Certified Theater Nerd

by Emilia Diamant

When I was seven, my parents took me to my first Broadway show. It was “Showboat.” It was extraordinary.

My family didn’t go on exotic vacations when I was younger. No cruises, no tropics, no backpacking.

But what we did was, in my humble and completely unbiased opinion, so much better.

We would get in the car and drive to New York to see shows. We’d have one or two planned tickets purchased already, then go to the TKTS booth to fill in the gaps. We’d either stay at low-cost and (ahem) “funky” hotels, or with my parents friends who lived in the Tri-State area. Instead of spending cash on extravagant dinners, I ate up the theater–on and off Broadway, mainstream and off the beaten track.

At “Showboat”, we sat next to a lovely older gentleman who was there alone. He asked if this was my first show, and when I responded yes, I remember he was thrilled for me. The spectacle that followed, with sets and costumes and voices floating above my head, was beyond what I could have imagined.

Years later, I saw RENT. My parents still say I floated down the street afterwards, completely enamored with the score, not even realizing how lucky I was to have seen most of the original cast. My nickname had been Mimi since the third grade. It rang a special bell.

I was a theater nerd because of these trips, and because of my parents. We would listen to Sondheim CDs in the car–“Sunday in the Park with George”, “Merrily We Roll Along”, “Into the Woods”, to name a few. I have his entire library memorized to this day. At day camp, I chose theater classes and jumped at the chance to perform. I loved to sing, to dance, to play a part. We would go to New York every year or so and I would suck up all the culture I could. I would return home renewed and ready to be in the spotlight again.

This part of my identity is inextricably linked to my parents. They have instilled me with a sense of theater right (Sondheim) and wrong (Lloyd Webber). They have encouraged me to pursue my dreams, and stood  behind me when I decided that acting was actually not my calling. They were by my side at every show, especially when we would bookend my academic years at NYU with a show.

The most memorable, and most recent, show we saw as a family in New York was the revival of “Company”. It was there, while Raul Esparza sang “Being Alive” and I blubbered like a baby, I realized the gift of nerd-dom has influenced me in so many ways. My vocabulary is stronger thanks to Sondheim’s ability to turn a phrase. I can speak publicly without rehearsal or a script because I was encouraged to perform. I can dance–thank goodness.

From “Showboat” to “Company” and a million performances in between…NERDS UNITE!