According to Actors' Equity and the League of American Theatres and Producers, both sides have “reached an accord on the National Broadway Theatre Awards (NBTA)” as of April 2. The accord is based on a compromise that recognizes union talent in categories where non-union players take first place. The NBTA show will go on as planned on May 21. A new host for the show has been offered the honor but has not accepted as of April 3.
The Dinner Party stars, Henry Winkler and John Ritter, who had been linked to the hosting of the NBTAs, will not be hosting the event. Winkler and Ritter initially agreed to do the show and had recorded a pre-curtain, promotional speech for it before learning of the conflict between Equity and the League. Because four of the national shows included in the sweeping program were non-union, Equity intervened and asked the actors to decline the hosting gig, which they did. In light of the more recent compromise with the League, Equity confirmed that it had retracted its request that Winkler and Ritter not participate. But a League spokesperson added that both actors now had other commitments anyway and were unable to be take part in the 2001 NBTA show.
The Equity/League compromise arrangement on NBTA voting criterion may develop further over time. Meanwhile, the NBTA program will go on this year and, according to the deal that was worked out between Equity executive director Alan Eisenberg and League president Jed Bernstein, awards will be doubled up when the public votes for a winner who happens to be non-Equity. In such cases, the union player with the second highest number of votes will also be presented with an award in the same category as the non-union frontrunner. The award presented to any “union second” would be equal in value and prestige to the non-union award winner, a spokesperson said, regardless of any disparity between first and second place in the vote tally, or whether there was more than one non-union winner ranked above the first union player recognized with the “second” award in a given category.
An NBTA spokesperson stressed to PBOL that, "The main thing gained by Equity was the identification of Equity shows in the marketplace." The League spokesperson pointed out that the system is subject to development and that such disparities are unlikely given the large number of union shows in relation to non-union and the large number of nominees in most categories.
The NBTA show goes on as planned on May 21, 2001 at The Supper Club in New York City. According to a League statement, “Equity tours and Equity actors will be identified on NBTA ballots. In this year's awards ceremony, a "separate award will be given to an Equity actor or Equity show, if a non-Equity actor or show wins in any category.” Under the terms of the agreement, starting next season, the League's presenters will be asked to identify Equity tours in publicity material and display an Equity logo at the box office, distinguishing the show as an Equity production. Shortly after the awards were announced by the League in March, Equity objected to the fact that non-union tours were included alongside union tours.
“Unlike the Tony Awards,” an earlier promotional release read, "voting is conducted by the theatre-going public, who can vote via the internet or by mailing in ballots distributed in the lobbies of participating theatres around the country."
Theatre fans may log on to the NBTA website at www.nationalbroadwayawards.com between now and April 23 to register. Ballots will be emailed. Winners will be announced in New York on May 21.
—By Murdoch McBride