Hubby's good friend Todd Rosenthal took home the Tony Award for Best Scenic Design of a Play yesterday. Since his category is technical in nature it's one of the awards that was presented earlier that day then the taped footage played during the live evening broadcast on ABC. They showed a quicky 2-second clip of Todd walking to the stage (please excuse my lame photos of our TV screen)
and then a little clip of him getting one sentence out of his speech before they jumped ahead to the next category. UPDATE: you can read his acceptance speech now.
Still, as short as it was it was thrilling and Hubby was yelling and jumping out of pure joy for his friend. Then, about an hour later reality set in.
Hubby used to do the same thing as Todd does now - he was a scenic designer. In fact he was a mentor to Todd when Todd first moved to Chicago years ago. After Hubby graduated from college he co-founded a theater and was self-employed for about 20 years. He won a few Jeff Awards - the regional theater equivalent of a Tony award, he was featured in a Chicago Tribune special on up and coming artists in Chicago and he had a bright, exciting future.
While he loved working in the theater it is a HARD way to make a living - the hours are very long and the pay is nothing to cheer about. I think like anyone in the arts many people that work in theater do it because they love what they do, not because they are making tons of money. After years of working with his own small theater he eventually decided to leave and work independently as a lighting and scenic designer.
Then a few things happened - I guess you could just say that life happened - he went through the emotional and financial upheaval of a divorce, then the tragedy of September 11 and business really slowed down. Things quickly went from being really good to really rough.
In 2002 we decided to get married and agreed that we wanted to have a life together; working in theater makes having a romantic relationship really, really difficult, especially if your partner has a job with conventional hours. Working in theater requires long days, evenings, and weekends. After much discussion Hubby decided to close up shop and go to work for a small millwork studio as their staff designer. He was in his forties and it was time for a change plus we were considering having a family which would require that he was able to be home at predictable, consistent times. In order to do this he knew he would have to give up working on theater design for good. Instead he changed direction a bit by moving into designing exhibits, trade-shows, restaurants as well as acting as sort of a consultant to his employer by drawing on his 20+ years experience in the entertainment industry.
It's an understatement to say that he was worried about the change - he had never had to answer to anyone else but himself. I was worried too - was this the right decision? Was I pressuring him to do this?
It's been almost six years since the big change and he couldn't be happier - he is respected for his dedication, knowledge and teamwork at his place of employment. For once he can count on a predictable and regular paycheck, he has benefits and he doesn't have to wear all the hats he had to wear as a self-employed designer. He has had the chance to work on some really cool exhibits for a Chicago museum that enjoys a worldwide reputation. Best of all, and most importantly, he still loves what he does.
So, while sometimes he may be a little wistful at what might have been and while he may not ever win a Tony award he does have two beautiful, priceless awards that no one else in the world will ever have - he has an Indy and he has an Ander. They may not fit very well on a bookshelf but they do fit perfectly in his heart.