Foster told Variety that he expected the group, which he started June 16, to provoke a discussion among a fairly small group of theatre folk about the merits of bringing Hollywood stars to the Tony telecast, both as presenters and as frequent awardees, and whether that overshadows the contributions of working, non-celebrity theatre talent.
But by the morning of June 18, the group counted nearly 3, 400 members and a string of discussion threads on the subject.
Some support the view of Howard Sherman, the executive director of Tonys co-presenter The American Theatre Wing, that an exchange of Hollywood and Broadway talent is healthy and useful in reaching a wider audience. Sherman told Variety, “Maintaining a berth on network television has an enormous value for all of Broadway.”
But many support the description posted on the group’s main page, which identifies itself as “a group for all actors, directors, writers and fans who want to see the Tony Awards celebrate the excellence of Broadway by allowing those artists who have made theatre their livelihood to take a more active part in its yearly presentation. We want the evening to be about Broadway and for the fans of Broadway. This group is about including more of those artists that we admire and look up to, so that it truly becomes an evening to celebrate.”
Catherine Zeta-Jones, Denzel Washington and Scarlett Johannson were among the stars known more for their work in films than on stage who were awarded for their work on Broadway this season at the Tonys June 13. Many members of the Facebook group noted that these stars had early stage backgrounds and defended their awarded performances. But there seemed to be a strong feeling in the discussions that the appreciation of the actors’ work was motivated more by their movie stardom than anything else.
One commentator wrote, "Look, talent is talent, so whether Hollywood stars or Broadway unknowns are on the NYC stages, fine. But the Tony awards ceremony should honor Broadway and stay loyal to those that brought the spotlighted shows to life... not the names that are just that: names."
Foster said to Variety that he was surprised but heartened by how quickly his group has become popular. "Maybe if there's enough people,” he said, “we can do something about it as a theater community."
To view Foster’s Facebook group and to join in the discussions, click here.
- Thomas Peter