Brandon Uranowitz reconnected with his family roots in 'Leopoldstadt'
Uranowitz, a four-time nominee, clinched his first Tony Award for his performance in Leopoldstadt, a play that brought him closer to his Jewish identity.
When Brandon Uranowitz walked into the audition room for Tom Stoppard’s Leopoldstadt, he didn’t think he could play the part. Not only could Uranowitz do it, but his dynamic portrayal of Nathan and Ludwig, two members of an extended Jewish family in early 20th-century Vienna, earned him a Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Play.
Uranowitz credits director Patrick Marber, who won Best Direction of a Play, for helping him see the light. “He reminded me what I can do, and he trusted me and gave me the space to find these characters as they live in me,” said Uranowitz in the press room after his win. “He reminded me of my potential that I really had lost touch with, and I’m deeply grateful for it.”
For Uranowitz, the award recognition goes beyond his performance in Leopoldstadt; it’s a culmination of his career thus far, which includes seven Broadway credits. “This play means more to me than anything I've ever done,” said Uranowitz. “And I feel like this is a validation of all the work that has led up to it, as well as just validation for the work that we all put in as a company into the story.”
In addition to earning much-deserved praise, being part of Leopoldstadt was personal to Uranowitz and helped him embrace his identity on a deeper level. After feeling resentful for being pigeonholed into playing “Jewish sidekicks,” Stoppard’s searing play gave Uranowitz newfound dignity.
“This play has reconnected me with a part of my identity that I feel like I put on the back burner for a really long time,” he said. “I feel like confronting it and embracing it in this way… is the biggest reason why I'm actually here holding this, because I feel a deep sense of pride now,” he said, lifting his Tony Award.
In his acceptance speech, Uranowitz thanked his ancestors, many of whom did not make it out of Poland, and his parents, who were in the audience, for their unwavering support on and off the stage. He expressed his desire to repay them for the sacrifices they’ve made for him. “I work in the theatre, so I can’t do that!” he said with a laugh.
He also used his moment in the spotlight to deliver a powerful message to all the parents watching from home: “When your child tells them who you are, believe them… an authentic life is a limitless life.”
In the press room, Uranowitz further expounded on this call to action for parents. “We're reaching an inflection point in the zeitgeist right now culturally and politically, and queer and trans folks are being persecuted and targeted,” said Uranowitz. “The only reason I'm standing here is because I was able to live fully and completely holistically in my own truth.”
Themes of identity and the need for acceptance are central to Leopoldstadt, and Uranowitz urged everyone to see the play before it closes on July 2. The Holocaust may seem overly familiar, but many of the travesties outlined in the play still happen today, and audiences can learn from the stage portrayal of that period.
“This play is a clarion call to all of us to pay attention to those things that seem inconsequential, but their accumulation can lead to fast devastation,” he said. “And that [awareness] comes from reminding people and never forgetting and continuing to tell the story, even if we feel like we know it. I guarantee you, you don't know all of it.”
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Top image credit: Brandon Uranowitz at the 76th Annual Tony Awards.
(Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)
In-line photo credit: The cast of Leopoldstadt on Broadway. (Photo by Joan Marcus)
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