Unplugged

I’m not sure people are really aware of just how much we rely on technology today.

As a former and future outdoor professional, I already knew how liberating a week without technology could be. After all, you can’t take your iPad on a backpacking trip through the Arizona canyons or Virginia wilderness. You can take your phone, but it won’t work in the backcountry anyway. Even a satellite phone is spotty and expensive. That’s reason enough to only use it for emergencies. Some of my fondest college memories came when I was unplugged in the wilderness. I was alone with my co-leads, my trip mates, and nature. Who needs a movie when you can lay in a sleeping bag on slick rock looking up at stars so bright and vast that it brings you to tears?

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Who needs a TV when you have this? (Arizona)

I didn’t make the decision to unplug for a week in a day. It was over the course of several weeks that it dawned on me I was relying FAR too heavily on technology. My main enemy, ironically, was the Olympic Games.

Once every four years (two years, really, but it sounds a lot cooler saying ever four years) I splurge for the outrageous installation fees and first-time payments so that I can have cable and DVR during the two-week-long Olympic Games.

To many people (my parents, probably) that is an absurd reason to spend $200. But for an Olympic hopeful, it’s completely logical. Actors, after all, will attend other shows to fine-tune their craft. Film stars, I assume, go to the movies to support their fellows and to gain knowledge. It’s no different with athletes. The Olympics are our endgame, and so there is nothing that will keep us from watching them. I went so far during London 2012 as to schedule time off of work so I could watch the quarterfinals, semifinals and Olympic final of the women’s soccer tournament. It’s a good thing I did, too. I neglected to take the day off after the women’s skeleton races during Sochi, and I was emotionally affected by it five hours later at the start of my shift that I had trouble concentrating on my tables.

But I digress.

After two straight weeks of almost 24-hour television (seriously, it was on almost straight through the night), I was burnt out. Actually, after only a week and a half of the Games, I realized I just was not enjoying having cable at all. I love the Olympics. I love television (I’m a hard-core fan for a few shows, I’ll admit). But (and I know many of my former English teachers will shudder for my using ‘but’ as the beginning of a sentence) after two years straight of no cable, the sudden intrusion of it in my life was overwhelming. I couldn’t take it.

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My last photo before unplugging

The final straw was the Oscars. I’m a big film buff. I didn’t used to be, but I’ve developed some friendships that have lead me to this point. As an intelligent adult, I’m able to see deeper into a film than when I was a child, when my movie-going experiences was pretty much, “Oh! [Insert actor's name] is in it! Shiny colors! Pretty locations! Good story!”]. Now, I enjoy watching the films nominated for the major awards: Best Picture, Actor, Actress, Director, Supporting, etc, and because I watch a majority of films being honored, I become invested in how they get recognized.

So there I sat, watching the Oscar telecast while scrolling through Twitter on my phone to track what other people were saying about Ellen’s pizza deliveries and John Travolta’s second straight year of butchering a name. At the same time, I was texting two or three different people. I also was on my iPad, browsing through a few websites. All at the same time.

My generation has excellent multi-tasking skills online…but that’s overkill, folks, and I knew it.

A week earlier, I had made a statement on Facebook that I was “…seriously considering a week (at least) away from technology, excepting emergency and personal phone calls, and maybe once-a-day email checks. This will come post-Oscars, but I’m thinking it’s 95% inevitable.” I stuck with that decision, and unplugged first thing Monday morning.

Little did I know how difficult it would be that first few days. As a regular user of the website tumblr, where a person can “track” a tag of something they like (the Olympics, USWNT, Frozen, Jessica Chastain, Veronica Mars are some of my tracked tags), to give up technology the day after the Oscars meant not seeing a million adorable posts, “gifsets”, and pictures from the event itself that make me go “awwwwww!” I do that frequently on tumblr, and to suddenly be stripped of that was difficult.

It is human nature to wonder what it is like to be someone else, and I’m no different. I like tracking celebrities, actors, athletes. It’s a guilty pleasure, and I have no qualms in saying here that I enjoy it (to an extent…I don’t support people or their children being harassed for a paparazzi photo, for instance, and I have been inspired by actress Kristen Bell and her crusade to introduce a No Kids policy with entertainment media). As early as Monday afternoon, I actually caught myself going on Safari and pulling up tumblr (having temporarily deleted the actual app from my phone and iPad to avoid that exact thing). It was ridiculous, and happened so fast that I was actually scrolling the page before I realized I had done it.

That was it. I shut down my iPad and stowed it in a clothes drawer. I switched my phone to airplane mode and shoved it into my purse. I knew I’d bring my phone with me if I drove anywhere, in case of emergencies, but that was all. I didn’t even take it to work.

What happened throughout the following week was rather remarkable, in that it was such an ordinary week that it was extraordinary. It’ll make sense, I promise.

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The stack of books that accompanied me through the week. At the time of this blog, I’ve read three of them.

I ended up jotting down some thoughts in a notebook throughout the week, and I’ll share them now, exactly how I wrote them (retyped, because my handwriting was illegible).

Day 1:

Bored, listless. Cheated already.

1 episode of TV

Started and read cover-to-cover The Book Thief

Day 3: Caught myself peeking on FB/Twitter, but found I was actually wholly uninterested in statuses.

Day 4: Caught myself thinking as Facebook statuses & tweets. Literally would shape thoughts to tailor to a Facebook status. Who cares? –>The thoughts were forgotten and deemed unimportant within a few hours.

Day 5: Want to look at headlines.

“Miss” family and friends but knowing how easy it would be to get in touch with family, if I needed to, helps.

Self-importance:

Things that happen in my day aren’t important to broadcast.

Not really looking to get back on FB-Twitter full-time. Maybe 1-a-day scan?

Cleaning out e-mail spam…unsubscribed from at least 12 mailings in the first 3 days (I checked e-mail once a day until about Thursday, when I did it every other day.)

Day 6: Found myself more occupied at work than I am with my phone nearby (shocker)

Spent less $ than when I had internet constantly

Forgot about taking my phone places

Falling asleep earlier, waking up earlier.

Yesterday, when I rejoined the world of technology, I immediately wrote the following Facebook status:

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I was immediately hit with seven messages (and two texts) saying that I shouldn’t delete my accounts, that my posts would be missed, and that people are interested in seeing what I’m doing. First off: I’m flattered, you guys, and I understand that in this day and age, technology and social media are how acquaintances, friends, family stay in touch.

After a week of not sharing every detail of my life, however, I realized that I’m actually a private person. I enjoyed having my anonymity for a week, and I could logically see myself phasing myself away from social media; specifically, Facebook. I am by no means a public figure. I don’t have paparazzi following me everywhere, but there are enough people who are interested in how I live my life that I feel the need to protect the private parts of my life. I don’t mind sharing things with my family. Really, though, even my family doesn’t care what I’m eating for breakfast or what my political views are.

I have an unofficial athlete page that I’ve tried to promote. It is my ultimate goal to delete my personal Facebook account and use my athlete page to share my journey towards a possible Olympic bid. I’ll still have a twitter account, as it seems to be the best way to promote my athletic goals and do a tiny bit of fandom gushing, but that’s all I’ll keep public.

I don’t mean to climb up on a soap box or anything. I just had no idea a simple week away would change my opinions of social media so powerfully. I had an idea that I would start to lean towards less social media usage, but I didn’t know it would be so drastic. Perhaps I should have known. The worst part of a backpacking trip (other than the ascent out of a canyon after a week of 10-mile days with a 7- pound pack) is the return to technology. Except showers. The first shower back is the best part of a backpacking trip (am I right, PRM?).

I urge you to try unplugging for a week. Jot down your thoughts throughout the week on a notepad. Be aware of what you think and how you think it. Perhaps you’ll find, as I did, thoughts forming in 140 characters. Perhaps you’ll catch yourself online before you are even aware that you’re doing it.

Hopefully, you’ll find that the new episode of TV you’ve been waiting for really wasn’t as important as you thought it was, or that not knowing how Jennifer Lawrence spent her Oscar night won’t kill you. Maybe you’ll discover, or rediscover, that books are just as engrossing as the Internet (I read four books through the course of the week. Actual books, mind you. Not Kindle books and they were all incredible). You’ll probably find that not being in constant communication with your friends via text will give you more to talk about when you see them face-to-face. You’ll definitely become aware of people around you using technology instead of talking to each other, even at the dinner table.

The most important thing to discover, though, is how important you

That’s the biggest lesson I took from unplugging last week. Yes, I learned that I don’t need technology to survive. But I learned what technology was doing to my self-image, and I learned that, though it’s not a glaring thing, social media and constant electronic use was actually self-destructive. I’m an introvert, and I’m extremely hard on myself, and a major part of that is society-implemented. Cutting off my contact with such stereotypes and societal expectations, I got in touch with my own thoughts again.

I’m important, and I forgot that when I was too busy trying to see what my actor idols or sports heroes were up to. I spend so much time trying to prove myself to other people, trying to impress other people, that I completely forgot that there’s only one person I really need to prove myself to and impress: me.

Support my journey towards the 2018 Olympic Games here!

And the Nominees Are…

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It’s that time of year! The 2014 Oscar season is upon us, and bright and early this morning (especially for West Coasters) the official nominees for the Academy Awards were announced! This also means that I now have my updated list of films I need to watch in the next two months!

Below is the complete list of nominees! Keep in touch in March for my picks and the winners!

Best Picture of the Year

American Hustle (Charles Roven, Richard Suckle, Megan Ellison, and Jonathan Gordon, Producers)
Captain Phillips (Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti and Michael De Luca, Producers)
Dallas Buyers Club (Robbie Brenner and Rachel Winter, Producers)
Gravity (Alfonso Cuarón and David Heyman, Producers)
Her (Megan Ellison, Spike Jonze and Vincent Landay, Producers)
Nebraska (Albert Berger and Ron Yerxa, Producers)
Philomena (Gabrielle Tana, Steve Coogan and Tracey Seaward, Producers)
12 Years a Slave (Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Steve McQueen and Anthony Katagas, Producers)
The Wolf of Wall Street (Nominees to be determined)

Best Actor in a Leading Role
Christian Bale (American Hustle)
Bruce Dern (Nebraska)
Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street)
Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave)
Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club)

Best Actress in a Leading Role

Amy Adams (American Hustle)
Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
Sandra Bullock (Gravity)
Judi Dench (Philomena)
Meryl Streep (August: Osage County)

Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips)
Bradley Cooper (American Hustle)
Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave)
Jonah Hill (The Wolf of Wall Street)
Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)

Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine)
Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle)
Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave)
Julia Roberts (August: Osage County)
June Squibb (Nebraska)

Best Animated Feature Film

The Croods (Chris Sanders, Kirk DeMicco and Kristine Belson)
Despicable Me 2 (Chris Renaud, Pierre Coffin and Chris Meledandri)
Ernest & Celestine (Benjamin Renner and Didier Brunner)
Frozen (Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee and Peter Del Vecho)
The Wind Rises (Hayao Miyazaki and Toshio Suzuki)

Best Cinematography
The Grandmaster (Philippe Le Sourd)
Gravity (Emmanuel Lubezki)
Inside Llewyn Davis (Bruno Delbonnel)
Nebraska (Phedon Papamichael)
Prisoners (Roger A. Deakins)

Costume Design
American Hustle (Michael Wilkinson)
The Grandmaster (William Chang Suk Ping)
The Great Gatsby (Catherine Martin)
The Invisible Woman (Michael O’Connor)
12 Years a Slave (Patricia Norris)

Direction
American Hustle (David O. Russell)
Gravity (Alfonso Cuarón)
Nebraska (Alexander Payne)
12 Years a Slave (Steve McQueen)
The Wolf of Wall Street (Martin Scorsese)

Documentary Feature
The Act of Killing (Joshua Oppenheimer and Signe Byrge Sørensen)
Cutie and the Boxer (Zachary Heinzerling and Lydia Dean Pilcher)
Dirty Wars (Richard Rowley and Jeremy Scahill)
The Square (Jehane Noujaim and Karim Amer)
20 Feet from Stardom (Nominees to be determined)

Documentary Short Subject
CaveDigger (Jeffrey Karoff)
Facing Fear (Jason Cohen)
Karama Has No Walls (Sara Ishaq)
The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life (Malcolm Clarke and Nicholas Reed)
Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall (Edgar Barens)

Film Editing
American Hustle (Jay Cassidy, Crispin Struthers and Alan Baumgarten)
Captain Phillips (Christopher Rouse)
Dallas Buyers Club (John Mac McMurphy and Martin Pensa)
Gravity (Alfonso Cuarón and Mark Sanger)
12 Years a Slave (Joe Walker)

Foreign Language Film
The Broken Circle Breakdown (Belgium)
The Great Beauty (Italy)
The Hunt (Denmark)
The Missing Picture (Cambodia)
Omar (Palestine)

Makeup and Hairstyling
Dallas Buyers Club (Adruitha Lee and Robin Mathews)
Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa (Stephen Prouty)
The Lone Ranger (Joel Harlow and Gloria Pasqua-Casny)

Best Original Score
The Book Thief (John Williams)
Gravity (Steven Price)
Her (William Butler and Owen Pallett)
Philomena (Alexandre Desplat)
Saving Mr. Banks (Thomas Newman)

Best Original Song
“Alone Yet Not Alone” from Alone Yet Not Alone (Music by Bruce Broughton; Lyric by Dennis Spiegel)
“Happy” from Despicable Me 2 (Music and Lyric by Pharrell Williams)
“Let it Go” from Frozen (Music and Lyric by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez)
“The Moon Song” from Her (Music by Karen O; Lyric by Karen O and Spike Jonze)
“Ordinary Love” from Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (Music by Paul Hewson, Dave Evans, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen; Lyric by Paul Hewson)

Production Design
American Hustle (Judy Becker (Production Design); Heather Loeffler (Set Decoration))
Gravity (Andy Nicholson (Production Design); Rosie Goodwin and Joanne Woollard (Set Decoration))
The Great Gatsby (Catherine Martin (Production Design); Beverley Dunn (Set Decoration))
Her (K.K. Barrett (Production Design); Gene Serdena (Set Decoration))
12 Years a Slave (Adam Stockhausen (Production Design); Alice Baker (Set Decoration))

Best Animated Short Film
Feral (Daniel Sousa and Dan Golden)
Get a Horse! (Lauren MacMullan and Dorothy McKim)
Mr. Hublot (Laurent Witz and Alexandre Espigares)
Possessions (Shuhei Morita)
Room on the Broom (Max Lang and Jan Lachauer)

Best Short Film
Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn’t Me) (Esteban Crespo)
Avant Que De Tout Perdre (Just Before Losing Everything) (Xavier Legrand and Alexandre Gavras)
Helium (Anders Walter and Kim Magnusson)
Pitääkö Mun Kaikki Hoitaa? (Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?) (Selma Vilhunen and Kirsikka Saari)
The Voorman Problem (Mark Gill and Baldwin Li)

Sound Editing
All Is Lost (Steve Boeddeker and Richard Hymns)
Captain Phillips (Oliver Tarney)
Gravity (Glenn Freemantle)
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (Brent Burge)
Lone Survivor (Wylie Stateman)

Sound Mixing
Captain Phillips (Chris Burdon, Mark Taylor, Mike Prestwood Smith and Chris Munro)
Gravity (Skip Lievsay, Niv Adiri, Christopher Benstead and Chris Munro)
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (Christopher Boyes, Michael Hedges, Michael Semanick and Tony Johnson)
Inside Llewyn Davis (Skip Lievsay, Greg Orloff and Peter F. Kurland)
Lone Survivor (Andy Koyama, Beau Borders and David Brownlow)

Visual Effects
Gravity (Tim Webber, Chris Lawrence, Dave Shirk and Neil Corbould)
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton and Eric Reynolds)
Iron Man 3 (Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Erik Nash and Dan Sudick)
The Lone Ranger (Tim Alexander, Gary Brozenich, Edson Williams and John Frazier)
Star Trek Into Darkness (Roger Guyett, Patrick Tubach, Ben Grossmann and Burt Dalton)

Best Adapted Screenplay
Before Midnight (Written by Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke)
Captain Phillips (Screenplay by Billy Ray)
Philomena (Screenplay by Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope)
12 Years a Slave (Screenplay by John Ridley)
The Wolf of Wall Street (Screenplay by Terence Winter)

Original Screenplay
American Hustle (Written by Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell)
Blue Jasmine (Written by Woody Allen)
Dallas Buyers Club (Written by Craig Borten & Melisa Wallack)
Her (Written by Spike Jonze)
Nebraska (Written by Bob Nelson)

Frozen (2013)…Yes, this is a movie review.

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It has been hailed as “a subzero Lion King” by the New York Post, and has been called “Disney’s best since Beauty and the Beast”.

I wouldn’t go so far as to thrust Frozen on the pedestal reserved for the likes of Beast, Aladdin, and another Haans Christan Anderson-based story, The Little Mermaid, but it is Disney’s best in quite a few years.

Following the dull, albeit beautifully illustrated Brave (2012), Frozen stuns. Disney animators have proven time and time again that hand-drawn scenery can be glorious and detailed (remember the hand-drawn bubbles in Mermaid?) but they chose to do this film with computer animation, and it doesn’t disappoint.

In 3D, snowflakes fly into one’s face, and the detail of ice and snow is jaw-dropping. During one eye-popping scene in which Queen Elsa (Idina Menzel) constructs her ice castle, I was half-expecting to smell the ice and snow as it swirled across screens. The visuals alone earn this film notability.

The story, however, leaves much to be desired. It begins promising enough: sisters Elsa and Anna (Kristen Bell) are princesses of Arendelle. As children, they use Elsa’s magical talent of creating snow and ice with her hands to create a winter wonderland in which to play. An unfortunate incident leaves Anna injured, and Elsa is instructed to keep her powers hidden and controlled and is isolated from Anna that moment onward.

Predictably, the girls grow up (the passage of time helped along by the wonderful song “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?”), and Elsa soon comes of age to take the throne as Queen. Her magic hidden from the world, Elsa keeps her cool during her coronation until her emotions get the better of her and she unleashes her powers, accidentally plunging the kingdom into an eternal winter.

Elsa flees in fear, but when she is alone, she realizes that she can “Let it Go” and use her powers without harming others. Tony-award winner Menzel dominates the Oscar-worthy showstopper with ease, as one might expect after her turn in Wicked. The vocals and graphics together creates the most visually stunning scene in the entire film.

Understanding her sister didn’t mean to throw her kingdom into winter, Anna is determined to talk to her and bring her back to Arendelle to rule. On the way north, she meets Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), an ice merchant (which Anna cleverly points out is a rough business to be in at the moment) and his reindeer buddy Sven. Both intrigued and annoyed with Anna, Kristoff finds himself along for the ride. They are soon joined by the hilariously adorable Olaf (Josh Gad), a snowman made by Elsa and Anna when they were children, who came to life with the magical snow.

There are several twists in the story make the adventure worth the slower start, as well as wisecracking one-liners, several visually stunning scenes, and an ending that will make most people’s hearts melt.

While Frozen is good with several storyline occurring at once (sometimes unsuccessfully), it would have soared with just one.

For a film that was previously entitled “The Snow Queen”, Menzel’s Elsa is sorely underused. It is Elsa who is the most captivating from the start, but following her self-induced selection as an adult, her story virtually disappears. The buildup of explaining her powers and the possible consequences of them could have lead to a magnificent plot, but there was so little focus on Elsa’s trials and growth that it would have taken away from the emotional impact when she was on screen, if not for Menzel’s emotional acting. Even so, Elsa’s character nearly vanishes to the background, with much more time being devoted to her sister, Anna.

Bell has a surprisingly beautiful singing voice, and she holds her own against Broadway veterans Mezel and Fontino Santana (Prince Hans). Her comedic timing is spot-on, though it is tough to stand up next to the king of one-liners, Olaf. Anna is endearing and stubborn, tenacious and loyal to her sister, and her character will surely be a favorite for this generation of children.

The cheerful snowman Olaf is a highlight of the film. With witty, heartfelt dialog and a cheerful outlook, the snowman carries the film. He also has one of the film’s more memorable songs, “In Summer” where he envisions what he will to do when the sun comes out (utterly oblivious to what happens to snow in the heat).

Frozen is, indeed, one of Disney’s best in years, better perhaps than 2009’s The Princess and the Frog. It is empowering to women, with no pesky central romance to distract from the focus of the two sisters fighting for each other. Boys will like the quirky Kristoff, and girls will love the fierceness of not one, but two strong female characters who will join the ranks of Disney princesses, and who will carry Frozen into Disney history.

There’s No Business Like Show Business

You are about to gain access to a side of me that not everyone who knows me strictly as a US Skeleton athlete may be aware of. Though, come to think of it, if you know me even a little you’d know that this was lurking somewhere in me. There are many people out there who know quite a bit about this aspect of me, but only a few who have really witnessed it first-hand.

Anyone who knows me semi-well knows I come from a family of performers. My grandfather was a director at Bell High School in California. My grandma sang. My parents both sing. My siblings are all extraordinarily talented both on stage and off. I grew up surrounded and immersed in the performing arts.

As such, I’m a bit of a nerd. So deep are my roots in the theatre and the performing arts that I can’t even remember how it started. I know I grew up watching the Original Broadway Cast of Into the Woods and listening to West Side Story (clearly, we are fans of Sondheim) but I can’t recall the “first” time I experienced them.

The Original Broadway Cast, including Bernadette Peters.

The Original Broadway Cast of “Into the Woods”, starring Bernadette Peters.

The first recollection I have of live theatre is seeing (what I think was) a Bell High production of Evita as a young girl; so young, in fact, that I remember asking if the girl on stage really died. Obviously, that performance left a mark on my psyche. I can picture that moment fairly accurately in my mind, and I must have been only five or six.

All of this back story hopefully proves the following point: I’m a theatre nerd.

Which is why it may be surprising to hear that I’ve never actually watched the Tony Awards until this year.

Shocked? I know, me too.

Shocked?

I know. Calm yourself. I am, too. But after a great deal of thinking (which really hurt my brain) I can confidently say that I have never watched the entire broadcast until this year. I vaguely recall watching Hugh Jackman open the 2004 Tony Awards with Kristin Chenoweth but that’s the only concrete memory I have of the Broadway-equivalent of the Academy Awards.

I don’t know why I’ve never watched it before. My siblings and I performed in musicals and plays pretty much from when we could walk, all the way through high school graduation. One of my best friends in college spent many hours with me watching musicals (*cough illegally? cough*), awards shows (that fateful Emmy night freshman year “In Which Lauren Ruined her Roommate’s Comforter With Nothing But a Ballpoint Pen”), and playing “That’s How You Know” from Enchanted on repeat until we had memorized it.

Even after seeing my first Broadway show last year (A Little Night Music with Broadway legend Bernadette Peters at the Walter Kerr Theatre) I didn’t watch the Tonys. I just wasn’t aware of the broadcast date. I didn’t know the plays and musicals that were nominated. Heck, until a couple of weeks ago, I didn’t even know what station aired it.

So why the change this year? I can venture a few guesses.

1. I have a friend.

A friend who (I’m pretty sure) knows everyone and their mother’s agents’ cousin in the show business. It was at Amber’s urging, back in January during a very frustrating month of sliding, that sent me to New York City for only the second time in my life. On this solo adventure, I battled my fears of The City and attended two shows. With Amber’s help, I decided on The Mystery of Edwin Drood, starring one of my personal favorite Broadway actors, Stephanie J. Block (who earned a Tony Award Nomination for her role as Drood) and my first Broadway play, the revival of The Heiress, starring two-time Academy Award nominee Jessica Chastain.

This one-day Trip of Awesome is what started me down this new/childhood dream path of visiting New York City and seeing shows on the Great White Way. It’s where every theatre nerd wants to be to see a show. And it’s where I was revisited by the Theatre Bug.

Meeting two-time Academy Award Nominee Jessica Chastain outside of "The Heiress" in January 2013

Meeting two-time Academy Award Nominee Jessica Chastain outside of “The Heiress” in January 2013

Which brings me to:

2. Patronage.

It’s hard to be invested in an awards show when you haven’t seen the medium being recognized. I don’t watch the Grammys because I don’t really pay attention to what I’m listening to (sorry, David!). I don’t usually watch the Emmys because I only have one or two TV shows I follow closely, if that. I didn’t watch the Tonys because the only musicals I had ever seen before this year were at Hollywood’s Pantages Theatre, and those were shows that had already had their Tony day.

I watch the Academy Awards every year because it’s what I grew up doing. Every single year. Sure, sometimes I didn’t watch the ENTIRE broadcast, but I would tune in to see what would win Best Picture. This year, I gave predictions on the 2013 Academy Awards because I had made an effort to see every film nominated for Best Picture and so felt much more invested.

Outside the Subert Theatre at 255 West 44th Street in NYC.

Outside the Subert Theatre at 255 West 44th Street in NYC in April 2013.

I watched the Tonys this year because I had seen three shows that were nominated for the 2013 Tonys (Drood, Heiress, and Kinky Boots), and two more than had won in the past (Peter and the Starcatcher, and Rock of Ages). Not only that, but in my last visit to The City, I had the privilege of meeting (through Amber) several cast members of various shows. I even got to enjoy a drink and enlightening conversation with Matilda‘s own Lesli Margherita, who plays Mrs. Wormwood. (Lesli, if you’re reading this, please know Matilda is next on my docket to see!) If you’re looking for a way to be invested in a performance or show, there’s NO better way than to meet the talented people who are responsible for it.

Opening stage for Kinky Boots on Broadway: April 2014.

Opening stage for Kinky Boots on Broadway: April 2014.

The great thing about the Tonys, as I found out last night, is that it’s pure entertainment from start to finish.

The shows nominated for Best Musical perform their own sets throughout the broadcast and they spare no expense. The sets are there, the costumes are there, and the energy is there. If you watched this year’s broadcast, you saw a phenomenal performance by the cast of Matilda open the show. It wasn’t until the cast of Kinky Boots had their moment a couple of hours later that anything even came close to the brilliance of that first act, if you don’t include the incredible, on-stage costume change that took place during Rogers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella. (My mind is still blown on that one. Stage magic!).

The Tonys have a host who really knows how to perform…because they’re Broadway veterans themselves. Neil Patrick Harris, in his fourth hosting stint at the Tonys, showed what a good host should be: charismatic, funny, impulsive, and punctual. And, BOY, can that man sing! Really, though, if Neil Patrick Harris could host everything (he’s already committed to the Emmys), the world would be a better place.

Neil Patrick Harris hosting the 2013 Tony Awards.

Neil Patrick Harris hosting the 2013 Tony Awards.

Unlike the Oscar broadcast, which annually runs over the allotted three hour time “limit” and drag on to the point of wanting to jam a fork in your eye, the Tonys ended precisely when it was scheduled to, at 11PM, three hours after its start. Unfortunately, this meant that not all of the award winners were aired receiving their trophy. But they were all mentioned after commercial breaks, and short clips of their gracious speeches were shown.

I was compelled to write this about halfway through the Tony broadcast because I simply had too much energy and excitement for Broadway that I couldn’t hold it in. I felt like climbing up to the roof and throwing out my arms and singing a loud, belty ballad, though that would have immediately reminded the world why I’m an athlete and not an actor. The music and costumes and colors and lighting and cheers simply captivated me. The actors were humble and thankful, notably Kinky Boots’s Billy Porter, who won the Tony for his portrayal of drag queen Lola. And if you think you’ve heard a gracious speech, check out Cicely Tyson’s classy monologe after winning for A Trip to Bountiful.

Capping it all off was the surprising twist of the evening, when Kinky Boots won the Tony for Best Musical that was expected to go to Matilda. Even with my limited knowledge of the Broadway community, I knew that decision had ruffled some feathers in some circles. (Side note: As I have not yet seen Matilda, I will not give an opinion here about who “should have” won. I thoroughly enjoyed Kinky Boots as it was one of the best nights in the theatre I can remember.)

The Tonys annually have the lowest TV ratings of the “Big Four” (the Academy Awards, Emmys, and Grammys being the other three). But perhaps because of that, they don’t have to sell every other five minute commercials to make the bank. The Tonys do more of what the viewers want: more performances, more acts, with far fewer commercials, fewer speeches, and fewer awkward “improvised” presenter introductions.

Tony Award Winner Billy Porter as Lola in "Kinky Boots"

Tony Award Winner Billy Porter as Lola in “Kinky Boots”

It’s a night exclusive to celebrating Broadway, a place that already celebrates show business. The Tonys are a show within a show, a performance put on by the professionals themselves. It’s a night meant to be fun, dramatic, diva-esque, and utterly enjoyable. There’s song and dance, laughter and tears, music and lyric that everyone can appreciate.

THAT’S show business.