As a boy, Hugh Hysell tuned in to the Tonys to watch with awe as Broadway’s greats collected their most coveted prize.
Now Hysell, who graduated from UNCG in 1988 with a BFA in theater, has a Tony of his own.
Last week, “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” took home the Tony for Best Play. Hysell’s company, HHC Marketing, produces the show, which stars David Hyde Pierce and Sigourney Weaver in a spoof of the plays of Anton Chekhov.
“It means the world to actually win a Tony Award,” Hysell says. “From the time I was a small kid I had a passion for theater and would watch the Tonys every year, dreaming that one day I would up there on that stage holding my own. Cut to 2013. Just to have the show nominated was a huge honor, but to run up on the stage when they announced the show won, well – that was a lifelong dream come true.”
“Vanya” was written by Christopher Durang, a man who inspired Hysell when he was at a career crossroads. At 32, Hysell says, he was burnt out from touring as an actor and finishing his MFA.
“I saw Christopher Durang speak at a conference and his story, his career and his work astounded me. I finally ‘got’ his style and better understood what his plays meant and was inspired to work in the business side of commercial theater where I could work closely with such brilliant artists.”
Hysell sensed “Vanya” was a winner from the outset.
“It’s not only a brilliantly written tale of three siblings in a hot mess, but it is a hysterically funny play — and given this year’s landscape of Broadway I knew we would stick out as one of the only comedies. Of course the title — and some of the plot — refers to Chekhov plays, but what appealed to me was that if the audience didn’t know a bit of Chekhov they would still have a wonderful time at the show.”
The show made good financial sense too, Hysell says. Running costs are low, with only six actors and one set, making it ideal for any theater, anywhere.
“The icing on the cake is that every member of the cast is a phenomenally gifted comic actor, let alone star appeal. Who would turn down the opportunity of working with Sigourney Weaver, David Hyde Pierce and Kristine Nielsen?”