Will we have two types of Tony Awards?
First there was last year’s NY Times article about the rising cost of the Tony Award (and I’m not talking about how expensive it is to produce a show that wins a Tony Award or the cost of a Tony Award advertising campaign – I’m talking about the cost of the actual award).
Now comes another article in the Times, also by Pat Healy (our theatrical beat reporter), revealing that there have been discussions at the American Theatre Wing, one of the co-producers of The Tony Awards (along with The Broadway League), about having two Tony Awards for Producers: one for lead Producers (or General Partners) and one for “investing” producers – producers without decision making authority.
Obviously these discussions are a direct response to the number of Producers above the title on some shows in recent years, and limiting the number of the statues that are out in the world. Because $2,500 or not . . . if you win a Tony Award, you’re going to find a way to buy it (which is probably why the cost has risen so much over the years – it’s like premium pricing – if people will pay it, why not raise it).
All those Tony awards out there have gotten many folks concerned that the value and prestige of them may be dropping, which is definitely a valid concern.
The article suggested that one of the solutions would be these two awards: our classic statue, and then something else (which I assume would be smaller).
How do I feel about the issue?
Look, I long for the days when there was one or two names above the title . . . but that’s just not the world we live in anymore. Maybe if I get the rights to a brand new play written by Tony Kushner and starring Madonna and Barack Obama (while he’s still in office), I might be able to raise all the money without subcontracting out the financing to others. But with the rising costs of producing a show (and now I AM talking about that bottom line budget), it’s much more difficult to raise all those millions yourself . . . and focus on the day to day responsibilities of producing a show.
And that’s the thing – see I know a bunch of Lead Producers out there that could raise all the money by themselves, but raising money takes time and energy – and most Leads have talents that are better suited in the ad meetings, in the rehearsal rooms, helping to make sure those investors get their money back. Subcontracting out the financing is just good time management.
And by the way – those other names above the title? Without them, a ton of risky shows over the years wouldn’t have happened.
Everyone out there, including me, wants more risk on Broadway. We want new plays, we want new musicals, we want shows that aren’t star dependent so we can make stars.
But that’s riskier. And when things are riskier, you have to give a little bit more away (like above-the-title billing) to get the shows to happen. Would shows like Spring Awakening ever have happened without all those folks getting the billing they rightfully deserved for taking that risk?
And as I said to Pat in the article, how do you really know who has done what on a production and who is due the big award versus the small one? I guess you draw the line as I did above with General Partners versus Limited Partners- but I’ve been on quite a few shows where Limited Partners did more for the show than the GP.
That said – am I opposed to two types of awards for producers?
No. I’m fine with it, and I do think it will help keep the awards a little more scarce, and also maybe encourage more LPs to want to become GPs . . . and we all need more Lead Producers out there.
Besides, it’s not the award . . .it’s the title. As long as those LPs can still say they won a Tony Award, that’s all that they need. And PS – they do need it. We can’t ever take that away from ’em. They need it to raise money, to raise awareness, and to give them all another reason for doing what they do . . . which is help get art up on a Broadway stage.
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