Tony Awards Extend Votes to Members of New York Drama Critics' Circle

News   Tony Awards Extend Votes to Members of New York Drama Critics' Circle
Altering a policy change implemented last year, which eliminated the opportunity for those on the First Night Press List to vote in the annual Tony Awards, Tony Award Productions has offered the members of the New York Drama Critics' Circle the opportunity to be Tony voters beginning in the 2010-2011 season.

The New York Drama Critics' Circle, according to a March 25 press release, has accepted this offer.

On behalf of Tony Award Productions, Charlotte St. Martin, executive director of the Broadway League, and Howard Sherman, executive director of the American Theatre Wing, said in a statement, "We recognize that the recent decision to rescind the votes of the press was perceived as a slight against journalists, and in particular the working theatre critics. The Tony Awards maintain a profound respect for the media community as partners in advocating for the value of live theatre and we deeply regret if offense was inadvertently given. We believe that the selection of the New York Drama Critics' Circle is consistent with our policy of authorizing independent theatrical organizations (including labor unions and creative guilds) to determine which members of their professional constituency may vote. We are very pleased that the Drama Critics' Circle has accepted this offer."

Adam Feldman, president of the New York Drama Critics' Circle, added, "We are very pleased that the Tonys have reconsidered their decision, and look forward to continuing our dialogue with them about the role of the press in the theatre community."

The New York Drama Critics' Circle comprises 20 drama critics from daily newspapers, magazines, and wire services based in the New York metropolitan area. The New York Drama Critics' Circle Award is the nation's second-oldest theatre award, after the Pulitzer Prize for drama; it has been awarded every year since 1936 to the best new play of the season (with additional awards for musicals and foreign or American plays as well as citations for special achievement).

* Theatre journalists on the First Night Press List — those who see Broadway productions on or before the show's official opening night — lost the privilege to vote in the Tony Awards last summer. Tony Award Productions sent a letter July 14, 2009, to First-Nighters that read, "After careful consideration, the Tony Awards Management Committee has determined that Tony-voting privileges will no longer be extended to members of the First Night Press List, commencing with the 2009-2010 season.

"Please note that this change in no way affects your inclusion on the First Night Press List. As you know, a committee of Broadway press agents develops and administers the First Night Press List, and it does not fall under the purview of Tony Award Productions, The Broadway League, or the American Theatre Wing.

"In making this decision, the Tony Management Committee took into account that members of the First Night Press List will of course continue to have the opportunity to express their critical opinions in reviews and other coverage of the theatre season. In addition, the Management Committee took into consideration the fact that certain publications and individual critics have historically pursued a policy of abstaining from voting on entertainment awards in general, to avoid any possible conflicts of interest in fulfilling their primary responsibilities as journalists."

In past seasons only press on the First Night list were eligible to vote for the Tony Awards. Those on the Second Night list — journalists who saw productions after the official opening night — did not vote in the awards.

This new ruling affects approximately 100 voters, according to a Tony spokesperson. About 800 people voted for the recent Tony Awards; that number would now be approximately 700, a decrease of nearly 13 percent.

Voters will now include "the board of directors and designated members of the advisory committee of the American Theatre Wing; members of the governing boards of Actors' Equity Association, the Dramatists Guild, the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers, United Scenic Artists, and the Association of Theatrical Press Agents and Managers; . . . members of the Theatrical Council of the Casting Society of America; and voting members of The Broadway League," according to the Tony website.

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