask you a couple of things before we finish. Okay. All right. Who did you bring to the Tonys?

Unknown Speaker 33:16
My partner Jeff Richmond and my agent at the time. Tim sage. What did you wear? I wore a tuxedo by I think it was by Dolce and Gabbana, and I loved it so much. And I was like, well, I won. Surely they're gonna let me keep this thing. And I got a very lovely thing of flowers from the people the fine folks it Dolce and Gabbana, and a card saying we'll be here to pick up the tuxedo tomorrow afternoon and for those like,

Unknown Speaker 33:47
thanks, thanks. I'm now Cinderella

Unknown Speaker 33:52
lasted

Unknown Speaker 33:53
Well, I'm sure you've had other beautiful tuxedos since my friend. Where do you keep your beloved Tony,

Unknown Speaker 34:02
I keep it in New York in like a study or guest room, whatever it's called. And it's, you know, sitting right next to my partner Jeff wrote Modern Family for many years and Frasier and so he has got that guy's got like a shitload of enemies. And it's sitting right next to an enemy. And you know, an enemy really looks like it could beat up the Tonio going to eat or Pierce with one of its long, sharp tongs, the poor little perfecting Tony Award, but I say to Jeff all the time, everybody knows it takes about 15 Emmys to make a Tony. So you've got a ways to go before you pick up.

Unknown Speaker 34:42
There you go. john benjamin Hickey, you are a glorious artist and incredible friend and one of the most beloved people in the theater community and beyond. And thank you so much for coming on the podcast today.

Unknown Speaker 34:57
Thank you, I would say all of those things right? Could you so thank you so much for having me old friend.

Unknown Speaker 35:03
You're welcome. Before this episode ends, I just wanted to share with you that john recorded for me and for you to hear the very end of his Tony's speech that we didn't play at the beginning of this episode. It is his tribute to the late great Larry Kramer. So in his own words, here's john benjamin Hickey, sharing the end of his Tony Award speech that Tony that he won for playing Felix Turner in the normal heart. Here's john.

Unknown Speaker 35:35
Mainly, thank you to Larry Kramer,

Unknown Speaker 35:37
the great badass of the American Theatre,

Unknown Speaker 35:40
whose play 30

Unknown Speaker 35:41
years later reminds us that the war is not over.

Unknown Speaker 35:44
Those of us who are still standing Larry can never repay you. Thank you so

Unknown Speaker 35:48
much.

Unknown Speaker 35:54
And the Tony goes to is produced by Alan Seales for the Broadway Podcast Network. The music and lyrics for the theme song were written by Georgia from Noosa theme song Orchestration by Alexander stage oyen episodes are edited by Derek Gunther. Thank you to parody bill for the graphics. And please don't forget to go to the iTunes Show page and rate and review the show. Thanks for listening excerpt from the Tony Awards used with permission of Tony Awards productions

When Ilana, host of AND THE AWARD GOES TO.. had the privilege of talking to John Benjamin Hickey – the winner of The Tony Award for The Normal Heart- it was the day after Larry Kramer had died so it was so timely and beautiful to have this conversation while John was still processing this news.  John first came to the role of Felix Turner in a  reading  for charity directed by Joel Grey.  The reading was so successful that very quickly a production was mounted this time directed by George C. Wolfe. His friend Joe Mantello encouraged John  to take on the role for the original reading with neither of them ever imagining that as best friends they would go on to be such glorious and devastating scene partners in the play when it  went to Broadway. With only ten days of rehearsal the play was mounted for a full Broadway production with the original idea that different actors would play the roles with a rotating cast perhaps even with scripts in hand but then a few of the actors started to learn the lines very quickly and it evolved into a more traditional production with Ellen Barkin, Jim Parsons and an all star cast. Plus … some incredible words of wisdom shared by the great  director, Mike Nichols.

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