Tonys: 2014 Nominations Were Determined by Only 33 People
THR's awards analyst questions whether a few dozen people can really claim to speak for the entire Broadway community.
NEW YORK -- Being new to the Tonys beat this season, I have had to learn a lot, very quickly, about the minutiae of Broadway's highest honors. Among the things I have found most surprising is the fact that Tony nominations are determined by a Nominating Committee comprised of a rotating group of no more than 50 "theater professionals selected by the Tony Awards Administration Committee," each of whom serve overlapping three-year terms.
That shockingly small figure, however, often ends up being even smaller because of people's inability to see the shows and/or various conflicts of interest that arise, forcing some Nominating Committee members to recuse themselves from the process. (This year, for instance, the writer/producer Rick Elice took his name out of the hat because his husband, the actor Roger Rees, was cast in The Winslow Boy, which was eligible for consideration.)
The bottom line: only 33 people determined the 2014 Tony nominations.
No one can argue, in good conscience, that 33 people, or 27 (the number in 2010), or even 50, are really able to speak for the entire Broadway community. And yet most people outside of that community assume that the Tony nominations and awards do just that. Therefore, it seems to me that the process probably should be reconsidered.
I'm not sure what the "right" number is -- the current figure represents about five percent of the 868 people who get to cast ballots this year to determine Tony winners -- but in a community as large as this one, I know it's higher than that.
(For point of reference, more than 15,000 members of the TV Academy determine the Emmy nominations and more than six thousand members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences weigh in on the best picture Oscar nominations; the other Oscar categories' nominees are determined by segments of that group numbering between 108 and 1176. In contrast, though, fewer than a dozen voters determine the Olivier Awards, London's equivalent of the Tonys.)
Of course, the greatest challenge in expanding the size of the Tonys Nom-Com is probably finding people who are able and willing to see all of the eligible shows, as the position demands. There are around 40 new shows each year, which open throughout the theater season, only, of course, in New York. That means that nom-com members have to be in town and available for shows that debut anywhere from May of one year through April of the next. (Nom-com members' attendance at shows is carefully monitored by the productions' publicists, so they really do need to show up to everything.)
Below is a list of the 33 people who determined this year's Tony nominations. I cannot emphasize enough that the purpose of this piece is not to question their qualifications or selections, but rather the notion that a group this small can possibly speak for a community this large.
- Douglas Aibel – Artistic Director, Vineyard Theatre
- Arin Arbus – Associate Artistic Director, Theatre for a New Audience
- John Arnone – Scenic designer
- Ira Bernstein – Former producer/general manager/stage manager
- Susan Birkenhead – Lyricist
- Mark Brokaw – Director/Artistic Director, Yale Institute for Music Theatre
- Ben Cameron – Program Director for the Arts, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation
- Mary Schmidt Campbell – Dean, Tisch School of the Arts/New York University
- Veronica Claypool – Arts Management Consultant, Full Circle Management Group/former general manager
- Douglas J. Cohen – Composer/lyricist/playwright
- Ida Cole – Founding Director, Seattle Theatre Group
- John Darnton – Former Cultural Editor, The New York Times
- Jacqueline Z. Davis – Executive Director, The NY Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center
- Kent Gash – Director/Founding Director, NYU/Tisch School of the Arts New Studio on Broadway
- Kathryn Grody – Actor/writer
- Susan Hilferty – Costume designer
- Philip Himberg – Artistic Director, Sundance Institute Theatre Program
- Ann Hould-Ward – Costume designer
- Julie Hughes – Former casting director
- Abe Jacob – Sound designer
- Stephen Karam – Playwright
- Corby Kummer – Senior Editor, The Atlantic magazine
- Dick Latessa – Actor
- Sara Lukinson – Documentary film producer/television writer
- Marsha Mason – Actor/playwright
- Susan Rice – Playwright/screenwriter
- Mervyn Rothstein – Retired writer and editor, The New York Times
- Scott Schwartz – Director
- Linda Shelton – Executive Director, Joyce Theater Foundation
- Tobie S. Stein – Director, Graduate Program in Performing Arts Management, Brooklyn College
- Robert Viagas – Playbill Program Director/Editor
- Carol Waaser – Retired AEA official/company and stage manager
- Robin Wagner – Scenic designer