Jan Maxwell was one of America's finest stage actresses of her generation. A five-time Tony nominee and one of only four actresses to be nominated twice in the same year, her performance as Phyllis Rogers Stone in the 2012 revival of Follies is the best among any actress who has played the role and the stuff of legend. During previews of that show, she was hit by a minivan, suffering injuries to her arm and leg, fracturing her fibula. She missed two performances. Incredible.
Yet, after all the accomplishments and regard she had garnered in her career, I always felt that Jan Maxwell deserved more. She deserved to win the Tony in 2012. She deserved to be just as highly praised on screen as she was on stage.
She deserved many more years on this planet than 61, dying of breast cancer last week.
But she certainly didn't deserve the treatment she initially received from the Broadway League in the ongoing guessing game that is who is deserving enough to have the tribute of Broadway dimming their lights.
Something that is supposed to be a poignant remembrance of a career spent on stage has become a trivialized decision process handled by a small group of people with inconsistent/vague decision-making skills.
If a five-time Tony nominee isn't deserving of the tribute, who is? How is Brian Bedford, a seven-time Tony nominee(second most all-time) not deserving of the tribute but George Steinbrenner was? The lights were dimmed for a critic, Michael Kuchwara, but not for Tammy Grimes who won two Tonys and is a member of the American Theatre Hall of Fame.
My point is not to downplay the careers of those who the Broadway League has deemed worthy of remembrance. My point is the decision process is a joke.
For that reason, either dim them for everyone or no one. Or at least make the standards of what constitutes a career worthy of such tribute, public.
In a brief explanation of the process, Broadway League Executive Director, Charlotte St. Martin defended the decision process to Playbill in 2010 and how outside influences shouldn't impact them.
"What we don't want is any lobbying," she said. "None of us want that." It is common, however, that names are quietly submitted for consideration. "Virtually every level and area of Broadway has recommended people in the past. That's different than lobbying," said St. Martin. "Overall, you can see the standards are pretty high and pretty clear."
Except they aren't Charlotte. Not in the slightest.
Also, even her statement then is inconsistent with what's happening now. In 2014, after the passing of Joan Rivers, the League initially decided not to dim the lights. Fans protested and producer Tom D’Angora launched an online petition to protest the decision, which quickly drew more than 1,700 signatures and the hashtag "#dim4____" was born. Feeling the pressure, Martin and the committee decided that the public lobbying was enough and they decided to dim the lights in her honor.
It shouldn't take social media campaigns to sway the minds of this committee. There shouldn't be social media campaigns for such things in the first place.
But yesterday, again after social media outrage, the Broadway League announced that the Marquis Theatre will dim their lights in tribute to Jan Maxwell. Two more have also announced they will do the same.
It shouldn't have taken this much to get to this place. It shouldn't be only three theatres. Jan Maxwell deserves so much more.
Why is why either do it for everyone or do it for no one.