The new award, according to press notes, "will recognize an individual from the theatre community who has made a substantial contribution of volunteered time and effort on behalf of one or more humanitarian, social service or charitable organizations, regardless of whether such organizations relate to the theatre." This is the first new non-competitive Tony category since the 1990 introduction of Tony Honors for Excellence in the Theatre.
In a statement Howard Sherman, executive director of the American Theatre Wing, said, "Isabelle Stevenson truly exemplified the role of a volunteer, leading the Wing for more than three decades out of her passion for the theatre, not for any reward. It is very possible that there wouldn't be an American Theatre Wing today were it not for Isabelle. It is truly fitting that someone who was so influential on the Tony Awards over so many years will now be commemorated by the Tonys — with that honor simultaneously recognizing others in the theatrical community who have helped great organizations advancing great causes to reach their own goals."
Charlotte St. Martin, executive director of The Broadway League, added, "Members of the Broadway community have historically served others outside the theatre industry in addition to helping their own. We are thrilled that this new award will acknowledge the great lady, Isabelle Stevenson, who generously dedicated her time and energy to helping many people in numerous ways. Her tireless support for education and initiatives that nurtured artists significantly enhanced our culture. Since she set a precedent that inspired so many, the list of potential recipients will be long!"
In 1965 Stevenson became president of the American Theatre Wing for what was expected to be an interim period. She ended up serving as the president for 33 years, subsequently becoming Chairman of the Board in 1998. Throughout her tenure as both President and Chairman, Ms. Stevenson volunteered her time, never drawing a salary or honorarium.
The Tony Awards will be held at Radio City Music Hall June 7, 2009. CBS-TV will broadcast the event live.
For more information visit www.tonyawards.com.
Ricky Kirshner and Glenn Weiss/White Cherry Entertainment will be executive producers of the 2009 Tony Awards. Weiss will also serve as director of the awards ceremony.
The 2009 Tonys are presented by The Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing. Nina Lannan is chairman and Charlotte St. Martin is executive director of the Broadway League. Theodore S. Chapin is chairman and Howard Sherman is executive director of the American Theatre Wing. For Tony Award Productions, Elizabeth I. McCann is managing producer and Joey Parnes is coordinating producer.