Gillian Curry grew up watching the annual Tony Awards broadcast each year on television.
But when the 73rd annual show took place last Sunday at the Radio City Music Hall in New York City, Curry wasn’t just watching — she was there in person with an unusual kind of role to play.
“It was a childhood dream come true,” said the Norfolk High graduate and daughter of Jim and Julie Curry of Norfolk.
Curry served as what’s known as a “seat filler” for the live Broadway theater award show.
She joined several hundred men and women as seat fillers — persons employed to temporarily fill the empty seats of celebrities who get up to receive or present awards, go to the bathroom or leave for any reason. It’s done to ensure that all seats appear filled for the television broadcast.
While at the Tony Awards, Curry found herself surrounded by stars and clapped for the award winners whom she watches live or on television.
“It was so cool to see so many people that I have looked up to receive awards for their craft,” she said.
Curry arrived to the event early Sunday afternoon as the show was getting set up. One hour before the live show began, creative art awards were given out for categories like costume and set design.
Then the live show began and Curry sat in the front orchestra until being placed in the fifth row of the center section of the Radio City Music Hall.
As the Tonys progressed, Curry was moved back to fill the seat of Rachel Brosnahan, who stars in the television show “Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.”
Although seat fillers are not supposed to talk to the guests unless addressed, Curry had a star-studded experience.
“I looked over my shoulder and Anna Wintour (Vogue magazine’s editor-in-chief) was sitting right behind me,” she said. “That was awesome. I doubted everything I was wearing at that point.”
Throughout the evening, Curry was rotated to different seats and ended up sitting next to Santino Fontana, who received the Tony Award for Best Leading Actor in a Musical for his performance in “Tootsie.” She also sat near Bryan Cranston, who won the Tony Award for Best Leading Actor in a Play for his role in “Network,” as well as other actors and actresses such as Audra McDonald and Laura Linney.
Although the theater world is huge, Curry recognized quite a few of the other seat fillers from her time working in New York.
“Some were friends of friends or people whose faces I recognized,” she said. “It’s a big industry but kind of a small community.”
Curry is used to the small community feel having lived in Norfolk up until leaving for New York. After graduating from Norfolk High, Curry attended Marymount Manhattan College in New York City with a major in theater production and management.
Through a past internship with The Broadway League, Curry had connections with previous employers who encouraged her to look into seat filling. The Broadway League, which is the National Trade Association for the Broadway Theatre Industry, is in charge of presenting the Tony Awards.
“I did a small interview and then received an email one week before the show that confirmed my spot (at the Tony Awards),” she said.
As Curry continues to work within the theatrical world, she hopes to have this opportunity again.
“The whole experience was crazy and wild and I had such a good time,” Curry said.