Tony Time: The Tony Awards You Do And Don’t Know About

Tony Time Returns! Finally! I have to begin this article for apologizing folks! I’ve been trying to stir up some interesting ideas here with my Tony Time series and haven’t been able to do it as much as I like but I do hope you’re enjoying the series! Today gets interesting! While you might think you know everything about The Tony Awards, you probably don’t. Luner on Theatre has explored the history of The Tony Awards to discover something you may not know about. But what exactly is that? Let’s explore The Tony Awards!

When the Tony Awards began back in 1947, there were many awards to honor everyone in the Broadway community. As time went on, categories were added, categories were taken away and some categories simply just changed their appearance. Pictured below is a list of all the current day Tony Awards that are given out annually.

Current Day Tony Awards Presented

BUT! What about those awards I mentioned that have been added, taken away or changed appearance? Sit back and relax was Luner on Theatre talks to you about The Tony Awards you don’t see anymore. How they have changed and shaped theatre to make The Tony Awards ceremony we know today.

Tony Award for Best Author: This award once used to be given to playwrights, authors and librettists of musicals or plays. The award was only presented from 1947 to 1965 and in that time this award was only given out 8 times. Famous faces such as Arthur Miller or Neil Simon have won the award in its time as well was notable productions such as Death of A Salesman, The Odd Couple, Hello, Dolly! and Fiddler on the Roof. If you’re looking for the closest award to this one that is still around today, you’re most likely thinking of the Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical.

Tony Award for Best Conductor and Musical Director: This Tony Award basically explains itself. It used to be given out to those who musically directed a production and appeared as the conductor. The award first appeared in 1948 but was later discontinued in 1964. Many notable names have won this award or been nominated such as Max Meth who won this award a record 3 times for Finian’s Rainbow, As the Girls Go and Pal JoeyHerbert Greene for The Music Man. The Most Happy Fella, and The Gay Life and Elliot Lawrence for How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying and Bye Bye Birde. There is no current day Tony Award honoring musical directors or conductors.

Tony Award for Best Revival: Before the time of ridiculous amounts of theatres and productions taking place in New York City, the category for Best Revival, whether it was a play or musical, was all one! But, what I bet you didn’t know is that this award could still happen today! According to the Tony Award rule book, if there are not enough productions that a revivals for plays and musicals, the Tony Committee can chose to just make this award one category. However, if there are more then 3 plays or 3 musicals or both, they are automatically seperated. The award for Best Revival was created in 1977 and was presented as the combined award until 1994 when the committee formed two categories. Notable productions that won this award during that time period were Sweet Charity (1986), Anything Goes (1988), Fiddler on the Roof (1991) and Guys and Dolls (1992).

Tony Award for Best Stage Technician: This award was given to various theatre technicians who showed outstanding work in the technical side of theatre. This award first appeared in 1948 and was discontinued after 1963. Some of the award winners for this included Richard Raven who was the master electrician for The Autumn Garden, John Walters who was the chief carpenter of The Miracle Worker and  Joe Lynn who worked on master propertyman for Miss Liberty. While today there are awards for Best Scenic Design, Best Lighting Design and Best Sound Design for both plays and musicals, there is no award for a single theatre technician like this that exists today.

Best Director: This award is just like the previously mentioned Best Revival award. This award was once combined for both plays and musicals until it was split apart. This award was one of the original 11 awards given out at the 1947 Tony Awards. The award was presented until 1960 when it was split into the awards that exist today which are Tony Award for Best Direction of a Play and Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical. Winners in this awards short time include Elia Kazan  for Death of a Salesman, Joshua Logan for South Pacific, Moss Hart for My Fair Lady and George S. Kaufman for Guys and Dolls.

Best Special Theatrical Event: This award is the most recent award to be added and then be discontinued from The Tony Awards. This award honored live events on Broadway that were not Broadway plays or musicals. The award was created in 2001 and was just recently discontinued in 2009. Some of its nominees and winners include Liza’s At The Palace!, You’re Welcome America; A Final Night with George W. Bush, Blast!, Elaine Stritch at Liberty! and Whoopi the 20th Anniversary show.

And there my friends, is your Tony history lesson! I think it is interesting that some awards are created and then discontinued so quickly. Its also really cool to see how several awards all originated from one specific award.

I think it would be quite interesting if the people or Tony committee from 1947 were around today to witness all the awards given out at each year’s awards ceremony. I’m sure they would find some to be overkill but also I think it is needed in some cases. Such as the idea of giving out Best Leading Actor for both plays and musicals. Artists should be and deserved to be recognized for their work. And I am very glad, that the Broadway community figure out a way each year to do that. For more information on the awards, check out The Tony Awards Official Website. And stay tuned to Luner on Theatre for all the latest Tony Time series and news regarding The Tony Awards leading all the way up to the big day!

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