A while back, I bought tickets to a screening of “tick, tick…BOOM!” followed by a talk with Andrew Garfield at the 92nd Street Y on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. The event was scheduled for early January, and I worried as the date got closer. Omicron was raging, so I knew I wouldn’t be able to go if the venue kept its plan. I also knew the sinking disappointment I would feel to miss an event with an actor I had admired for so long— quite possibly the only chance I’d ever get to see him in person. (You can read more about how 12-year-old Angelina became invested in Andrew Garfield here.)
Just a couple of days before the talk, I got an email from 92Y saying they were canceling with hopes of rescheduling. I received a refund and was glad that everyone was staying safe. Also, as selfish as it is, I felt better knowing that the event was canceled than if it had gone on without my being there and I had missed it.
Especially given that Andrew Garfield had recently been nominated for an Oscar for his performance and was presumably deeply busy, I didn’t expect the screening to ever be rescheduled. But on the night of Valentine’s Day, I opened my email to see that it was now set for Tuesday, February 22. I told myself this was a sign because, one, I saw the email on my birthday, and, two, BU had a Monday schedule on Tuesday thanks to President’s Day. Therefore, I had a 6-day weekend, which left me time to work on my thesis and take the trip with minimal worry. Tickets were going fast, so I decided that if there were any left the next day, I was going to buy one.
And then I did. And it was reasonably priced. And six rows back from the stage.
I felt like a crazy person. Even though New York is only about 4 hours away, I’d never taken a trip by myself. I can’t drive, so I still needed to get bus tickets and a hotel room because there was no bus that left the city after 7:00 p.m., and the event didn’t even start until 6:30. This was in a week! I had a deadline! (And my writer’s block wasn’t helping.)
Part of me decided I wasn’t going, and I struggled with myself for a few days— even though, of course, I didn’t have those days to spare. I looked everything up, mapping out my train and walking routes, food, budget, and even the shows or movies I would watch on the bus. I bought a student ticket to the Metropolitan Museum. I booked my Greyhound round-trip. Finally, I reserved the hotel room. (In retrospect, I should’ve done that first because they allow cancellations, and the price ended up being way more than it should’ve due to my hesitance. Alas, there’s a learning curve to this whole solo travel thing!)
Ultimately, I felt in my gut just how much I would regret not taking this leap. I’d been so unmotivated, so I really needed a restart.
I got on my Greyhound a little before 7:00 a.m. that Tuesday. Cramped in the window seat with my gangly legs, a gigantic backpack, and no seatback table or elbow room to finish my thesis work, I worried for 10-15 minutes I was going to end up in Nevada because the bus front displayed “LAS VEGAS.” However, we soon started moving, and the bus driver announced our destination as “The Empire State.” My anxiousness was replaced by excitement— I was actually doing this!
Around 11:30 a.m., I arrived in New York. I took the train route I’d memorized and walked the rest of the way to the hotel. I checked in early, set my stuff down, and headed out. The day was beautiful. My weather app had the temperature at under 50 degrees, but a light jacket felt perfect with all the walking.
I tested my path to the 92nd Street Y, then made my way to Lexington Candy Shop, a nearly 100-year-old luncheonette that has been featured in a wide range of photo and movie shoots. There, I tried an egg cream for the first time, which I had wanted to do for so long! (There’s neither egg nor cream in the drink’s recipe— just seltzer, and a flavored syrup.) I decided on chocolate, but what I couldn’t decide was whether I liked it. It was one of those moments when you try something, and you don’t dislike it enough to stop eating/drinking it, but you don’t feel passionately enough about it to decide that you definitely like it. I drank the whole thing, though, and I’m still not sure.
I went to buy a Levain cookie, which I ate with milk while I walked to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. At the Met, I waited in line in the rain for about 20 minutes while vaccination cards were checked, but for once, nothing was bothering me. I was on schedule, and I had a raincoat, a full stomach, and the promise of seeing Andrew Garfield. What more could I ask for?
I spent time in the Met’s current fashion exhibit, “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion.” I made sure to visit some of my favorite areas, including the Egyptian sarcophagi, Medieval art, and 19th century European paintings. When I left, I walked along the outside of Central Park toward my hotel, so I could see the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir. By the time I got back to the hotel, I had time to order a chicken cheesesteak and watch an episode of Silicon Valley.
Around 5:50 p.m., I excitedly headed out on my short walk to 92Y. I had seen a door earlier that seemed like a stage door, and sure enough, a few people were standing around it when I got there. They were on alert, and one guy was holding a piece of cardboard over a photo of Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man to protect it from the rain. I quickly put together that they were waiting for him to arrive to get autographs and photos.
However, I also thought that they were part of the line to enter the building because we were close to the entrance the email had informed us to arrive at. I stuck around with them for a while, and a few different black SUVs pulled up in that time. One or two let someone out, but the last one idled for a minute before driving away. Everyone pretty much deduced that Andrew Garfield was in that car, but we’ll never know for sure…
Time was quickly moving, and there were only a few confused people ambling around (myself included) on the sidewalk. I really did not want to miss a moment of the event. I figured we were at the wrong entrance, so I walked around to the front, where a line began that went around the block. Luckily for me, they had not opened the doors yet.
When I got inside, and to my seat, I was astounded. I was so close to the stage. I couldn’t believe that in just a couple of hours, I would be only a couple yards away from someone whose work meant so much to me.
It was my third time watching “tick, tick…BOOM!” and this screening continued the trend of me liking it better every time I see it. We got to watch on the big screen, and the concert hall’s sound system was absolutely beautiful for each and every music sequence. Every time someone new came on the screen, during every Broadway cameo, and after every song, the audience erupted into cheers and applause. At jokes about living in New York, the place roared with laughter. I haven’t been to a theater in so long, but the energy of the entire room felt like a live show. I was overwhelmed with emotion.
During the ten-minute break after the movie ended, I was turned around for just a moment when applause started that could have shaken the roof off the building. I turned back, and there he was. Andrew Garfield was settling in on stage, and everyone moved to a standing ovation.
The next 45-60 minutes didn’t feel real. Whenever one of Andrew’s works was mentioned, there would be a resounding cheer. He made a joke that he should keep this audience around for whenever he was feeling down on himself. He talked openly and eloquently about grief, art, his influences, people he had the opportunity to work with, and his career in general. He mused about the somewhat comedic nature of death. He spoke about how beautiful it was that everyone in the room had their own unique talents and purposes, which all worked together to create a vibrant community.
I could not look away the entire time, just trying to will myself to believe that I was where I was.
When it got to the audience questions, he only got to answer three from the cards that were turned in, but I heard just what I needed to hear. One person prefaced their question by saying that their friend had just gone to their first audition (which Andrew cheered at), then asked about pursuing an acting career. I wasn’t able to cry during the movie where I usually would have at home because my tears never come as easily in public. However, when he began to speak about listening to that “calling that won’t stop calling,” I was finally able to cry.
I have known since I was fourteen that I want to pursue acting as a profession. I have tried to stop thinking about it, but it never goes away. The more I try to find something I love as well as I love theater and performance, the more I realize that I won’t, which scares me every day. To listen to someone I so admire, by whose work I am consistently amazed, speak my own struggle and fears into the universe in a way I’m unable to, truly felt like being seen. Another actor or celebrity could have come off as trite or phony, but I am astonished by the fact that I just end up liking Andrew Garfield more each time I hear him speak.
At the end of the talk, he emotionally thanked everyone and said that he really wasn’t going to forget this night or this audience. While it’s nice to think that could be true for someone with so many fans and so many engagements, I know for certain that I won’t forget it. (Especially after getting outside just a minute too late to be toward the front of the barricade at the stage door, where I looked from a few feet back as he took pictures and gave autographs, speaking kindly to everyone, even as some girls yelled over a pile of trash bags on the curb “Climb over the trash, Andrew!”).
I cried more on the walk back to my hotel— inspired, anxious, happy, frustrated tears that contained a renewed knowledge of what I want to do with my life. The excitement built as I began to realize, “That just happened!” and I was unable to sleep. So, in my Andrew Garfield t-shirt (which I wore under a pullover sweater at the event so as to not seem like too crazed of a fan), I jammed out to the “tick, tick…BOOM!” soundtrack until about 1:30 a.m.
The next day, being the unashamed tourist I am, I went to see Rockefeller Center in its peaceful early morning state. I walked by while the Today Show was filming and saw the hosts through the glass. I visited some Broadway theater marquees, including The Music Man. I ate my McDonald’s pancakes at a table in the unexpected quiet of 9:00 a.m. Times Square.
It may not seem like much, but I wanted to make one last stop before I left, so I found out how far away Playwrights Horizons was. Jonathan Larson had staged performances of Superbia, the failed musical which the fictional Jon (Andrew Garfield) workshops in tick, tick…BOOM!, there when he was alive. The theater was a 6-minute walk from Port Authority, so although I was cutting it close, I made the short trip there. I paused for a moment to take in this little piece of musical theater history— of Jonathan Larson’s history— took a picture, and headed to catch my bus. Just 22 hours after I arrived in New York, I left for Boston. 4 more hours, and I was home.
Jonathan Larson and his music have come to mean so much to me, as they do to most theater kids. One of my best friends introduced me to Rent in high school, and the musical was essential in my developing love for musical theater. (My contact name for her on Snapchat remained “Roger,” after one of the play’s main characters until I deleted the app years later.) Spurred on by Andrew Garfield’s performance, tick, tick… BOOM! has managed to bring that love to the forefront more so than ever before, to a point where I don’t think I can ignore it anymore, and I could not be more annoyed or grateful.