After suffering immeasurable tragedy, one must move on and heal. It's not easy, but it's necessary in order to go forward. To commemorate both the struggle and the hope that's come since, the Tonys honored the Parkland students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School at the 2018 ceremony, as well as a treasured teacher.
Prior to the ceremony, the Tonys honored Melody Herzfeld, a drama teacher who protected 65 students on Feb. 14, 2018, as a gunman tore through the halls of their school and killed 17 people. Herzfeld, who has produced 50 shows at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, accepted an award for excellence in theater education, which is given every year to a K-12 theater teacher. During her acceptance speech, according to the New York Times, Herzfeld noted that receiving the award was far and away one of the most important things to ever happen to her.
“Next to the passing of my dear parents and in-laws, marrying the love of my life and the birth of my amazing sons and reuniting with my theater students, there has never been a more defining moment of my life,” Herzfeld said. “All the goodness and tragedy that has brought me to this point will never be erased."
Later in her speech, Herzfeld stressed the importance of keeping the arts in high schools. “I remember on February 7, in a circle with my students, encouraging them to be good to each other. And I remember only a week later, on February 14, a perfect day, where all these lessons in my life and in their short lives would be called into action," Herzfeld said. "We all have a common energy. We all want the same thing. To be heard. To tell our truth. To make a difference. And to be respected. We teach this every day in every arts class."
During the actual Tonys ceremony, a group of students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School performed their own rendition of the famed RENT ballad “Seasons Of Love.” A song about love and savoring every moment of life, it was the perfect fit for the group and for their particular moment in time.
Artists know how to go on after tragedy — they pour their feelings into their work and their craft, and the energy that the students from Stoneman Douglas High School poured into this performance was palpable even to the audience sitting at home. The live audience was visibly moved, and the students got a well-deserved standing ovation. Twitter fans loved it, too.
Most Were Moved To Tears
To be fair, it was really emotional.
Some Thought It Made A Wonderful Point About The Arts
Theater (or art in general) can really make a difference.
It Made Some Look At A Broadway Staple In A New Light
It was a new take on a song theater fans have heard many, many times.
Before the performance, Broadway star and Glee veteran Matthew Morrison spoke of the time he spent with the students during a benefit concert held for Parkland. “For us, it was a life-changing experience to see these inspiring young people channeling their intense feelings of hurt and rage and sorrow into art,” he said, explaining later how Tanzil Philip, a student at the school, reached out to the American Theater Wing and asked to appear on the telecast to share their story. “The Broadway community showed up in our time of need and brought some much-needed light into the dark,” Philip wrote to the Tonys, and the Tonys obliged, inviting the students to New York to share their stage.
The performance goes to show that the arts are a necessary and impactful way to start the incredible, emotionally taxing process of forging forward.