13 Tony Nominees Thank The People Who Inspired Them To Do Theater

Behind every successful person lies a parent or teacher who helped them along the way.

BuzzFeed sat down with this year’s Tony nominees and asked them who they would like to thank for helping them get into theater. Here are their responses:

1. Danny Burstein, Cabaret

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Nominated for: Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical
Person he would like to thank: Ed Greenberg

“Ed Greenberg was my teacher in college, and was also the executive producer of the St. Louis Muny, which is the largest outdoor theater in the country, and he said, ‘You’re great and you should come and be a professional actor.’ He got me my first union job as an actor in St. Louis and I was in the chorus of The Music Man with Jim Dale, a wonderful actor, and Pam Dawber, who starred opposite Robin Williams in Mork and Mindy. I had a great, great summer, I did three shows there, and I went back several times and it really started my professional career.”

2. Celia Keenan-Bolger, The Glass Menagerie

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Nominated for: Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play
Person she would like to thank: Sally Reynolds (Grosse Pointe Children’s Theatre)

“I saw The Sound of Music when I was 5 years old at a children’s theater. I remember I was fidgeting a lot and the woman next to me was like, ‘You can’t put your foot on me when we watch the theater,’ and I was like, ‘OK.’ And then 10 minutes later she was like, ‘You have to put your foot down!’ but I was completely enwrapped with the show and I decided that’s what I wanted to do. So my parents were like, ‘Sure you can do children’s theater,’ and that is what I’ve been doing for the last 30 years. She [Sally Reynolds] ran the whole play and she was a tyrant, but she let us all do musicals so it was exciting.”

3. Kenny Leon, A Raisin in the Sun

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Nominated for: Best Direction of a Play
Person he would like to thank: Samuel L. Jackson

“I met him [Samuel L. Jackson] and LaTanya [Richardson Jackson] when I was an undergraduate and they were working in the field — I was a political science major — so they were the first people I sort of saw acting in theater professionally. Even at that moment, I didn’t think I was going to be in the field, but I saw them and thought, Hey I’m a fan, I’m going to hang out with them.”

4. Julian Crouch, Hedwig and the Angry Inch

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Nominated for: Best Scenic Design of a Musical
Person he would like to thank: His parents

“They took me to a lot of theater and my mother was an English teacher, my father was a drama lecturer, so I saw a lot of theater when I was young — more than I wanted to see — but somehow I’m in theater! I saw a lot of things from a very, very young age; — a lot of Opera and somehow I became good at making things, I made a lot of masks. So I really came into theater by making masks and puppets.”

5. Chad Beguelin, Aladdin

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Nominated for: Best Book of a Musical
Person he would like to thank: BuzzFeed (JK, his parents)

“My parents. When I was a kid, I was super into musical theater and my mom, for my 14th birthday, gave me a cake with the Evita poster on it, so she knew I was not going to be dating girls, but she was cool.”

6. Brian J. Smith, The Glass Menagerie

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Nominated for: Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play
Person he would like to thank: Marie Benson and Carrie Howell

“They were my high school theater teachers and they cast me in my first play when I was 16 years old. It was The Illusion by Tony Kushner; it’s a little pretentious (laughs) but it’s good.”

7. Lauren Worsham, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder

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Nominated for: Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical
Person she would like to thank: Ruth Hendel

“I was a personal assistant for eight years and she was my boss, and she’s also a theater producer, and if it weren’t for her I wouldn’t be able to keep auditioning for shows, because it’s hard to make a living as an actor! She kept food on my plate and helped me pay my rent, and in return I was her personal assistant. She’s like my mom!”

8. Warren Carlyle, After Midnight

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Nominated for: Best Direction of a Musical, Best Choreography
Person he would like to thank: Gene Kelly

“As a kid, I grew up watching those great old movie musicals. And Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire — they inspired me.”

9. Jessie Mueller, Beautiful — The Carole King Musical

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Nominated for: Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical
Person she would like to thank: Mom and dad

“They are actors, and they’ve been doing theater and voiceover in Chicago for years and raised four kids and sent them all to college so — I mean, they took me to theater when I was little and so I grew up loving it I think because of them. I remember seeing Gypsy when I was really tiny, and my dad was in it, he was playing Herbie — I remember loving the strippers, I was, like, 4, so maybe that wasn’t the most appropriate thing…”

10. Nick Cordero, Bullets over Broadway

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Nominated for: Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical
Person he would like to thank: Michael Jackson

“Not around anymore, but definitely my first wow moment. He was from, like, another planet, I thought when I was a kid. He just embodied everything a great performer is, I think, especially at that age. He could do it all — sing, dance — he was just dynamic. He had a level of performing I didn’t know was possible.”

11. John Cameron Mitchell, Hedwig and the Angry Inch

David Bertozzi / BuzzFeed

Nominated for: Best Revival of a Musical
Person he would like to thank: Pat Heron

“Pat Heron was my drama teacher at St. Pius X High School in Albuquerque, which was run by Nazi priests, and she was the cool one who had like a science fiction literature class, which is impossible and cool like that … and my first play was The Birthday Party by Harold Pinter, which is an early absurdist classic that is not done in high schools ever, and she quit because the headmaster was awful and canceled theater. You know those joke movies where they cancel Christmas? ‘Cancel theater!’ I had to get my mom to direct something to get me a role, and she gave me the role I didn’t want. So Pat Heron came back to see Hedwig years later on off-Broadway, and then I went to speak at the school against rules and talked about being gay and hugged all the gay kids and the punk kids and the theater kids — that was not done then, now it’s done all the time.”

12. Stephen Trask, Hedwig and the Angry Inch

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Nominated for: Best Revival of a Musical
Person he would like to thank: Jane Martineau (The Williams School)

“Jane Martineau was my high school drama teacher at the Williams School in Connecticut and she encouraged improvisation and creative signing and she put me in plays and that was our dance teacher, who encouraged sexual experimentation … we made out on prom night … and Jane put together this incredibly creative group of arts teachers that got us all choreographed in dances and writing music as a communal project and building our own sets and she was just, she started this whole DIY thing of communal creativity.”

13. Bryce Pinkham, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder

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Nominated for: Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical
Person he would like to thank: First-grade teacher, Mrs. Kai Welch, and his dad

“In first grade, my parents came into a parent-teacher conference and my first-grade teacher, Mrs. Kai Welch, told them they might want to find an outlet for my ‘reckless creativity.’ She was like, ‘You might want to find him somewhere to play, it’s not my classroom.’ So she’s credited with being the first to identify what we now understand is a proclivity for reckless creativity, and so my parents put me in some performance-based acting stuff. And my dad I put on there because he was an actor in high school and studied drama and always loved performing and kind of thought better of it to start a family, thank goodness — and he’s since gotten back into theater as I got into it as a kid — he and I were in the first show I was ever in together, The Music Man, and now he directs the high school musicals where I went to high school. So he got fully back into performing and I have a dream that maybe one day we’ll be able to perform again.”

TL; DR: The Tony nominees are adorable.

David Bertozzi / BuzzFeed

Catch the Tony Awards on CBS Sunday, June 8, at 8 p.m. ET/7 p.m. CT!

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