The WGA has asked their Tony-nominated guild members to not attend the 76th Annual Tony Awards. This has the potential to affect book writers, playwrights, and lyricists whose career straddle Broadway and Hollywood.
This news comes after the WGA recently revealed that it would not picket this year's Tony Awards, allowing the ceremony to go on so long as several promises (namely presenting the award without any work that would normally require a WGA member, necessitating an unscripted ceremony) are met "to conform with specific requests from the WGA."
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the union recently sent an email to Tony-nominated guild members requesting that in lieu of attending the awards, members pre-tape an acceptance speech or ask a non-guild member to accept on their behalf.
The move could affect a considerable amount of this year’s Tony nominees, including Tom Stoppard, David West Read, Amber Ruffin, Amy Herzog, Cameron Crowe, Martyna Majok, and Jordan E. Cooper. Even nominees from non-writing categories could be impacted, such as Best Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical nominee Sara Bareilles (who is a member of WGA). Many of these names are major contenders for the awards, which are still set to be presented on June 11.
Since May 2, the WGA, which represents TV and film writers, have been on strike 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. This has shut down film and television production throughout Hollywood.
The limbo between the Tony Awards and the WGA began earlier this month, when The Tony Awards Committee reached out to the WGA for a waiver so that the broadcast could go forward as originally planned. The WGA's denial of the waiver was thought to have killed the possibility of a live TV broadcast for the Tonys. 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.
After a number of playwrights who are also WGA members urged the union to reconsider its decision, the WGA allowed the Tonys to proceed under certain conditions. Says the union in a previous statement, "Responsibility for having to make changes to the format of the 2023 Tony Awards rests squarely on the shoulders of Paramount/CBS and their allies. They continue to refuse to negotiate a fair contract for the writers represented by the WGA. As they have stood by us, we stand with our fellow workers on Broadway who are impacted by our strike."
It seems the WGA is acknowledging how a lack of Tony Awards broadcast would be 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 during the ceremony. 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.
This year's Tony Awards will be fully unscripted. Stage and screen star Ariana DeBose is reportedly still slated to host, but she will not be speaking from a script prepared and filed prior to the strike, nor will she perform an opening number written by Lin-Manuel Miranda—the Hamilton Tony winner was reportedly quick to rescind his work for the broadcast when the strike was called May 2.
With these continuing updates, it's safe to say that the 76th Annual Tony Awards will not be a typical one, but the show will go on nonetheless.
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.