When Tisch School of the Arts acting professor Miriam Silverman heard her name announced as winner of the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play, her excitement was tempered with pragmatism.
“I was simultaneously skyrocketing to Cloud 9 and also very practically trying not to trip in my high heels and fitted dress and to get to the stage as quickly and gracefully as possible,” she recalls. “They’ve drilled into your head that you have like 90 seconds from the time you get out of your chair to getting off the stage!”
Silverman’s award—for her role as Mavis in Lorraine Hansberry’s The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window—was one of the first of the ceremony, held June 11, 2023 at the United Palace in Washington Heights. Wearing a red gown with purple flounces for sleeves, a smiling Silverman acknowledged her family, including her mother who passed away in February, and spoke of the importance of live theater. “We all know the transformational power of theater, that it can be a balm to commune with one another every night, and I've never felt that more,” she said.
Though it was her first Tony nomination, and only her second Broadway role, the win comes after almost two decades of steady work in theaters across New York City and around the country. After earning an MFA from Brown University in 2005, Silverman appeared in Clifford Odets’ Awake and Sing at Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., a production that was directed by the late Zelda Fichlander, long-time chair of Tisch’s graduate acting program. She has worked in New York, Chicago, and Providence, and she made her Broadway debut in 2017 in Ayad Akhtar’s play Junk. She has also appeared on TV in Fleishman is in Trouble, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and The Blacklist.
For the last nine years, the native New Yorker has been teaching at Tisch, and she learned of her Tony nomination on the morning of her last class. “That was a wonderful way to celebrate,” she says.
Since Sidney Brustein closed on July 2, Silverman has been traveling, supporting the actors’ and writers’ strikes, and spending time with her husband, Adam Green (Tisch MFA ’04), and two children. As the fall semester begins, she is working with second year grad actors on their production of Fifth of July, and teaching New Play Readings, a Dramatic Writing department course that is a collaboration between actors and writers. She has some readings and workshops on her calendar, but is taking a break from being in a full production.
Silverman recently sat down with NYU News to talk about the Tony Awards, the joy of playing problematic characters, and how teaching is central to her artistic practice.
Take us back to that night in June at the Tony ceremony. What was that like?
I actually had to call out of the show. It was the first performance I missed the whole run. It seemed ludicrous to me at the time, but then on the day, it was such a blessing that everybody had told me that I really couldn't do the show the day of the Tony ceremony.
The ceremony itself felt like an out of body experience. Getting through the speech and then getting off stage and being ushered through the bowels of the theater and I’m holding my Tony, and people are congratulating me, and the adrenaline is unlike anything I experienced before–and I've had two children!
We get off stage and it's like the opposite of glamorous. There’s electrical equipment and wires and we’re walking through the back alleyways and then brought into this “first reaction” interview, which is meant to get you in the moment. You're still in a daze. I did that interview and then I was put in a car by myself and driven through Washington Heights to the offsite press room. You get whisked away, you don't have your phone, you don't have anything. My husband was back in the theater. My dad was in the audience. And I was gone for an hour doing interviews and taking pictures.
Where is Tony statue now?
It’s on my piano at home in the main living area.