I do not know how many people watched the Tony's on Sunday. One of Jamie's former students had the fortunate pleasure of getting to watch them live. We were appropriately jealous.
During the award ceremony, the Tony's recognized Melody Herzfeld with the 2018 Excellence in Theater Education award. Herzfeld is the theater teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL. During that horrific school shooting, Herzfeld hid 65 of her students in her office for two hours until authorities could lead them to safety.
Since the shooting, she has had many students who have felt compelled to speak up and use their voices. "Every piece of beautiful theater is truth and I think that when a child or a student that is 14 to 18 years old is given permission to tell their truth, they'll sing it from the top of the car and they'll sing it from the top of the roof." She has further seen how the students she has worked with over the years have turned to art and music for therapy, to help them navigate through the tragedy. And she was instrumental in encouraging her students Sawyer Garrity and Andrea Pena to finish their song "Shine," which has become an anthem for the response, performed at the CNN Town Hall meeting organized in response to the shooting and at the March for Our Lives Rally in Washington, D.C. "They have to do service hours, they have to be philanthropic, they have to dedicate themselves to a cause. This is what we do not in America. So it was very natural for them to cling to this idea that we can be healed through the arts."
With the award, Herzfeld also receives $10,000 prize for her theater department and she was able to see her students receive a standing ovation for their performance at the ceremony.
On the recognition, Herzfeld stated "During a normal given time, I would say that I am truly humbled and grateful for this recognition for the work I have done, however the way that my students have taken to action through speech, performance and passionate honesty it now means so much more. My work is being reflected through my students, as it is every day with every arts teacher around the world."
The theater students chose "Seasons of Love" from the musical Rent for their performance at the ceremony. The song is a perfect choice for our current times, as it is an anthem of love from a musical about resilience. Five hundred, twenty-five thousand, six hundred minutes. That's all we have. The number sounds huge, but they fly by more quickly than we could ever imagine.
Why not fill them with love.
Watch the students' performance here:
And watch Melody Herzfeld's acceptance speech here: