A plea for arts advocacy and funding permeated the 2017 Tony Awards June 11 as numerous winners used their platform to emphasize the importance of the National Endowment for the Arts, arts education and outreach, and more.
The prominence of this message was in response to the Trump administration calling for the eventual elimination of the NEA, as well as the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
In his acceptance speech for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play, Present Laughter’s Kevin Kline thanked both the NEA and NEH, nothing they are both organizations “without whom probably half of the people in this room would not be here.”
Beyond the Radio City Music Hall stage, however, three artists delivered impassioned endorsements for the NEA to the press following their wins.
Responding to the news of pulled sponsorships from the Public Theater’s production of Julius Caesar, Cynthia Nixon—who won that night for her performance in The Little Foxes—said, “It’s important to fund artists all over the country and not have that funding tied to political points of view. You fund people because you think they’re good artists—not because they reflect your political viewpoint.”
Noting both the cultural and economic impact of art on a community, she said, “It’s really important to fund the arts on every level as a means by which a civilization is gauged—as a means of creating meaningful work for people, revenue tourism…but also a way to reflect our society back to us.”
After her big win for her performance in the title role of Hello, Dolly!, Bette Midler added to Nixon’s sentiments In the press room: “The Broadway stage supports 86,000 jobs, so the arts are a source of revenue for the city, and a great source of revenue for the United States…. I want to have color and beauty and light in my life, and I think everybody in their heart of hearts does.”
Rebecca Taichman, who earned her first Tony Award June 11 for directing the new play Indecent, indicated a grim future should the NEA be abolished. “If you want to destroy culture—if you actually want to decimate culture—that’s a way to do it, and community and dialogue and empathy,” she warned.
Her message is apt, as Indecent explores the true story of the 1923 Broadway debut of the controversial play God of Vengeance, the indecency trial it provoked, and the resilience it inspired in theatre makers for decades after.
“That’s the danger embedded in cutting what is already a truly endangered body. It’s beleaguered already. To cut it more is such audacious move, and it says very loudly and clearly, ‘We do not value the making of art.’”
Taichman’s words echoed a statement she gave to Playbill in April, joining myriad writers and artists in voicing their support in the NEA. “As we arrive on Broadway,” the Indecent director said, “I shudder to think of the many vital stories and storytellers that will never see this opportunity if the NEA loses funding.”
If you wish to join these artists in supporting the National Endowment for the Arts, visit Playbill.com/NEA for a script you can use when calling your representatives and more.