3 Things the theater can learn from the Oscars

84th_Academy_Awards_Show_05b71Sometimes I wonder if NYC will ever declare Oscar Sunday a city-wide holiday.  I mean, the streets are already deserted, people are having dinner parties . . . all we need to do is suspend some parking rules and bingo – instant holiday.

The Academy Awards are perhaps the biggest award show of any kind in the entire world.  I watch, not because I’m a big movie buff, or because I have money in an office pool or anything.  I watch to see if there are any tips the theater can pick up for our big awards show (The Tony-Tony-Tony), or for our industry in general.

Here are three things I gleaned from Sunday night’s big show:

1.  Nominate the number of good ones, not just a number

The Oscars changed up the number of nominees for Best Picture again.  Now it can be anywhere from five to ten (this year it turned out to be 9).  While we don’t have as many possible nominees to choose for our Best Play or Best Musical Tony Award, there are years when there are more than four great shows written, and call me crazy, but when that happens, we should nominate more than four.  This accomplishes both goals of Awards shows:  1 – it recognizes more artists, 2 – it helps market those shows.

2.  Embrace the international community.

The tiebreaker for my office Oscar pool should have been, “How many different accents will you hear during acceptance speeches?”  Italian, French, Pakistani, were just a few of the native languages of some of the winners.  While we can’t nominate productions actually seen in other countries, perhaps there is a way to honor some?  Or perhaps we can honor those artists?  Or perhaps this doesn’t have anything to do with awards, and our industry should just start producing more international works.  By demonstrating that theater is a unifying global art form, we could increase its awareness.  Or maybe it’s time for this idea.

3.  Just because it isn’t a blockbuster doesn’t mean it’s not important.

Independent film has been kicking A at the Oscars for a number of years. Off-Broadway is the Independent Film of the theater world.  It’s time for its own award.  Just one.  Even if it’s an Achievement Award, or a Citation of some sort.  Recognizing the work done by Off-Broadway artists is a way to make sure that they keep slaving away for the theater . . . and don’t run off to Hollywood.

Movies have a tremendous advantage over theater.  Because it’s so much easier to distribute movies throughout the world faster and cheaper than it is to distribute theater throughout the world, the products and the people are able to attract more attention, more revenue and therefore more power.

But, as I tweeted on Monday morning . . . you know what the most exciting moment of the Oscars was for me and so many of the 30 plus million people watching around the world?  The live theatrical performance by Cirque du Soleil.

What makes it more difficult for us, is also our greatest asset.


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  • Doug Hicton says:

    And in return, Broadway can teach Hollywood how to put on an awards show with well-rehearsed, exciting musical numbers, that moves along quickly and wraps up on time, before IATSE starts charging time and a half. Basically, the Oscars could use the services of a good Broadway stage manager.
    Maybe they’re showing their age or something, but the Academy Awards are usually pretty boring, and this last Oscar telecast was like Sominex. The Tonys, on the other hand, are always fun to watch, though I’d kind of like to see a scene from each nominated play, not just numbers from nominated musicals.

  • Marina Barry says:

    Acting is acting and the same movie actors are often seen on and off B’way — it should be another fun night not a snoozer — altho I always enjoy the Oscars – your points are well taken Ken and we all can learn fom each other!

  • Bruce says:

    Ken: I thought the Cirque de Soleil part of the show was ridiculous. It was an advertisement and had nothing to do with film. I know there were film clips showing in the background, but…
    We certainly don’t need recycled Billy Crystal any more. And where was Hollywood royalty (Jack Nicholson, Warren Beatty, Julie Andrews, Lauren Bacall, Sally Field, Julia Roberts, Clint Eastwood, Al Pacino, Barbra Steisand, etc.)? The Tony broadcasts are so much better as far as entertainment is concerned.

  • Michael says:

    Sounds like a good idea.
    A Tony for OB….
    As a film guy I know awards spread buzz.
    But both film and theater have a critical job to do, to create the right mythology for our times and for the looming future of a global civilization.

  • Scott says:

    Am I Only Person that Thought the Opening Set looked like the Tony Awards Set that they have been updating each year? The Gold Leaf Theatre Front?

  • Lorenzo says:

    With regards to #2, perhaps it’s time for a foreign language production on a Broadway stage?

  • Great Post, Ken!

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