‘We locked ourselves in a toilet and spoke to Gerry Ryan’

Broadside: Almost 20 years ago in New York Garry Hynes became the first woman to win a Tony award for directing. It was some night for one night

Garry Hynes: ‘From the time the nominations are announced to the time the awards take place, it’s an endless round of parties, breakfasts and lunches that you’re supposed to assiduously attend’

Garry Hynes: ‘From the time the nominations are announced to the time the awards take place, it’s an endless round of parties, breakfasts and lunches that you’re supposed to assiduously attend’

 

The Beauty Queen of Leenane played at Atlantic Theatre, New York, where it became a very big hit, and then transferred to Broadway within a few months. Once there, it became eligible for the Tony Awards. At the 1998 awards there was a lot of talk about it and people began to ask me “how would it feel to be the first woman to win a Tony Award for directing?” I knew the awards were 50 years old and I thought it couldn’t be true that no woman had won an award for directing, but actually it was.

Broadway is a very small scene. Once there you quickly get to know everyone and we were all struck by how extraordinarily welcome we were made to feel by the theatre community there. Everyone wished us well and I remember thinking I hope in Ireland we’re as good to people coming in from the outside as they are to us here.

Originally, the US producers had wanted to cast the play with American actors and big names and we said no: it’s our cast or none at all. So for a while it looked like it wasn’t going to happen, and when it did, there was some pressure to justify that decision, so when we received all the actor nominations we could, it felt particularly sweet.

On the night itself, it was reasonably early when the award for Best Director for a Play was announced and lo and behold I won. I really had been ignoring it in the weeks prior, but in the 24 hours leading up to it I thought: you won’t win, but if you do, you better have something to say. So the night before the awards, I went out on the tiny balcony of my apartment and jotted down a speech. As I walked to the stage all I could think was please don’t let me stumble or do anything stupid and then halfway through the speech, right from the back of this hall with about 6,000 people in it, from up in the gods someone shouted: “maith an cailín thú” I never found out who it was but it was fantastic to hear.

We won almost every award we could win – Marie Mullen, Anna Manahan and Tom Murphy – the only one we missed was Best Play which seemed odd. That was a surprise even to the people who did win it – the producers of the Yasmin Reza play, Art. And so began a very long night of partying. It was done in a very New York way. The producers had limos for all of us. First we went to an Irish bar and locked ourselves into a toilet and spoke to Gerry Ryan on the radio and then we partied all over Manhattan. I got home about seven or eight in the morning and I had to turn off my phone, or else I wouldn’t have gotten any sleep because it just rang constantly.

Of course, the only reason I was actually the first women to win it is because the director of a play is lower down the pecking order than director of a musical, and seven minutes after I won, Julie Tyamor received Best Director for a Musical with The Lion King.

I always say that theatre is not my real passion - food is, and restaurants in New York in particular. From the moment I got nominated I could waltz into any restaurant in New York and be greeted by maitre d’s who suddenly “loved my work” which for me was one of the best of things about all of it.

The awards season is like being asked to run a race. From the time the nominations are announced to the time the awards take place, it’s an endless round of parties, breakfasts and lunches that you’re supposed to assiduously attend. People work very hard on this, none of which we realised. We were so new to it so we didn’t really do a lot of it. The show was still running after we won so we did get caught up in the wind of that and continued celebrating. Tom & Brían were both nominated so one of them was going to knock the other out, which happened of course with Tom’s win and I remember going to the show the Tuesday after the awards and when they came out for their curtain call Brían dropped to his knees in mock-homage to Tom, Marie and Anna and of course the audience were all in on the joke. It was a lovely moment.

Druid’s production of The Beauty Queen of Leenane by Martin McDonagh directed by Garry Hynes will return from a sell-out international tour, to play the Gaiety Theatre from March 28th to April 15th, 2017. The stellar cast for this production will be Marie Mullen, Aisling O’Sullivan, Marty Rea and Aaron Monaghan www.gaietytheatre.ie

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