As the holidays approached in a year that saw vaccinations roll out around the world and theatres reopen around the globe, Playbill reached out to a host of theatre artists and asked them what they were particularly thankful for in 2021. Their varied, thoughtful responses follow.
What I am most thankful for in 2021 are family and friends. I am grateful for the time that I got to spend with my family while Broadway was shut down. I am thankful for the love and support they have shown me, and for all of the birthday celebrations. I am thankful for friends who push me to be better than I am, who will not let me settle for anything less than what God says is for me and the destiny that God has called me to. I am also extremely grateful for the entire cast of Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations, both the Broadway and first national tour companies, who support me, encourage me, and remind me that I am valuable. Thank you family and friends!
I am grateful to finally be able to share the gift of live theatre with my daughter and to see the magic in her eyes.
I am thankful for ice skating! It continues to be my saving grace during this pandemic, a place to put my focus as I wait for theatre to be up and running again! I am also grateful for my cats, Celie and Olivia, who remind me to be present!
My gratitude list includes feeling such joy at Broadway's reopening! When I was in NYC a couple of months ago, I first saw Pass Over. Sitting in the theatre for the first time in over two years, I wept. I cried with gratitude for the beauty of the place, a shared experience in a holy place. I am grateful that everyone wore their masks and had been vaccinated out of respect for their own lives and the lives of their neighbors. And then I cried at the level of talent and master acting and storytelling I was able to witness. I most recently revisited Tina and was grateful to see Ms. Adrienne Warren give a truly remarkable performance. I also got to see the new Tina, Ms. Nkeki Obi-Melekwe, who is absolutely and equally wonderful! This was on a trip to NYC to work on Law & Order: SVU. I got to work with my most favorite TV heroine and cultural icon, Ms. Mariska Hargitay. I am so grateful to SVU showrunner Warren Leight for writing the part for me and for inviting me to do the show, and for Mariska's kindness and the cast and crew's warm welcome. I am grateful for warm, furry friends who sit on me as I write this. I am grateful to get to, basically, live in a park, my beautiful ranch in Texas with my beloved horses, a donkey, cats, and dogs. I am grateful to friends and family near and far. And, I am grateful for my dear friend and assistant Cathy Brighenti, who has worked with me for 21 years. I'm also grateful for my teachers and trainer who keep me on track and motivated to keep singing and telling stories. And, for Colombian coffee from Zabar's and clean sheets and sunshine and Tex Mex food and cake...the list goes on. Happy Thanksgiving!
I'm exceedingly thankful for the energy, creativity, and determination of the people who gave Carl Andress and me the opportunity to make a feature film, The Sixth Reel, on the streets of New York during the gloomiest days of the pandemic. And, I'm thankful that I'm occasionally able to pull myself out of my deeply rooted self-absorption to be grateful for their efforts.
It’s a cliché, but you don’t fully appreciate something until it is taken away. This was certainly true of performing. I am so grateful for the vaccines that are now available and have allowed me to return to singing live for audiences around the country.
I have so much to be thankful for this year—I became a dad in October. Our daughter was very unwell when she was born. The doctors and nurses in the NICU at the Alexandra Cohen Hospital quite literally saved her life. I will be grateful for the kindness and support they gave to our family for the rest of my life.
This year my heart is overflowing with gratitude: for the return of the performing arts all over the world and the joy and illumination these artists bring to us. For the astonishing new musical Kimberly Akimbo at the Atlantic Theater, for the show’s authors, David Lindsay-Abaire and Jeanine Tesori, our director Jessica Stone and choreographer Danny Mefford, the remarkable and uber-talented cast, and the opportunity and gift of being back onstage in a piece I truly adore. If you don’t have tickets, get them right away! For my incredible family—my husband Tom, my son TL, and our “emotional support” hero rescue dog Ollie, plus the friends who have been on this journey with me. What a great adventure!
I’m grateful for becoming a mother this year!
E. Clayton Cornelious
I am grateful for my family/friends making it through this horrible pandemic, and we continue to do so! Also, I’m grateful to be back at work on a Broadway stage! Never knew how much I would miss it!
The deeply distressing trauma of the past year and a half has made me cherish the simple things in life: my health, a roof over my head, the close friendships I have forged, a devoted partner in life, and being born into a loving family.
I am grateful for life, health, and strength. I am grateful to be in my right mind and to have a clear vision of the future. I am grateful for family and friends who love and support me. And, finally, I am grateful to be right where I am. Because right where I am is right where I need to be.
I am so grateful for the arts coming back. I know we’re not 100% there, but thanks to the vaccine, and all those who take it. I am grateful for my two rescue cats, who during the pandemic, rescued me! Harpo and Chloe: I love you both. I am especially grateful to live in New York, when every night there are so many exciting events going on, you can’t even make up your mind where you want to be!
Aside from my three daughters and my home and my loving husband, of course, I’m so grateful to have audiences again and to be complicit with other artists in trying to entertain them. To learn a Georgia Stitt melody or hear a Tedd Firth arabesque whispering behind my back or find a funny Adam Gopnik lyric passing from mind to mouth, or sing a duet with sexy Paulo Szot or swing in harmony with Max von Essen, or join forces with Brian Stokes Mitchell last week for the Safe At Home foundation (protecting children from violence and abuse), grateful to conspire for Christmas with sparkling Billy Stritch. I’m stunned by the talents in our city and community, and, facing an audience again, find myself almost ready to weep in gratitude for their company. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.
I am grateful for the reminder that these are the most important things in life: moments around the dinner table with your family over a plate of lechon and frijoles negros, a bonfire on the beach at night with friends, grabbing a drink at a bar together, dancing together, holding each other close again; just the never-take-it-for-granted ability to be together after 18 months.
I am grateful for Broadway reopening and the ability to return to doing what I love. I am grateful for the vaccine. I am grateful for the people in my life who love me and care for me. I am grateful for my life, health, and strength. I am grateful.
I'm grateful for good friends who are there for me no matter what, my students, who I appreciate and value more than they will ever know, my teachers and mentors, my adorable and loving husband, and now and forever, the Food Network.
This year I'm feeling grateful for The Actors Fund. As we worked on our Spring Awakening reunion concert, stories kept pouring in about the many ways this organization has saved people's lives and taken care of our community through this pandemic. Their work makes me want to do more and give more. Happy Thanksgiving!
I'm most grateful for my health. My family. The chance to stand in front of an audience live and in person again. That silly Ikea chair that I bought that has saved my bacon a million times in self-tape land!
As awful as the pandemic has been, the silver lining for me is how it’s forced me to sharpen my business skills (it’s called show business for a reason), expand my perspectives (self, relationships, personal/career goals), and how much it forced me to strengthen the weak spots in my financial game! Don’t get me wrong…the past 18 months have sucked, it hasn’t been easy, and oftentimes life has felt impossible to handle…but isn’t that what we as performers do (especially theatre performers)? We take what seems impossible for most people, we struggle, we strain, do the work, and ultimately make the impossible, possible. There is always gain to be found in pain…if you’re willing to sit with it and do the work!
I am deeply grateful for so many things this year. Number one is vaccines, which make it possible for me and so many others to be able to return to the stage safely. I am also grateful for the many opportunities I have been given to travel and work in film and TV during this terrible time (thanks to number one). Most importantly, I am grateful for the health of my family and friends (back to number one again). I lost a very close friend right at the start of the pandemic, when there was no information available. I don’t know when/if we will feel “back to normal,” but right now I’m in New York City working on a show, and that feels pretty good to me. I remain an extremely lucky woman.
I am thankful for being able to return to live theatre as a performer on Broadway in The Music Man and as an artistic director/director in regional theatre at City Springs Theatre Company in Atlanta. There is a whole new appreciation for the power and importance of theatre in people’s lives. It’s absolutely palpable!
JoAnn M. Hunter
Oh, so much to be grateful for! First and foremost, health, my guy, my dog! Grateful for the love I have and the love I receive. Greatful to work in the theatre…as crazy as it can be, I wouldn’t trade it.”
Jay Armstrong Johnson
I’m feeling most thankful my health. In a time when we have lost so many in our industry and beyond, I can’t help but wake up with the gratitude of being given another day. I am thankful for change. Our reckoning with the world and with ourselves these past two years has been a painful yet important one. I’m thankful for newfound awareness and accountability that will create a safer and more inclusive path into the future. I am thankful for the resilience of those who have dedicated their life to the arts. I’ve had the immense privilege to form new relationships and collaborations in this time of artistic uncertainty. I am thankful for those opportunities and continue to be inspired by the new art that flourishes around us. I’m thankful for my cats! Barnaby and Gus have been a source of hilarity, comfort, and purpose this year. Having two pure little creatures to raise has put things in perspective. I’m thankful for my therapists. Yes, my multiple therapists.
The pandemic taught us all to focus on the simple necessities we need to get through hard times, and for me, there is one simple thing I am thankful for this year: That through times of uncertainty and hardship, I have someone's hand to hold. My partner of 17 years, Jimmy, is always there to grab my hand when I need it most, in good times and bad. I was recently at Terrence McNally's celebration of life at the Schoenfeld, and his partner and spouse Tom Kirdahy spoke beautifully about this as well: the simple act of holding someone's hand just to know they're there for you is all you need to deal with anything. I'm thankful to have Jimmy's hand to hold.
I am so thankful to be healthy, in love, and able to hug my family and chosen family!
My goodness it is way too challenging to narrow down my gratitude; daily gratitude keeps me happy! I am grateful for family, friends, dogs, health, community, nature, coffee in the morning, compassion, my home, work that inspires me, work that pays my bills, the arts in general, theatre education, deep conversation, all of the Playbill readers, and so much more!
My Broadway playwriting debut with Chicken and Biscuits is what I'm most grateful for this Thanksgiving. To hug people with laughter is the greatest gift. My heart is full.
As I recover from an unrelenting breakthrough case of COVID, I am finding so much gratitude for my health, the health of family and friends, and the unending circle of love and support I feel from them. The last 20 months have given me a renewed sense of gratitude for the simple moments: a good laugh on a Zoom call with family, a walk around the Cloisters right in my backyard, the contented look of a recently rescued animal in their new forever home, the lightbulb moment of a student, or a lady bug landing on my shoulder. I'm grateful for the gift of watching and performing live concerts and theatre again. I love feeling the exchange of energy and the flow of emotions with the audience. With that, I'm thrilled to have the reopening of Romeo and Bernadette on the horizon. Life is grand!
I'm profoundly grateful for having made it through this pandemic and even more grateful for having reached my 90th year with a rich sense of humor and good health. Especially grateful for living long enough to see women claiming their strengths. Now if only the Hispanic community can garner greater representation in the arts I will die happy. That is a heinous lie... there's no such thing.
I’m grateful for my boyfriend, my health, my Ain’t Too Proud family that made coming back to work even more wonderful than could have ever been expected, and for the new Wicked pairing that is the incomparable Cynthia Erivo and gay icon Ariana Grande.
I am most grateful for my daughter, Cecily. Every time my spirits take a hit, or I'm feeling a bit directionless, all I have to do is look at her, and everything comes back into perspective. She makes me a better person, because I want to be a role model for her as she grows and navigates this wild world. She's my little bean! I'm also grateful that we got two seasons of The Bachelorette this year because the first one was not very good.
This year, the thanks is extensive...I give thanks to the scientists who went all in to find a way for us to get a hold on this new world we've entered and the health workers who put themselves at risk everyday to care for us, to the artists who have found ways for us all to continue to do our jobs, and for the lovers of theatre who are willing to let the theatregoing experience morph for all of us to be safe. And, for pie. Always thankful for pie.
I am thankful for my family and the special time I have gotten to spend with them over the past year! I am also thankful that I will be back on stage with my theatre family telling the story and making new memories! Broadway is back, baby!
This past year, as we all continued to navigate through this pandemic, I am most thankful for my daughter Lisa and family. I’m also overjoyed that Broadway has reopened and so many of my theatrical family are back onstage, doing what we do during these trying times… entertaining and lifting spirits. I must also mention how thankful we all are to organizations such as Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, The Actors Fund, Encore Community Services, and others who are there for those in need all year long!
So grateful I'm not responsible for the sun rising and setting! For the unseen, unspoken kindness, support, and humanity I’ve experienced among all kinds of people during the most challenging times. To recognize a difference between Thanksgiving and Thankstaking! I’m grateful that Playbills still exist!
In 2021 I feel unspeakably thankful to… 1. have returned to one of the most beautiful pieces of art I have ever been a part of—Rebecca Taichman’s production of Paula Vogel’s Indecent at the Menier Chocolate Factory in London. 2. Have had three life-saving surgeries that has cured (cured!) me of ulcerative colitis, and given me a new lease on life in every possible way and 3. Married the love of my life.
I am grateful to be alive! Thanks to the continuing efforts of so many friends and strangers who cared enough for themselves and me to get vaccinated and took all other precautions to help all of humanity stop the spread and deal with the results of COVID-19. I am grateful for President Joe Biden’s administration and their understanding that people are the bedrock of infrastructure and that the arts tell the stories of those people, for present and future generations to build upon. Special bravos to Senator Chuck Schumer!
Kimber Elaine Sprawl
I’m grateful for Broadway. For the joy it spreads throughout the community and the world. I’m grateful to be back, sharing stories and love. I’m grateful for making mistakes without judgment. For the opportunity to learn, grow, and be better in my own time. I’m grateful for my love. That I get to experience the beauty and wonder of New York all over again through his eyes.
I’m just grateful to be alive at this point! Really, my family is all healthy, and that’s all that matters. Thank you, science!
I’m beyond thankful for this great job that I have, this family that I have, this health that I have; I’m thankful for books and writing hours, and thankful for Mike Flanagan, and all the incredible horror movies that he makes.
1. Good health. 2. Caring family and loving friends. 3. My grandchildren. 4. My pets and plants. 5. The view from my terrace. 6. My exciting career. 7. Music, theatre, books, food, and work to do!
There have been times, certainly during the shutdown (and some wacky times post-shutdown), when I felt isolated from my friends and family and fellow artists. Like Cate Blanchett—if Cate Blanchett knew me she would absolutely miss me. But as the arts are returning, as my friendships are returning, and as our sense of community is returning, I feel like I'm finally starting to return to myself. Additionally, I would like to return to Cate Blanchett. Because the truth is, I'm so thankful to be feeling like myself again after so many moments of my heart getting nearly destroyed. But I've worked hard, I've done things I'm proud of, I've made mistakes, and I'm still here. Just like Cate Blanchett.
Thankful for experiencing wonderful, simple joy all around me. Thankful for my family, for health, and for the ability to continue to create as an artist.