Who Chooses The Tony Winners? The Voters Come From Every Part Of Theater
With the 70th annual Tony Awards celebrating the best of Broadway on Sunday, June 12, viewers are eager to see who wins big on Sunday — *coughs the name Hamilton* — but how are Tony Award winners selected? It turns out that there is a pretty scientific system to decide who receives the coveted Antoinette Perry Awards for Excellence in Theater, aka a Tony Award.
According to its website, when the Tony Awards were founded nearly 70 years ago, in 1947, voting was limited to the American Theatre Wing and a couple of entertainment unions. The website states that eligibility was expanded to other professionals in 1954 and today there are “approximately 846 eligible voters.” Though the official website explains that this number fluctuates from year to year.
Bustle previously reported about the meticulous Tony voting process, explaining that Tony Awards are determined by two governing bodies: The American Theatre Wing and The Broadway League. These two groups make up the Tony Awards Administration Committee. This committee is comprised of 24 people each year, 10 from the ATW and TBL, and one each from several other professional groups, including Dramatists Guild, Actors' Equity Association, United Scenic Artists, and the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers. The Tony Awards' site includes the following organizations as eligible for providing voters: The Association of Theatrical Press Agents and Managers, the Theatrical Council of the Casting Society of America, the New York Drama Critics' Circle, the board/council of the National Association of Talent Representatives, and the Tony Awards Nominating Committee. Wait … another committee?
The previously mentioned Bustle article reported that this Nominating Committee is the group responsible for choosing the three to five nominees in each category. Of course, there is also a methodical selection process for this 40-seat committee of rotating members. A Nominating Committee member is required to serve a three-year term and must see every new Broadway production, every season. Um, where can I sign up? Wait, there’s more. There’s even another committee! The Administration Committee revises the eligibility rules and appoints the Nominating Committee. Yo, we heard you like committees. So we put a committee on your committee...
And, with such a sophisticated system there are of course rules voters must follow, which are detailed on the Tony Awards website: “Voters are expected to attend all nominated productions; or at least to refrain from voting in any category in which they have not seen all of the nominees. Voting by secret ballot takes place in the weeks before the June awards ceremony.” Like the Oscars, strict precautions are taken to count the ballots and the votes are handled by professional accounting firm KPMG, according to Broadway World.
Because of the nature of this refined voting process, sometimes ties occur at the Tony Awards. The official website reported that, in 1958, two actresses from the same musical, New Girl in Town, won the superlative for Actress in a Musical. The award for best musical tied in 1960 with winners The Sound of Music and Fiorello! And, in 2009, Billy Elliot, the Musical and Next to Normal shared the Best Orchestrations honor.
Just in case you think that the Tony Awards’ decision-making process isn’t difficult enough, let’s factor in the awards aren’t dictated by a calendar year. Instead of having eligibility from January 1 to December 31 of a year, the awards must reflect theater seasons, so eligibility is reevaluated annually. The list of awards themselves also change. This year there are 24 categories, not including special honors and awards. Many of which will go to Hamilton. Just kidding, sort of.
Whew. So that’s how the Tony Awards are picked. No wonder theater has the intellectual edge over other forms of entertainment?