"There are so many theatres out there that getting the Regional Tony Award could be their only national recognition," said Frank Rizzo, longtime theatre critic for the Hartford Courant, and a member of ATCA. "This is nothing against the wonderful Off-Broadway theatres, but there are other ways to recognize them, and several of them have received special Tony Awards over the years. It's doing it on the backs of theatres that have no access to the national media spotlight."
Michael Kahn, artistic director of the The Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington D.C., which won the Regional Tony in 2012, said the award had a big impact. "First of all, it raised the morale of the staff, and the subscribers and donors," he stated. "It's very helpful, when you live in a community, to get recognition from the community. It was a truly lovely honor, and very exciting in terms of getting recognized."
Rizzo pointed out that, for regional houses, a Tony can make a significant financial difference as well. "If you're in Oregon or Alabama or Salt Lake City, getting a Tony Award not only validates what you do, but is a tremendous importance as far as fund-raising for their survival," he said. "I just got off the phone with the O'Neill Center. They're expanded to a new musical theatre component they're creating, and they said when they got the Tony Award, it gave them a tremendous edge in their fundraising."
Rizzo lamented the fact that competition for the prize has now become decidedly stiffer. "I can tell you this," added Rizzo. "Huntington Theatre in Boston, who got the last Regional Tony Award a few weeks ago — I'm sure Michael Maso, who's the managing director, went, 'Whew! We just made it!' Because the next year, everyone now knows they're competing with all the New York theatres." (Maso, and the Huntington Theatre, declined to be interviewed for this article.)