April 24, 2012

"Send the Elevator Back Down!" -- Kevin Spacey's Message from Monday Night's Helen Hayes Awards

I've been fortunate enough to attend the Helen Hayes Awards -- Washington's annual tribute to its theater community similar to New York's Tony Awards -- most every year since it began in the early 1980s. I always leave the awards celebration feeling uplifted but never more so than Monday night.

One reason was that the big winner was Signature Theatre's production of the musical Hairspray, which the four generations of Schappis saw last February and which my great-granddaughter Kaylee loved. It won five prizes, including the top honor for best musical.

The co-hosts for the show -- local actors Felicia Curry and Holly Twyford -- were terrific, as were the original song-and-dance numbers that spiced up the many award announcements and acceptances.

But the most inspiring part of the evening for me was the Helen Hayes Tribute, given each year to recognize a theater artist who exemplifies excellence in and commitment to the performing arts. This year's recipient was Kevin Spacey. Former president Bill Clinton paid tribute to Kevin in a video clip, and another video nicely summarized his achievements as an actor, philanthropist, mentor, and human being. His acceptance speech was a wonderful combination of humor and inspiration.

What resonated most deeply with me was his emphasis on the important message he got from his beloved mentor Jack Lemmon about the special obligation that those of us who have been reasonably successful in life have to "send the elevator back  down." This morning I found this video clip where Kevin expands more on this important theme:

These days when the disparity between CEO and employee salaries is growing ever larger, more attention should be paid to this line:
Our job is to make sure the floors we live on are not so high we no longer hear the voices of young people crying out for opportunity and experience that will help shape a better future.
Here another brief clip that includes Bill Clinton's tribute to Spacey, and the actor's bio. Wonderful!

1 comment:

Kathleen said...

Thanks for sharing your evening, John; I'd liked to have been there. And thanks to Kevin Spacey and generous others like him. Kathleen