Update, 6/13/2022: "A Strange Loop" took home the prizes for Best Book of a Musical and Best Musical at the 75th Annual Tony Awards.
A University of Northern Colorado graduate is making his first appearance on the Tony Awards this weekend. Jason Veasey is in A Strange Loop, the most nominated show of the Broadway season, with 11 nominations.
When the Veasey family moved to Colorado Springs in 1995, Jason had just entered high school. His family still lives in the area.
That’s because not only is his show, A Strange Loop, up for 11 Tonys, but he created the role of ‘Thought 5’. The groundbreaking show follows 'Usher', played by Tony-nominee Jaquel Spivey, and his six inner thoughts who also represent other people in Usher's life.
“Um, my teenage self is definitely freaking out right now,” Veasey said.
“This is my first time originating a role and all that comes with that. And honestly, this, because of that, this feels like a Broadway debut, the magic and the wonder and the, and the scope of it feels like that,” Veasey said.
But his role in A Strange Loop felt different to him. He’s been involved with the project since 2012, early in the show's development. Now, it has not only been nominated for the most Tonys of any show this season – but it also won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
“My family was not able to see me on Broadway when I did the Lion King, so [them seeing me in this show] also was very special,” Veasey added. “This is the kind of Broadway experience that I imagined in my room when I was listening to cast recordings. What that would be like, and being on a cast recording and knowing this person's name and only hearing their voice, you know, and the stories that they're using with your voice.”
The cast brings the bold material alive with the same authenticity and honesty as playwright Michael R Jackson captured in the script and score. The show has earned comparisons to other classic shows as well — like Rent, Fiddler On The Roof, and A Chorus Line — for making a specific story relatable to a broader audience.
“That is so unbelievably wild to me that I get to be a part of something that's even considered to be influential or game-changing or important to a sector or section of the community,” he said. “And to hear just like it being put in a category of Rent or A Chorus Line, which are all very important pieces in terms of moving the genre forward is just … it's indescribable and it's hard to wrap my head around.
A Strange Loop is about Usher: a Black, Queer writer writing a musical about a Black, Queer writer writing a musical about a Black, Queer writer … with some difficult material that might cause some to wonder how theater audiences, who are mostly not Black, or Queer, accept the piece.
Veasey says he is tired of the assumption that some audiences, particularly those of a certain age, can't handle it.
“I mean, the amount of stories that I grew up [reading], having read to me, having to read in school, having to learn in drama school, half of those things I know were not written for me or had anything to do with me, but I had to find a way to connect somehow,” Veasey said. “And if it's good storytelling, you will.”
“It was interesting to watch the amount of respect and excitement that the students had and an absolute admiration for Jason,” said Megan Van De Hey, who is also a UNC Alumn and the new Artistic Director of UNC's Little Theatre of the Rockies.
“I was so blown away at watching the student's reaction to him that I've modeled Little Theatre the Rockies after that, because I think it's so important to bring in alumni that were exactly where they were to show them that this road is possible,” Van De Hey said. “And this path that they're on there is this glorious ending.”
Veasey says he is grateful that he is able to give something back now to the next generation of actors who want to someday be in his place and shoes. Still, he says, we should invest in their futures now.
“While I'm very happy that they're embracing my success, and are proud of me being a hometown boy, I would urge you that before someone gets to Broadway or a major platform, invest in them now and invest particularly in the young queer kids,” Veasey said. “Invest in them now, because you never know who they're going to be. As a matter of fact, they already are that person. They just need someone to say go. Don't wait until [they’re at] where I'm at now. Start there because if you do that, that's the water that seed needs to get.”
Jason Veasey will perform with the cast of A Strange Loop on the Tony Awards broadcast this Sunday.
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