Last week, a compromise was reached between the Tony Awards and the critical press after almost a year of a very public and tense standoff.
Here’s what happened:
On July 14, 2009, the Tonys sent all the reviewers on the “First Night Press List” (those who are invited to see shows on opening night or before) a letter saying that their Tony voter status had been revoked. An excerpt from the letter stated the following reasons for the change:
Please note that this change in no way affects your inclusion on the First Night Press List. As you know, a committee of Broadway press agents develops and administers the First Night Press List, and it does not fall under the purview of Tony Award Productions, The Broadway League, or the American Theatre Wing.
In making this decision, the Tony Management Committee took into account that members of the First Night Press List will of course continue to have the opportunity to express their critical opinions in reviews and other coverage of the theatre season. In addition, the Management Committee took into consideration the fact that certain publications and individual critics have historically pursued a policy of abstaining from voting on entertainment awards in general, to avoid any possible conflicts of interest in fulfilling their primary responsibilities as journalists.”
Ok. Makes sense. If the Tony Awards don’t control the list, you can see why they might be concerned about who is able to cast a ballot. Can you imagine a co-op board allowing someone to vote for a building amendment if they didn’t have a say in who was living in the building?
But, you can without a doubt see the side of the critics who jumped up and down concerned about the lack of the critical voice in the block of voters.
All in all, about 100 people’s privileges were revoked. And a lot of those 100 people were very vocal about their displeasure.
Last week, the Tonys listened.
It was announced on March 25, 2010, less than two months before voting begins, that members of the Drama Critics’ Circle, a group that has been around since 1935, a group that has membership guidelines, structure, meetings, executive leadership and their own awards, will be allowed to cast a vote for the Tony Awards.
While this will still leave several of those first nighters without a vote, I think this was a wonderful compromise that allows the Tonys to establish more of a structure to the body of voters, while ensuring that this body is made up of the most diverse group of contributors to our unique world.
Critics have a place in this world. And they should have a vote. I’m now thankful that they do.
Oh, by the way, I would have linked to the Variety article about this subject . . . but they’ve put their stories behind a e-wall now. I wonder how that’s gonna work out for them. Here’s a Theatermania article instead.
To read more about the Drama Critics’ Circle, click here.