There have been very few people during my career -- some, maybe, but not many -- that have meant as much to the Broadway community as Elaine Stritch did.
Everyone in the community (including myself) has some Elaine Stritch story. Some encounter with her personally or some magical moment of seeing her onstage. Something that was very... well... Stritch. After her death, I realized that no individual story could ever capture the total person. That is why I was so happy to hear that a full tribute to her, "Everybody, Rise! A Celebration of Elaine Stritch," was taking place. The tribute, constructed by George C. Wolfe, will be at the The Al Hirschfeld Theatre this coming Monday, November 17, at 4 p.m. It will feature Bernadette Peters, Patti LuPone, Hal Prince, Betty Buckley, Christine Ebersole, Nathan Lane, Lena Hall, Holland Taylor, Liz Smith, Hunter Ryan Herdlicka, Julie Keyes and more.
And guess what? It's open to the public! For free! Members of the public can enter the lottery by filling out their names and email address. Winners will be notified Saturday.
Readers of mine know I spend a lot of time talking about how theater, and theatrical experiences, should be made more accessible. In this case, they could have done a gala tribute dinner, and charged a ton, but instead they've made the tickets available for free. That means, if you're in the area and can get off work, there is very little reason not to at least try to get in.
Hunter Ryan Herdlicka, who co-starred with Stritch in A Little Night Music and is a member of the Honorary Producing Committee of this event, emailed me this about the decision to have tickets available to the public:
I think that people all over the country were so deeply affected by Elaine's death not only because of the recent release of the hit documentary Elaine Stritch: shoot me, which made her even more known to people outside of the theater world, but more so because she was truly one-of-a-kind. There is no one else like her and probably never will be. I can't describe how many performers of all ages and mediums that say they became an actor or director or producer because they saw Elaine Stritch perform or they heard her on a cast album. That's why I think this tribute is so timely and necessary because people need a chance to celebrate her life and to have their own personal goodbye. The tribute is filled with stars and celebrities from theatre film and television, directors, composers, personal friends, and family. I think through the speeches, songs, and videos, the tribute will pay homage to Elaine and also give some of the public perhaps a glimpse into her private life and some of her deep personal relationships. She has been an inspiration, a blessing, and sometimes a terror, but my life, this world, and the entire existence of art and theatre is greatly changed by her life - and what better way to celebrate and to grieve, but in a beautiful Broadway theatre, surrounded by people that all have one thing in common, their love and respect for the divine creation, that was Elaine Stritch.
So, enter the lottery people! And for those of you who aren't in New York or don't get one of the coveted seats, I urge you to consider renting Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me. I saw it when it first came out (complete with a fascinating Q&A by director Chiemi Karasawa and Stritch musical director Rob Bowman, who are both on the Honorary Producing Committee of this tribute as well). I loved it. You got a real picture of Stritch in it, hilarious warts and all. If you're a theater fan, it's a must-see. Even if you're not a theater fan, it's still a great way to spend some time.