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Tony Awards 101

All You Need to Know to Enjoy Broadway’s Biggest Night

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What Are the Tony Awards?

Each year the Broadway community recognizes excellence for plays and musicals and the people who create them with the Tony Awards. To equate it to other industries, the Tonys are to theater what the Oscars are to film and the Grammys are to music.

Who Created the Tony Awards?

Good question because the group who created the Tonys differs from those presenting them now and those voting on them.

The American Theatre Wing, a non-profit organization founded in Manhattan in 1939, has the mission of supporting excellence in theater. They came up with the idea of an annual award specifically recognizing excellence on Broadway. The first awards ceremony was in 1947.

Today, the American Theatre Wing and the Broadway League present the awards together. Voters come from the boards of both groups, Broadway League voting members and representatives of the actors’ union, the press and more.

Who Is ‘Tony?’

The “Tony” of the Tony Awards is Antoinette Perry, who was both an actress and producer. She was among the American Theatre Wing founders and died shortly before the first awards ceremony.

The award itself, a brass-and-bronze medallion suspended above a base, was named in her honor and first presented as the "Tony" in 1949.

Who Is Eligible for a Tony?

There are 27 categories of Tony Awards ranging from recognizing plays, to recognizing creators and directors, to recognizing members of the technical crews. To be eligible, a show must have appeared in a Broadway theater within the current year's eligibility period.

A Broadway theater has at least 500 seats and is in or near the Times Square area of New York City, roughly between 41st Street and 54th Street. The theater at Lincoln Center on 66th and Broadway is also included.

For purposes of the Tonys, a “Broadway theater” is ultimately designated by the Tony Awards Administration Committee.

The season for eligibility varies each year but typically ends around the first of May. Shows that open after the eligibility date are considered for the next year's awards.

Who Votes?

It’s a long list, more than 700 people in fact. Voters come from the Awards Administration Committee, which includes members from the Theatre Wing, Broadway League, Dramatists Guild and three unions.

Additionally, critics on the opening night invitation list of the Broadway League vote as do voting members of the Broadway League. This means there are about a third of the voters from outside the New York area.

Who Gets Nominated?

The Administration Committee determines who is eligible and creates a Nominating Committee of 30 professional members of the New York theater community. Members agree to see all Tony-eligible shows.

When Are The Tonys?

The Tony Awards are presented at Radio City Musical Hall in New York typically in the first week of June each year. Traditionally, the show is broadcast live. The Tony Awards telecast draws a smaller audience than other major awards shows but has a loyal following from a demographic that advertisers like.

Can I Attend the Tony Awards?

Of course, you can. There are two ways. One, get nominated for a Tony. Two, buy a ticket.

Your seats are better under option No. 1, but option No. 2 is a bit easier.

Why Should I Watch the Tonys?

The Tonys feature a musical production number from each of the nominated Best Musicals and often feature scenes from important but non-nominated shows.

The advantage of the Tony Awards is it can help you decide shows you might want to see or soundtracks you might want to buy, plus you see top-name actors performing live.

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