I want to write about this because I want to process it and get it out of my brain and yet I’m also hesitant as I don’t want to come off as over-important or anything of the like. But maybe some of you will find this interesting or familiar. At the very least, it will be mildly amusing, I hope.
Tonight I had the great honor of winning the 2016-2017 B. Iden Payne award for Outstanding Lead Actor In A Comedy for my performance of Magnifico in La Fenice’s Death race Inferno. From the moment I found out I was nominated to…well even still now, I find the whole experience surreal and interesting. Whenever I’m nominated for something like this, I’m always excited and honored but I try very hard not to get to hopeful. You’re up against talented people and odds are that it will not be your name that gets called. So you try to be cool. Frosty. Zen. But there’s always that part of your mind that goes, “Ah, but wouldn’t that be cool…but I mean probably not. Forget about it. It’s totally an honor just to be nominated. But wouldn’t that be cool…no, no, stop it.”
In the weeks leading up to the ceremony, your brain occasionally wanders to “So what would I say if I won? Don’t be an ass. Don’t be so presumptuous as to construct a speech or something. But I mean, you should be at least mildly prepared, just in case, right? An actor should always be prepared! Now I feel kind of douchey. Nothing wrong with getting a general idea!”
Now I also had the honor of being nominated last year for playing Orin Scrivello D.D.S. in Little Shop Of Horrors, which I didn’t win. I mean, there’s been plenty of other awards I didn’t win, but I say that to say that I was specifically acquainted with not winning a B. Iden Payne. The lead up process was pretty identical. And again, you try to let it go and not be too attached to it, but when that name isn’t yours, I firmly believe that no human is so zen as to not be at least a little bummed. Last year I at least had the extra boost of happiness that my friend, Jonathan Itchon won and I was legitimately happy for him while being a little bummed for myself. So this year, I really tried (unsuccessfully) to detach. I’m a pretty zen guy and stuff like this doesn’t ever really get to me on anything more than a shallow, very temporary level, but still, there’s always that part of you that wants to win. To be recognized for the work you create so passionately from your soul.
The night finally arrives. Thank the universe I can stop thinking about it at all after tonight. The same battles wage inside. Trying not to care. Knowing you (not so secretly) want it. My category is about half way through the night. Such…a…long…time (not really). The moment arrives. They read the nominees. My name is first on the list. “Heath Allyn as Magnifico in Death Race Inferno by La Fenice.” Silence. Not a single clap. Oh god. I’m humiliated. Everyone hates me. Oh wait…that’s right…they specifically asked that no one applaud until all the nominees were read. I’m an idiot. Oh crap, they’ve read all the nominees, I should be clapping now. Well, here goes nothing. Brace for impact. And the winner is…WHAT? THAT WAS MY NAME! I THINK. I was sitting with Aaron and Genevieve (cast mates from the show) and Aaron grabs me. Maybe says something, I don’t remember but it’s apparent that it was definitely my name they said. I get up, probably looking completely stunned and in shock, though elated (A woman would later tell me in the lobby that she was sitting behind me and could feel my energy as I got up). The applause seems like the most clamorous din I’ve ever heard. I’m humbled and a bit overwhelmed. Man that is some thunderous applause. Now, of course, I know that the applause would have been there regardless of the winner but in that moment, just as the previous silence had been deafening, so seemed this applause and I felt like I could fly.
I make my way to the stage and jabber like a speed freak for a bit and make a fool out of myself (in the absolute best possible way, i.e. being pure me). I race along worrying about taking up too much time but also knowing I’m a verbose guy who always has a lot to say and trying to remember what important things I want to say. Or what utterly silly things I want to say. Tomato, tomato. I get emotional. My voice starts shaking. I have no idea what reality was, but in my mind, at least, I finished strong and got off the stage.
I was greeted by Kate and other well wishers and I hugged and gave thanks and floated through this strange dreamlike haze, probably seeming like a shock victim. I had some photos taken. Actually drank a glass of champagne (I never drink). Sat down for a minute and collected myself. After the massive adrenaline rush, I crashed hard and had a headache and felt exhausted but I stayed for the remainder of the show and mingled with all the amazing, talented people there. Eventually I made my way home and picked up some celebratory Whataburger.
I’m still buzzing. processing. Humbled. Honored. Elated. I don’t know exactly what I said in my acceptance speech, but I do know some major themes that are important to me that I want to reiterate here. Winning this award for this show is particularly meaningful to me for so many reasons. This was a collaborative show where we all created it together. We all created our characters, our own dialogue. I had such a strong vision and mission for this character, so that makes this even more special. I’m so thankful to La Fenice for first inviting me to play with them all those years ago and continually inviting me back. And for this show, for specifically wanting me for to create role. So much so that they didn’t say “Here are the dates, are you available?” They said “You have to play this role. When are you available?” I hope I lived up to the faith you had in me and this award is definitely all of ours as Magnifico would be very little without everyone else and their brilliant characters, writing, set design, props, et al. It was truly a 7 way collaboration. A completely original, crazy, wonderful show.
I would be terribly remiss if I didn’t thank my mother who was in community theatre before I was born, and was immediately toting my bassinet to rehearsals as soon as she was able. She has always supported me in everything I did or wanted to do and never pressured me to “Go to college,” or “Get a job.” She always allowed me my own path and supported it with nothing but love.
And then there’s my standard “awards” manifesto that I’ve written on several occasions and at least paraphrased at the ceremony tonight, but I feel it’s important. Every time these (or any) awards come up, a lot of people feel hurt or left out, and that sucks. I’m certainly not anti-awards. Celebrating and recognizing excellence is not a bad thing, but I always say to let those kinds of things be the dessert and not the sustenance you need to feel full or validated. Keep you head down, do good work and let that be the reward. Let the journey, the honing of your craft be what drives you. And if you’re lucky enough to be nominated or to win, yes, enjoy the hell out of it. Be grateful. Just don’t let that be the end all be all or let the lack thereof trigger your ego into thinking you aren’t a talented, amazing being. Because for every one person up there giving an acceptance speech, there are countless unrecognized geniuses and virtuosos out there. Maybe some are your friends. Maybe you know a few in passing. Most you’ve probably never even heard of. Enjoy your dessert but let the work itself be your sustenance.
If you’ve actually read these 1400+ words, then a) I’m surprised as hell, b) That means more to me than I can say as well and is its own reward. I feel like I should give you an award for that. I hope this doesn’t seem self-important, or…
Whatever. Enough self-conscious, self-deprecating disclaimers. This is me. I have shit to say. I know this isn’t life changing, or “The Oscars” or what-not and all my troubles and problems still linger as much as they did before tonight, but this does mean something to me. And I’ll enjoy the extra dose of happiness while I eat my dessert. Thank you. To the universe, everyone I’ve ever worked with, all those who continue to repeatedly work with me, and you. Yes you. I love you.