How Does Broadway Cast Its Deciding Votes for the Tony Awards?

Tony Awards   How Does Broadway Cast Its Deciding Votes for the Tony Awards? We break down the complex system behind awarding the theatre’s highest honor.
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Actor and actress nominees with host James Corden at the 2016 Tony Awards Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions

The Antoinette Perry Awards—what we know today as the Tony Awards—are presented each June in recognition of distinguished artistic achievement on Broadway.

Created by the American Theatre Wing in 1947, the Tony Awards are now administered in a joint agreement between the Wing and The Broadway League, a partnership that began in 1967—the first year the ceremony was broadcast on national television. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the first Tony Awards telecast.

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Here is how the nominees are chosen and how the voting takes place.

Each Broadway season runs roughly from June 1 to May 31, but the Tony eligibility is offset from that by about a month. Broadway shows eligible for the 2017 Tony Awards must have opened between April 29, 2016, and April 27, 2017.

There are three separate committees involved in the Tony Award process: the Tony Awards Management Committee, the Tony Awards Administration Committee, and the Tony Awards Nominating Committee.

Here’s a look at the role each committee serves:

The Tony Awards Management Committee:
This 16-member committee consisting of members of the League and the Wing, oversees the legal, contractual, and financial dimension of the awards, with emphasis on the ceremony’s television broadcast.

The Tony Awards Administration Committee:
The Administration Committee makes decisions about rules for eligibility, about the eligibility of particular shows and artists, and about who will receive special awards. This committee consists of 24 members; 10 are designated by the Wing, 10 by the League, and one each by the Dramatists Guild, Actors’ Equity Association, United Scenic Artists, and the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers.

The Administration Committee meets several times throughout the season and decides which categories will be given each year, and who will get special awards like the Isabelle Stevenson Award for community service and the Lifetime Achievement Award. The Administration Committee announced this year that the Tony awards for Sound Design, which were instituted in 2008 and discontinued in 2014, will be reinstated for the 2018 Tonys.

The Tony Awards Nominating Committee:
A rotating group of theatre professionals (who are selected by the Administration Committee), serve on the Nominating Committee for overlapping three-year terms.

This year 52 nominators were announced, but only 43 actually did the nominating, the other nine having recused themselves for various reasons, generally because they were unable to see all the eligible shows, or because they became associated professionally with one of the potentially nominated shows. Members of the Nominating Committee must see every show deemed eligible by the Administration Committee, or must recuse themselves from the committee.

The Nominating Committee meets only twice: once at the beginning of the season to welcome new members and to lay out the rules, and meets again just after the end of the eligibility period to choose the nominees.

Three days after the eligibility deadline, the Tony Nominating Committee, goes into action and meets to choose the nominees in each category: generally four, but nominators have the option to nominate as many as five if the votes are especially close. They also have the option to nominate fewer than four, or to eliminate a category entirely if there are not enough eligible shows/artists in a given category, or if eligible shows/artists do not get enough votes.

To be eligible, show must open in one of the 41 designated Broadway theatres grouped around Times Square in Manhattan. Shows must also play at least eight performances and make tickets available to all the designated voters. Several shows this season did not meet those criteria, including Black to the Future, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons on Broadway, My Love Letter to Broadway, The Illusionists—Turn of the Century, and Alton Brown Live: Eat Your Science.

At least one show, the sold-out revival of Sunday in the Park With George, opted not to compete in any category, and did not make tickets available to nominators or voters.

Nominations take place behind closed doors a month to six weeks (on April 30 this year) before the Tony ceremony (on June 11 this year). The nominators work from a complete list of every person eligible in each category. Each year’s Nominating Committee votes on whether they will discuss the potential nominees at their meeting, or simply vote. The voting itself is done by secret ballot, with the votes tabulated this year by the New York accounting firm of Grant Thornton. Paper ballots were then mailed to the full pool of Tony voters, who have until the Friday before the Tony ceremony (June 9 this year) to submit their completed ballots.

Who Votes for the Tony Awards?
Paper ballots are mailed to the full pool of Tony voters, who have until the Friday before the Tony ceremony (June 9 this year) to submit their completed ballots. The 2017 Tony Award voter pool consists of 839 industry professionals, drawn from the membership of the American Theatre Wing, the Broadway League, the New York Drama Critics Circle, and certain members of Actors Equity, the design unions, and managers of theatres that host touring productions across the USA. Voters are required to see every show in every category. If they missed a nominated show or performance, they are required to abstain from voting in that category, but may vote in other categories for which they have seen all the nominees.

Completed ballots are submitted by mail or in person and are tabulated in secret by the Grant Thornton accounting firm, which inscribes the names of the winners on cards that are then sealed inside envelopes, and guarded until the moment they handed backstage to the presenters at the Tony ceremony.

The 2017 Tony Awards will take place June 11 at Radio City Music Hall; Kevin Spacey will host.

View the Tony Awards Official Rules and Regulations here.

Members of the 2017 Tony Awards Management Committee:
Mark Abrahams, Kristin Caskey, Dale Cendali, Ted Chapin, Sondra Gilman, Heather Hitchens, William Ivey Long, Jordan Roth, Charlotte St. Martin, Scott Sanders, Nick Scandalios, Howard Stringer, Tom Viertel, Bob Wankel, Barry Weissler, and Pamela Zilly.

Members of the 2017 Tony Awards Administration Committee:
Emanuel Azenberg, Ted Chapin, Michael David, Cecilia Friederichs, Sue Frost, Heather Hitchens, David Henry Hwang, Natasha Katz, Paul Libin, William Ivey Long, John Lyons, Mary McColl, Kevin McCollum, James L. Nederlander, Enid Nemy, Laura Penn, Michael Price, Judith O. Rubin, Charlotte St. Martin, Peter Schneider, Thomas Schumacher, Ralph Sevush, Philip Smith, and David Stone. ALTERNATES: Ken Billington, Patricia Crown, Alan Eisenberg, Gary Garrison, John Gore, Barry Grove, Todd Haimes, Jeffrey Eric Jenkins, Kenny Leon, Edward Pierce, Emilio Sosa, Stuart Thompson, Robert Wankel, and Michael Wilson.

Members of the 2016-2017 Tony Awards Nominating Committee:
Adrian Bailey, actor
Victoria Bailey, Executive Director, Theatre Development Fund
Luis Castro, media and entertainment executive/producer
Hope Clarke, choreographer
Paul Cremo, dramaturg/Director of Opera Commissioning Program, The Metropolitan Opera
Scott Elliott, director/Artistic Director, The New Group
Harvey Evans, actor
Paul Gallo, lighting designer
Jenny Gersten, former Executive Director, Friends of the High Line
Daniel Goldfarb, playwright, bookwriter
Sam Gonzalez, Director of Operations, Pfizer Medical/Board of Trustees, Playwrights Horizons
Adam Gwon, composer/lyricist
Peter Hedges, writer
Mara Isaacs, founder and director, Octopus Theatricals, LLC
Lou Jacob, director at the New School for Drama
Anne Keefe, associate artist, Westport Country Playhouse
Tom Kitt, composer, lyricist, bookwriter
Fran Kumin, consultant, performing arts organizations/foundations/university theatre programs
Michael John LaChiusa, composer, lyricist, librettist
Kate Levin, Cultural Assets Management Principal, Bloomberg Associates
Reynold Levy, former President of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts
Patricia Marx, American humorist and writer, former television writer
Jim McLaughlin, former producer, CBS News/TV feature and documentary producer
Tony Meola, sound designer
Jessica Molaskey, actor
Roger Morgan, lighting designer, theatre designer
Laurence O’Keefe, composer/lyricist/bookwriter
Katherine Oliver, Media and Technology Principal, Bloomberg Associates
Christian Parker, Chair, Graduate Theatre Program, Columbia University
Paige Price, actor/1st Vice President of AEA/Executive Artistic Director, Theatre Aspen
Ravi S. Rajan, Dean, School of the Arts–SUNY Purchase
Paul Rudnick, playwright, novelist, screenwriter, essayist
Susan H. Schulman, Director/President, Stage Directors and Choreographers
Mikki Shepard, Executive Producer, The Apollo Theatre
Warner Shook, director
Ellen Sorrin, Director, The George Balanchine Trust
Jessica Stone, actor/director
Edward Strong, producer
Wynn Thomas, production designer
Jennifer von Mayrhauser, costume designer
Tom Watson, Retired executive, television advertising
Preston Whiteway, Executive Director, The Eugene O’Neill Theater Center
Evan Yionoulis, director

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