Monday, July 15, 2013

Tony Committee Grows to 46, Declared a Separate Country

A meeting of the 2013-14 Tony Nominating Committee
There are so many people on the 2013-14 Tony Nominating Committee, they have been declared a new country and are filing for membership in the United Nations. This time of year, during the summer doldrums, the Broadway League usually quietly announces the new members of the committee that decides who gets nominated for the Main Stem's biggest honor. But this year, the big story was the huge number of them. It shouldn't come as a surprise, the electorate has been steadily increasing while the number of Tony voters--those who chose the winners--has been decreasing.

As announced today, for 2013-14, there are 46--count 'em, 46--nominators with new members including Marsha Mason, Boyd Gaines, and Cheyenne Jackson, that's up from 40 last season. (By a weird coincidence, there were 46 new Broadway productions during the 2011-12 season and 40 for 2011-12. Is the Tony Administration Committee using production statistics to chose the number of nominators?)

A random sampling of my Best Play volumes reveal an astonishing increase over the years. In 1965-66, there were only six nominators, in 75-76 ten (for both of these years, they were mainly critics). Then in 89-90, it was 12, mostly administrative and academic people with some active theater people. In 2000-01, the number jumps to 25 and there are hardly any reviewers. 2010-11 saw 30 nominators, and, as noted, 2011-12 had 40, none of them active critics.

Members of the first AND second-night press list used to vote for the awards, but then the second-nighters were dropped sometime in the 1980s. There was even a third night press list in those days. In 2009-10, the Tony Administration Committee decided to drop the first-nighters as well (about 150 voters including editors, critics, and reporters, but also people like the celebrity bookers for The View and The Today Show). But members of the New York Drama Critics Circle (about 25 or so) were re-instated the following season after a huge stink was raised about there being no objective voters. Without the press, all the remaining Tony electors either would have had a financial interest in one or more of the nominated shows or friends in said shows.

Why the vast increase in the Nominating Committee and the decrease in the voters? The reason for the former is unclear--obviously the producers are not objecting to have to provide a few extra free tickets--but the latter is due to a desire to keep the press's influence in the Tony outcome to a minimum. They don't want risky critics' darlings to win over audience-friendly hits.

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