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VIP ACCESS: Inside the Tony Awards Nominating Committee

February 22nd, 2012

Every fourth Wednesday of the month, the “VIP Access” column will serve up advice on how to make your theater-going experiences cheaper, easier and more fulfilling with inside scoop from the experts. This month, we’re taking you behind the curtain of one of the most unusual aspects of the Tony Awards…

The Tony Award. Image via Google.

All the talk about the Academy Awards this week got me thinking; I know how people get nominated for the Oscars, but who decides the nominees for Broadway’s Tony Awards?

Unlike the large bodies that determine the Oscar and Emmy nominations, the Tony Nominating Committee turns out to be a very select (i.e. shockingly small) group of theater professionals who serve overlapping three-year terms and are required to see every Broadway show each year, then vote by secret ballot for their choices. Chosen by the Awards administrators, the panel is made up of people reflecting a wide range of theatrical disciplines.

Although the 2011-2012 panel was initially announced as a 35 member committee, as of January 12, the committee is down to 28 members (one assumes due to a schedule change keeping them from seeing all shows or a large conflict of interest that forces them to recuse themselves.) And who are these very influential people with the power to change careers? Let’s take a look at the list [I’ll toss in some insider dish or random thoughts about a few of them in brackets]:


2011-2012 Tony Awards Nominating Committee

John ArnoneScenic Designer

[Arnone won a Tony Award for The Who’s Tommy directed by Des McAnuff…who returns to Broadway this year with the revival of Jesus Christ Superstar.]

Victoria BaileyExecutive Director, Theatre Development Fund

David CaddickMusic Supervisor

[As music supervisor for some of Andrew Lloyd Weber’s biggest hits, including The Phantom of the Opera, I’m thinking he might not need the free committee member tickets to see shows.]


Kathleen Chalfant in "Wit". Photo by Joan Marcus.

Kathleen ChalfantActor

[A Tony nominee for the original Angels in America, Chalfant is in an interesting position this year as her signature role in Wit is a decade later finally on Broadway and eligible for Tony consideration, but now starring Cynthia Nixon.]

Hope ClarkeStage Director/Choreographer/Actor

[According to Wikipedia, Clarke was the first African American to direct and choreograph a major production of Porgy and Bess in 1995. Wonder what she thinks of the current Broadway revisal?]

Douglas J. CohenComposer/Lyricist/Playwright

[Winner of most of the big music theater development awards, he’s a shoe-in to make it to Broadway with one of his shows sooner or later. He’s also a nice guy…so I can’t get too jealous.]

André de ShieldsActor

[He was The Wiz. ‘Nuff said.]

Bert FinkSenior Vice President/Communications, Imagem USA/R&H: An Imagem Co.

Michael GreifDirector

[The three-time Tony nominee (Next to Normal) is sitting out the 2011-2012 Broadway season but looks to have some possible winners on the way with big musical adaptations of Giant and Far From Heaven.]

Kathryn GrodyActor/Writer

Paulette HauptDirector of the Music Theatre Conference at The O’Neill Center

[Blog readers already know I love what she does. Her more adventurous tastes are certainly good news to the producers of less traditional musicals like Once looking for Tony nomination love.]


Nancy Opel in "Urinetown". Photo by Joan Marcus.

Mark HollmannComposer/Lyricist

[Guess you can write a show called Urinetown and still get respect in this town. There’s hope for me yet.]

Abe JacobSound Designer

[Forget his astonishing Broadway credits, I want to sit down with Jacob to talk about his time sound designing concerts for Jimi Hendrix, Mamas and the Papas and more. I bet he has some wicked good stories to tell.]

Robert KamlotRetired General Manager

Anne KauffmanDirector

Moisés KaufmanDirector/Playwright/Artistic Director, Tectonic Theater

[Expect to see Kaufman getting nominations next season for his upcoming revival of The Heiress starring Jessica Chastain.]

Pia LindströmFormer Reporter/Theatre Critic

[She’s the first daughter of Ingrid Bergman. I think that not only qualifies her for the committee but for my eternal devotion.]

Todd LondonArtistic Director, New Dramatists


"Clybourne Park". Photo by Craig Schwartz.

Pam MacKinnonDirector

[Hmm, I smell a recusal coming on. She’s directing the soon to open Broadway premiere of Clybourne Park. Wonder if she’ll vote for anyone in Scott Rudin’s Death of a Salesman?]

Donna McKechnieActor/Choreographer

[“Don’t pop the head, Cassie!” McKechnie is a dance icon. Don’t believe me; watch her whip it in this clip.]

Susan RicePlaywright/Screenwriter 

Mervyn RothsteinRetired Writer and Editor, The New York Times

Susan H. SchulmanDirector

[Not to be confused with the Broadway Press Agent, Susan L. Schulman. Awkward.]

Tobie S. SteinDirector, Graduate Program in Performing Arts and Management, Brooklyn College

Rosemarie TichlerTheatre Educator/Author

Robert ViagasPlaybill Program Director/Editor

Carol WaaserRetired Actors’ Equity Association Official/Company & Stage Manager

Chay YewPlaywright/Director; Artistic Director, Victory Gardens Theatre, Chicago, IL

[According to Yew’s Facebook bio, the government in his home country of Singapore banned his first play As If He Hears because the gay character acted “too sympathetic and too straight-looking”.]

Well, that’s certainly a diverse group. What strikes me is the surprising number of committee members with their feet solidly in the “grittier” worlds of non-profit, downtown theater. Start lobbying them now for your favorites…
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