First Tonys Handed Out Last Evening in Special Ceremony

News   First Tonys Handed Out Last Evening in Special Ceremony
Broadway's Tony Awards ceremony isn't scheduled to begin until June 7, but the first of the 2015 awards were handed out June 1 at the Paramount Hotel.
Arnold Abramson
Arnold Abramson

Leaders of The Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing, which jointly administer the awards, bestowed silver medallions encased in Lucite on the three winners of the 2015 Tony Honors for Excellence in Theatre: press agent Adrian Bryan-Brown; scenery designer and painter Arnold Abramson; and Gene O'Donovan, who founded Hudson Scenic Studio and Aurora Productions.

More than two dozen 2015 Tony nominees attended the ceremony and applauded this year's first announced winners.

The ceremony took place in the Diamond Horseshoe club in the hotel's lower level. The site was appropriate since it had served for a period of time as a Broadway theatre. It was known as the Stairway Theatre from 1970 to 1971, the Mayfair Theatre from 1974 to 1978, and as the Century Theatre from 1978 to 1982.

In accepting his award, Bryan-Brown said, “This room is special to me for two reasons that span my career. The first Broadway show I ever worked on, A Taste of Honey, played right here. Flash forward some 30-plus years, at one of the proudest moments in my life, my wife, the theatrical photographer Joan Marcus, was presented [here] with the same honor that I am receiving today [Marcus received a Tony Honor in 2014].”

Bryan-Brown cited several influences, including his maternal grandmother who was a chorus girl in the West End premiere of Show Boat with Paul Robseon.” He also cited his mentor press agents Susan Block and Josh Ellis, and thanked his partner Chris Boneau, his staff at Boneau/Bryan-Brown and “the colorful commentators and reporters who support the theater in an ever-changing and evolving news media landscape.” O'Donovan said "the road taken to this podium has been a joy, nothing short of a labor of love." Among others he thanked his wife, Linda Batwin O'Donovan, and his "two great partners...Neil Mazzella for the Hudson years and Ben Heller for the Aurora years."

O'Donovan also revealed to the crowd that June 1 was also the first day of his retirement after a 45-year career.

Abramson spoke briefly, saying it was "very overwhelming" to hold his own Tony Award. He also thanked associates and expressed gratitude for the recognition of his craft, scenery painting. "I don't know if they are appreciated enough," he said, "but good for them."

Other special awards will be handed out Sunday evening before the televised Tony ceremony.

Make sure to follow us on social media for all of our awards season coverage. The 2015 Tony Awards--hosted by Kristin Chenoweth and Alan Cumming--will be broadcast on Sunday, June 7, 2015 (8-11 PM ET/PT time delay) on CBS, live from Radio City Music Hall in NYC. For information, photos, videos, and more, go to

Here are details of the recipients' credits:

Arnold Abramson began his career at Triangle Studios and Dunkel Studios. When William Nolan opened Nolan Scenery Studios in the newly purposed Brooklyn Ice Palace in 1956, he became Charge Scenic Artist and a partner in the business. During this time, Abramson taught scene painting for seven years at Yale University and 22 years at New York University Tisch School of the Arts. Abramson moved to Florida in 1991 and opened a Union shop called Studio South where he painted several backdrops for New York City Ballet, as well as productions that were sent to New York for Broadway. Studio South also painted sets and backdrops for the Miami City Ballet, and Abramson designed four productions for Miami City Ballet. Studio South was closed in 2005, after which Abramson painted at Coconut Studios until his retirement in 2012. Abramson was the second to be honored as a Master and Legend in 2012 at SUNY Purchase.

Adrian Bryan-Brown
Adrian Bryan-Brown Photo by Joan Marcus

Adrian Bryan-Brown is a partner in Boneau/Bryan-Brown, one of the largest theatrical public relations offices working today, established in 1991 with his business partner, Chris Boneau. Bryan-Brown has worked on more than 400 shows on and Off-Broadway, consulted on theatrical productions across the country and around the world, as well as providing strategic public relations advice to the film and music businesses and other areas of the entertainment industry. Productions represented by Boneau/Bryan-Brown have received eight Pulitzer Prizes and 195 Tony Awards®. A proud member of the Association of Theatrical Press Agents and Managers (ATPAM) for more than 25 years, Adrian has taught theatrical public relations as an adjunct professor at Brooklyn College and has written about the work of a press agent in numerous publications. Adrian is married to the theatrical photographer Joan Marcus, who received a Tony Honor last year.

Gene O’Donovan
Gene O’Donovan

Gene O’Donovan: One of Broadway’s most respected and successful theatre technicians, O'Donovan has been a member of the Broadway community for more than 40 years. His passion, commitment and technical expertise has directly enhanced a host of legendary Broadway productions, including The Wiz, Barnum, Annie, 42nd Street, Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Les Miserables, Phantom Of The Opera, The Who's Tommy, Master Class, Titanic, Spamalot, Frost/Nixon, The Book Of Mormon, Matilda, Hedwig And The Angry Inch and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Starting off his career in one of the preeminent scene shops of its time, Feller Scenery, Gene moved on to become a Local One stagehand, a production carpenter and the founder of one of the most influential scene shops of the past 30-plus years (Hudson Scenic Studio). He founded Aurora Productions, which over the last 20 years has supervised a combined total of more than 200 Broadway Shows, many Off Broadway shows tours, and international productions in London’s West End, Europe, Japan and Australia. For more than 13 years, Gene has been teaching production management at SUNY Purchase and Columbia University. Gene will be the fourth to be honored as a Master and Legend in 2015 at SUNY Purchase.

In a joint statement, Charlotte St. Martin, Executive Director of The Broadway League, and Heather Hitchens, President of the American Theatre Wing, said, “We are thrilled to announce that Arnold Abramson, Adrian Bryan-Brown and Gene O’Donovan are this year’s recipients for the Tony Honors for Excellence in the Theatre. They exemplify the dedication, creativity and tireless work that goes on behind-the-scenes to make attending a Broadway show the sensational and unforgettable experience we know it to be. We could not be more proud to honor these three outstanding individuals with this year’s Tony Honors,”

The Tony Honors for Excellence in the Theatre were established in 1990 and are awarded annually to "institutions, individuals and/or organizations that have demonstrated extraordinary achievement in theatre, but are not eligible in any of the established Tony Award categories," according to press notes.

The 2015 Tony Awards will be broadcast in a live three-hour ceremony from Radio City Music Hall, on the CBS television network, June 7 beginning at 8 PM ET. For more information visit

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