The Post Tony Fallout: 2 Less Awards and a Few More Trophies

Post Tony Fallout used to mean which shows would close after the Producers did their analyses of their Monday sales, with many praying for bumps from the telecast before, or a ton of awards they could trumpet in the press.

And now, it also includes the new rulings established by the Tony Administration Committee for the next year’s awards.

The Committee wastes no time in making changes these days, often making the announcements while the acceptance speeches are still ringing in our ears (this year’s came yesterday, three days after the ceremony), and I gotta say, I love how fast they operate.  They take into account what happened last year, and they switch it up to try to make it better.  That’s great producing, actually.  See what’s working.  See what isn’t.  Change what isn’t until it is.

I haven’t always agreed with them (I still miss the Special Theatrical Event Tony), but I love their desire to shake things up, even when they know it might upset a ton of people.

And this year’s announcement did just that.

First, it was decided that “Authors of plays and musicals that have not been previously produced on Broadway, but at the committee’s determination are part of the popular repertoire, will be included in the Best Revival of a Play/Musical categories along with their producers.”  That means, John Cameron Mitchell and his Composer, Stephen Trask, would have gotten Tonys this year, along with their Producer, David Binder (way to go, David!).

Second, it was decided that for a trial period of one year, the ban on the types of promo material sent to voters would be lifted.  So instead of being kept to just scripts, souvenir books, reviews and recordings, Producers can now send umbrellas, foodstuffs, and circus performers to voters if they think it would help.  Curious to see what arrives in my mailbox next year!

And lastly, and here comes the one that was tough for a lot of people to hear (pun intended – you’ll get it in a second).  Even though these two awards are only seven years old,  the Committee eliminated the Sound Design Tony Awards for both Best Play and Best Musical.

There was an asterisk next to that ruling, however, that said the Committee “holds the right to determine a special Tony award for certain productions that have excelled in this particular design realm.”  So, there could be one if they deemed a design worthy.  Of course, years ago they also said there could be a Special Theatrical Event Tony in a year they thought it was deserved.  But there hasn’t been one . . . so, there’s that.

I was a bit shocked by the announcement, because as sound becomes so much more driven by technology, the Designer becomes so much more important.

So what drove the decision?

Maybe it was that the Committee saw it as more technical?  But what about lighting?  Surely that’s more driven by technology these days too?

Was it to just reduce the number of awards with the hopes of giving everyone air time next year?

Honestly, I think it was neither.

I think the decision was made based on the sheer number of designers out there doing this kind of work.

While we’ve only had a designer win twice, there have been several designers that have received four nominations each, out of only seven years.  I think the fear was that the trophies would seem to be just traded back and forth between a small group of folks.

Whatever the decision was, there are a lot of folks sounding off (pun intended again) about the issue.

So what do you think?  Should the Sound Designers have their own Tony?  Should they not?

Tell me what you think in the comments below.

And if you agree with the Sound Designers, click here to sign their petition to bring it back.


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  • Rick Pessagno says:

    Hi Ken, I’ve been been following you for several years now. [that sounds weird] you know what I mean. Having just read your post regarding the Tony committee’s decision in terms of sound designers. I’ll get to that in a sec. I have an even bigger bone to pick with them and please weigh in if you would as well. The fact that the choreographer is not acknowledged on the live telecast is BEYOND ME!! When nearly if not ALL musicals that are nominated do a “musical number” CHOREOGRAPHED and that the Choreographer is as vital to the collaboration process in it’s early stages of a show as director [where does it all begin]. Writer, Producer, Director, Choreographer. I have written the committee via their website TWICE! Several years ago asking how and who made such a decision and again the day after the Tony’s aired 2014. I personally find it disrespectful. Which brings me to sound design. Once again disrespectful! To what seems to lessen the importance of what it takes to produce ANY production is ignoring the art of Theatre in itself! HOW DARE THEY!! Now I’m gett’n mad! 🙂 I think I’ll stop there. I would love to hear what YOU think about the choreographer example….please shed some light that I might see it from a different perspective. all the best
    Rick Pessagno

  • Felicia says:

    Assuming your numbers theory is correct, Ken, do you think combining the two separate awards into one — “Best Sound Design of a Play or Musical” — would help?

  • Zach says:

    Your explanation about the same few designers doing sound design on all the shows is, I believe, right on the money. Now there are many sound design “firms”, teams of a few artists working together, and they seem to get all the work. That being said, I signed that very popular petition that’s been going around and the more than 20,000 signatures it has could very well lead to the Tony Awards committee overturning this decision after upsetting SO many people. Thanks for your insight on this.

  • Phil says:

    I’d like to see them do the Tonys without a sound designer. Maybe that would make them see just how important that position is to EVERY show.

  • Deborah Chase says:

    SO disappointed that Best Choreographer was not awarded on air. Best Musical is the highlight of the night & you can’t have a musical without a
    choreographer. Performers have to be Triple Threats & one of the areas is DANCE.
    Let’s give the hardworking creative choreographers their moment of glory!

  • John 'JT' Taylor says:

    Dear Ken,
    As someone who has worked many areas of Theatre, from supplying the needed equipment for Broadway and touring shows all the way down to Designing for Community Theatre groups, I was shocked when the committee made that announcement. I was not thrilled years ago when we had to start putting mics on actors for every musical. Then I realized some of these actors just can’t sing out and over the larger orchestras we are using. Also the Theatre world started using more electronic instruments and playing in venues that just needed some extra push, it challenged those of us who design sound. We had another element to add into the show.

    Several years ago I had a deep conversation with a producer from here in the mid west, who also has produced Broadway Shows, about why you can’t just put a full sound or lighting system in every theatre and be done with it. I explained to her the various factors that come into play with each new show. Since no two shows need exactly the same items to produce the show it is better to specify for each show to accomplish a successful production.

    One of the other signers on the petition said it very well in that we may need to educate more of the committee and the voters. I am still amazed sometimes when a director asks for an effect in sound or a color in lighting and I have to say to them, let me show you another choice and see if you like that first. Most of the time, the director will agree with me. If not then I will give them what they ask for and they often will come back and say “Can you do something else with that?”.

    Hopefully the outpouring to support reinstating the sound design awards will make the committee rethink their decision.

  • Tommy Thomson says:

    I thought it was a dynamic Tony telecast, just sorry they didn’t air the “In Memoriam”.
    For many viewers this is their yearly chance to keep up with Broadway comings and goings- one last chance to see those who will never tread the boards again.

  • Debbie Saville says:

    As I created my first musical, I considered every aspect of what inspires an audience. For me, it was about the music and the script first but as I thought about each scene after the music and script was created, lighting and sound design became equally important to enhance the message around each scene. Lighting and sound design brings a production full circle because in my opinion how it is presented to the audience along with how it is performed completes the production and draws the audience to it.

  • Jared W says:

    I’m going to play devil’s advocate for a moment.

    Yes, sound designers are an important part of most Broadway shows these days. But so are wig makers (almost every show is wigged these days). And projection designers, which when we write about shows often falls under discussions of the set but if you look at the credits is often done by an entirely different person/team. What about music directors? Or stage management?

    The fact of the matter is, most Broadway shows need every person that works on them to be successful. If they didn’t, we would stop hiring people for that job. But we don’t give all of them awards. And while it’s kind of crummy that we had a Sound Design category that has been taken away, is it any less crappy than there not being a hair and makeup category at all? Or pretending that the music director isn’t instrumental in making the singers sound as good as they do?

    You have to draw the line somewhere, and if sound design is in fact a small group of designers who do the majority of the work, it already dilutes the prestige of the award if the same people keep being nominated/winning.

  • Bob Tolaro says:

    Theatre is a composite art form. Sound is one of those art forms. Sound can make or break a show. It should be recognized. Bring the award back….or better….get rid of all the awards for one year and see who suffers the most. It might prove that it’s all about money and not about the art.

  • Lighting says:

    Hi there! This post couldn’t be written any better!
    Reading through this post reminds me of my good old room mate!
    He always kept chatting about this. I will forward this post to him.

    Fairly certain he will have a good read. Thanks
    for sharing!

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