I’d like to start by saying that it’s been almost a month since the Tony awards, and I’m still mostly completely satisfied by this year’s results.
I 100% believe that Tony Shalhoub deserved his Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical. As much as I loved Ethan Slater’s performance as Spongebob and would have been emotional and proud as hell to see him win the Best Actor Tony, I think Tony deserved it. His performance as Tewfiq was beautiful. Just watching him act the hell out of watching Katrina Lenk perform across a table from him is some of the strongest, subtlest work I’ve ever seen in a Broadway performance.
The Band’s Visit also rightfully deserved its Best Musical, Best Book, Best Score, Best Actress
and Best Featured Actor wins.
Now before you start throwing things at me and leave in droves… please hear me out. Do I wish the awards were more spread out to give Spongebob awards for costumes, sound design, and direction, and given Frozen more than just nominations for the triple crown categories? Absolutely. Do I wish that this season had more original musicals that weren’t based on existing properties or music artists’ catalogues? ABSOLUTELY.
Every Tony season, Stan Twitter comes out in full force to support their faves. Stan Twitter is the subset of the theatre fandom that are mostly young teenagers and young adults who latch on to shows and cast members they are obsessed with and post about them constantly, fan- worshippingly at times. (The term Stan comes from an Eminem song about a stalker named Stan, though it could also be a portmanteau of stalker and fan. I consider myself a Selective Stan, with only a few absolute faves and lots of spread-out general appreciation for shows.) Stans don’t always live in New York or have easy access to see the shows they obsess over without resorting to bootlegs.
There are good Stans, who make stuff for their faves to give to them at the stage door, or buy their faves Schmackary’s, or most importantly, treat their faves with respect and kindness!
There are, upsettingly but not surprisingly given the impulsiveness of today’s youth, bad Stans. I’ve seen or heard of Stans who stalk or follow actors’ cars as they leave the theatre, Stans who constantly tag their faves in Every. Single. Post. They. Make, and Stans who bully other people in the fandom for having an opinion that isn’t theirs. Bad Stans are my very least kind of theatre people to interact with, online or otherwise.
After this year’s Tonys, I went onto social media to post my thoughts and immediately saw tons of incredibly negative, mean Tweets and Instagram comments directed at the Tony winning cast and creatives of The Band’s Visit.
Someone in the Spongebob fandom said that Tony voters are stupid because they didn’t give Ethan a Tony because he does the most difficult choreography and singing of the nominees and Tony Shalhoub won for doing almost nothing. (!)
Someone in the Mean Girls fandom called Best Book Tony Winner Itamar Moses a “fugly cow” just because he beat Tina Fey (!!)
Someone said that the only reason The Band’s Visit swept is because the majority of Tony voters are old Jewish people. (HELLO ANTISEMITISM!!!)
The negative comments about The Band’s Visit mostly came from young people, who either had never heard of it until Tony night or failed to do research on all the nominees and focused all their energy on hyping their favorite show. To take all their anger out on the winners - and often tagging their faves who didn’t win in their posts haranguing the winners - is rude and immature.
I’ve followed show fandom rivalries around Tony time for years now – Kinky Boots vs. Matilda, Something Rotten! vs. Fun Home, Great Comet vs. Dear Evan Hansen, and now The Band’s Visit vs. everything else nominated – and every year the catty comments, cyberbullying, and rude behavior gets worse. It just keeps happening, and that makes me sad. As far as I can tell, all the nominees supported each other through the month of Tony voting. I’m certain Ethan Slater is a fan of Tony Shalhoub’s work. I don’t think actors, who try to be kind on and off stage, appreciate it when you tag them in a post belittling and insulting other actors who they consider equals. (It’s even worse when you take your opinions and insults and direct them at other people in other fandoms… especially if you have never interacted with them before. Just randomly getting a reply from someone saying “you’re wrong, so-and-so was better and you’re garbage for not agreeing” hurts.)
If only Stan Twitter, so obsessed with Mean Girls, could actually take away the lesson I got from Mean Girls: don’t be a Regina. Be a Damian. Love and respect all the theatre instead of bullying and belittling those you don’t agree with. Don’t drag your faves into your angry posts.
And most importantly… DON’T STALK ACTORS.
(Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images North America