An update had been expected today about the path forward for the 2023 Tony Awards, but organizers remain unsure about how to proceed following an emergency meeting held today, according to a report in Deadline. The situation became shaky when it was reported May 12 that the Writers Guild of America denied the Tonys request for a waiver that would have allowed the televised awards to proceed as scheduled despite the union's current strike. According to the Deadline report, organizers have made another request to WGA, though it remains unclear what, if anything, differentiates the two actions. With the Tonys' still technically scheduled for less than a month from now—June 11—the pressure is on for stakeholders to make a decision.
WGA, representing screenwriters for TV and film, has been on strike since May 2 following a breakdown in negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers over royalties for streaming titles and the potential use of A.I. in screenwriting, amongst other grievances. Though WGA does not represent Broadway writers, The Tony Awards are a TV show, and thus the union does represent the writers who create everything from comedy bits for the host to the banter that presenters read. There has been a groundswell in support for WGA from within the Broadway community, making the prospect of a "normal" Tony Awards broadcast with the strike still active even more precarious.
Industry experts have said an end to the current strike is far from imminent. A resolution is likely months away, particularly as contract expirations between AMPTP and both the Directors Guild of America (representing screen directors) and SAG-AFTRA (representing screen actors) loom in the coming weeks. The most recent previous WGA Strike lasted three months, from November 2007 to February 2008.
The Tonys are expected to either name winners without the traditional live television ceremony or postpone the awards altogether until after the strike. A meeting on Monday with the Tony Awards Management Committee to decide the fate of the Tonys yielded no resolutions. Requests for confirmation and comment to the Tony Awards went unanswered as of the publication of this article.
This loss of the televised ceremony is a blow to Broadway shows that were hoping for a bump in ticket sales, not only from winning Tony Awards, but also having performances air on national television in a ceremony that primarily serves as a valuable commercial for the industry. Producers often set aside cash reserves to allow productions to run at a loss (if necessary) in the weeks leading up to the big night, in hopes that the Tonys will help them find an audience. The absence of a national broadcast—or at least a national broadcast in June—could easily lead to closing notices, even for productions that did well with Tony nominations.
The situation has made a difficult situation for Broadway fans and industry members alike, many of whom want to stand behind WGA's strike but are concerned for its consequences for Broadway.
"It's tricky," shared Chicken & Biscuits playwright (and Parade actor) Douglas Lyons on Twitter (Lyons is also a WGA member). "People are allowed to be mad because the Tonys are the biggest worldwide commercial to keep the box offices of our struggling industry afloat. It's a huge night for the future and sustainability of thousands [of] jobs in the theatre. But let us remember, this is not the WGA's fault. It's the AMPTP's greed that has forced this rippling effect throughout the industry."
Nominations for the Broadway honors were revealed May 2, with Some Like It Hot becoming the season's most nominated production with 13 nods. The title is one of five shows up for the venerated Best Musical Tony Award, along with & Juliet; Kimberly Akimbo; New York, New York; and Shucked. Up for Best Play are three works that are already Pulitzer winners: Between Riverside and Crazy, Cost of Living, and Fat Ham; along with Ain't No Mo' and Leopoldstadt. See the full list of nominations here.
Sweeney Todd star Annaleigh Ashford was asked by the Daily Beast about the potential Tonys cancellation (Ashford is Tony-nominated this year for her performance). Ashford answered saying she's a WGA member and, "it saddens me that the Tony Awards won’t go on as planned, but standing up for equitable pay is more important." She also emphasized the importance of audiences coming to Broadway Broadway right now, saying, "Now more than ever, it’s crucial to support, and go see, the many magical shows on Broadway.”
Check back with Playbill for the latest news and developments regarding the 76th Annual Tony Awards.