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.
Jefferson Mays and Bryce Pinkham in 'A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder,' 2014's most nominated show

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.

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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.)

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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.

  1. Douglas Aibel – Artistic Director, Vineyard Theatre
  2. Arin Arbus – Associate Artistic Director, Theatre for a New Audience
  3. John Arnone – Scenic designer
  4. Ira Bernstein – Former producer/general manager/stage manager
  5. Susan Birkenhead – Lyricist
  6. Mark Brokaw – Director/Artistic Director, Yale Institute for Music Theatre
  7. Ben Cameron – Program Director for the Arts, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation
  8. Mary Schmidt Campbell – Dean, Tisch School of the Arts/New York University
  9. Veronica Claypool – Arts Management Consultant, Full Circle Management Group/former general manager
  10. Douglas J. Cohen – Composer/lyricist/playwright
  11. Ida Cole – Founding Director, Seattle Theatre Group
  12. John Darnton – Former Cultural Editor, The New York Times
  13. Jacqueline Z. Davis – Executive Director, The NY Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center
  14. Kent Gash – Director/Founding Director, NYU/Tisch School of the Arts New Studio on Broadway
  15. Kathryn Grody – Actor/writer
  16. Susan Hilferty – Costume designer
  17. Philip Himberg – Artistic Director, Sundance Institute Theatre Program
  18. Ann Hould-Ward – Costume designer
  19. Julie Hughes – Former casting director
  20. Abe Jacob – Sound designer
  21. Stephen Karam – Playwright
  22. Corby Kummer – Senior Editor, The Atlantic magazine
  23. Dick Latessa – Actor
  24. Sara Lukinson – Documentary film producer/television writer
  25. Marsha Mason – Actor/playwright
  26. Susan Rice – Playwright/screenwriter
  27. Mervyn Rothstein – Retired writer and editor, The New York Times
  28. Scott Schwartz – Director
  29. Linda Shelton – Executive Director, Joyce Theater Foundation
  30. Tobie S. Stein – Director, Graduate Program in Performing Arts Management, Brooklyn College
  31. Robert Viagas – Playbill Program Director/Editor
  32. Carol Waaser – Retired AEA official/company and stage manager
  33. Robin Wagner – Scenic designer

Twitter: @ScottFeinberg