The Antoinette Perry Award,
also known as the Tony Award is the highest honor for U.S.
Theatre and recognizes excellence in live Broadway Theatre.
This much-coveted award is situated at the summit of
entertainment achievement and is equivalent to the Academy
or Oscar (film), Emmy (television) and Grammy (music)
When the Broadway musical
Oklahoma! earned the honor of Best Revival of a Musical
at the 2019 Tony Awards held June 9 in New York City, many
Toledoans - including myself - were elated.
For, it meant that cast
member Anthony Cason, one of our own, was now among select
company and sitting on top of the world after the typically
arduous, uncertain and benumbing journey through the
I spoke with the young actor
about his quest to reach the entertainment industryís
rarefied air and the factors which made his journey
Perryman: Wow! What an
Cason: Yeah, itís something
else. Thank you!
Perryman: What does it feel
like to have played a part in Oklahoma!, which won
the 2019 Tony Award for the Best Revival of a Musical?
Cason: There arenít many times
that you get to do a job that you fully believe in and
aligns with speaking to larger issues, speaking to the
community, sparking conversation, bridging the gap between
age groups and social classes and things like that, and this
show somehow does all of those things. I feel grateful to
be a part of something that is really challenging people.
Perryman: How does the
current version differ from the original?
Cason: The original is more of
a musical. I would say this revival is more of a play with
music. In the original staging and the way normal
productions go, they speed through the scenes to get to the
songs, they speed through the texts to get to the people
that come hear people sing. In this production, we really
slow it down, so people can hear every word of the show and
hear these people say these things that are so vile and so
dark. I fully believe that the way weíre doing the show, is
probably the way the show is supposed to be done, but 75
years ago when the original musical came out, people werenít
ready for it. So, I think it was all supposed to lead up to
this, I truly believe that.
Perryman: The musical,
according to the promotion, Ďtells a story of a community
circling itsí wagons against an outsider and the violence of
the frontier that shaped America.í Can you please provide a
synopsis of the musical through your own lens?
Cason: I would say most, if not
all communities, operate on having someone that everybody
looks upon as not belonging. People are afraid of ďotherĒ
people coming in and taking their jobs; people coming into
their communities and gentrifying; and people coming to
their communities and bringing danger. Only because they
donít look like them or they donít sound like them or they
havenít been here since the beginning or theyíre not
ďAmerican.Ē Thatís what it is, that driving on that
Ďoutsiderí is what has always been at the core of America
and we havenít yet got past it.
Perryman: Please describe
your character in the musical.
Cason: I play a federal
marshal who is a part of the community. I have a
relationship with everyone to an extent and itís not until
the very end that my part really comes to the forefront. In
the end, someone dies and in true fashion they want to gloss
over it to get the person who committed the crime free and
just get it over and done with, and everybody agrees except
me. The outsider who was there before is now gone, so they
need a new person to put into that slot and in this
production, I become that person.
Perryman: So, talk about
the journey to what I call ďthe rarefied airĒ of Broadway
and the experiences that helped you to successfully arrive
Cason: I grew up in a normal
household during my formative years and then as I matured
into early teenage years it was more of a single mother
household but my dad was still around and a large part of my
Perryman: In Toledo?
Cason: Yes. I was always
positioned around a tight-knit community of people who
really instilled the values of inner growth and aspiring to
do whatever you wanted to do. That came from my family,
that came from my church, that came from my community.
Really instilling education and also following your dreams
and really doing what you wanted to do in this life.
And so I took that to
heart and I wanted to do what I wanted to do, so after early
adulthood I went to the Toledo School for the Arts from
seventh grade to 12th grade, studied acting there the entire
time and had fantastic teachers who, again, instilled those
same values. I then auditioned for colleges and for
theatre, ended up at Otterbein, a small liberal arts school
just outside of Columbus. I moved to New York City in 2015,
after graduating and Iíve been here ever since.
So, itís a journey when
you get here because no one knows who you are and you have
to put in the work. You put in that work when no oneís
looking. Youíre the one who goes to the auditions and works
the day jobs. I canít tell you how many jobs Iíve had. I
canít tell you how many day jobs Iíve had. Waking up at
3:30 in the morning to get to work at 5 to open the fitness
studio, then get off work at 11, go to audition at 12 and
then Iíve done so much in my day already, so much in my day,
and then you wake up and you do it all over again.
So it was about two and a
half to three years of auditioning and getting work here and
there. My first job in the city was a small spot on a TV
show on VH1 and then I did an episode of Law and Order
and then I did Oklahoma! off Broadway in early
2018 and that was honestly my introduction to the theatre
It was the show that
people came to see, people loved and it got me into the
rooms of other top casting directors who Iíd never been in
for, and ever since then itís been, I wouldnít say an easy
journey at all, I just had more people on my team, more
people who are like, Ďoh, he is good, he should come in all
the time for this. We like him, we love his work, he should
always be seen.í And so, itís from those things that I have
really been able to build from.
Perryman: Can you tell me
when and how you found your voice, knowing strongly that you
were not going to accept anything short of being an actor?
Anthony: Well, we had a
Christmas production at Center of Hope Church and then I
think yaíll gave me a speech to memorize, but gave it to
Keshia, my sister, to give to me and she didnít give it to
me until like a day before. I donít remember the logistics
of it, but I didnít have a lot of time, but I remember
looking at it and memorizing it and knowing instinctively
what to do with it before I even had an acting class.
I also can remember
reading A Raisin in the Sun for the first time and I
actually finished reading the play at church on a Sunday and
feeling so moved by it. It was a play that talks about the
struggle of our people, number one, but also it was just
beautifully constructed and it just felt like beautiful
storytelling, and I was like thatís the kind of work I want
to do. I want my work to speak for something, and I felt
like that play really awakened maybe that feeling I have now
or that desire I have now to only do work that I feel is
driving something or has a narrative or is causing people to
communicate in a way in which they werenít before. Now I
say that to say there probably will be times in which I have
to pay the bills, then Iíll have to pay the bills, but the
goal is to do work that I feel emotionally connected to. I
felt so emotionally connected to A Raisin in the Sun
that Iím sure thatís somehow in my subconscious helped shape
where I am today.
And then, once I got to
the Toledo School for the Arts and started taking acting
classes it was like oh, I like this. This thing brings me
joy, even beyond people clapping for you, the putting an
idea out into the room and talking about it, putting a theme
in there and having people really grapple with it, thatís
interesting to me.
Perryman: So fittingly,
then, Oklahoma!, The Revival, is the first musical to
join the entertainment industryís gun neutral initiative.
Talk about that.
Cason: We have an epidemic of
violence in this country and so the production sends
donations to a partnering organization that are trying to
use our art to spark conversation. Gun violence is a problem
that we have to talk about and in this show there is a gun
and one dies from the gun so it seems like the perfect fit
to have this conversation about gun control and to have all
these guns on the set and have them all be representative of
change. If you walk into the show, we throw all these ideas
at you, which cause you to look inward and tackle all those
things that you probably may have neglected or that you
choose not to talk about.
Perryman: What advice do
you have for aspiring actors and dancers, performers?
Cason: I would say make sure
you love it. I would also say donít make being famous your
goal. Fame is fleeting, so I really think understanding why
youíre doing it in the first place. Your motivation may
come from any place in the beginning, but I would hope that
it would grow to something more deeply rooted in service or
I would also say, know
that you have all the tools and youíre perfect just the way
you are. So, donít let anyone tell you that you have to
change to be better because you are better, you are
wonderful, you are beautiful. I think thatís really what I
would say. Yes, learn your lines, do all that, but whatís
important is loving and appreciating who you are because if
you donít do that you canít inhabit a character believably
and fully the way in which it should be done, so I think the
work is on yourself.
Perryman: Thank you and the
best of luck in the future!
Cason: Yes, thank yíall,
Toledo. I am really grateful to have had so many people
along the way who have helped me in so many ways.
Contact Rev. Donald Perryman, D.Min, at