Who Should Vote for the Tonys?
Never mind who wins a Tony. The competition this year is for who gets to cast a vote. My suggestion: Restrict the vote to those who have never seen a play.
The powers at the Tonys have decided theater critics and journalists can’t cast votes because critics have a conflict of interest, whereas producers and theater artists whose plays are nominated can be completely objective.
The debate rages: Should we kill the critics–or everyone else? In The New York Post, Michael Riedel reports that critics are clamoring to vote-and get extra complimentary tickets to all the nominated plays. Jeremy Gerard, one of those critics, gives a cogent argument against expelling the press: “… in dumping the press, the Tony brains have eliminated the only voting group with no axe to grind beyond personal quirks and taste.” And Broadway press agent Richard Kornberg told Patrick Healy at The New York Times that the change “makes the Tonys more like a marketing tool and less like an award for excellence.”
More like a marketing tool?
I’d like to stand with the press on this one, but I can’t. While some reviewers are theater experts, some come from the sports desk or other beats. Some venues ask reviewers to write previews, too, which makes it likely they’ll be influenced by those they interview, people involved in upcoming productions. Someone without a clear aesthetic will be prey to artists who talk about how great their work is, and that’s just plain dangerous–almost as dangerous as letting artists review their own productions.
Restrict the vote to non-theatergoers, and you certainly avoid the whole conflict of interest thing. Chances are, they don’t know anyone involved in any nominated production. They probably don’t even know what’s playing.
This isn’t a joke. It’s a savvy marketing scheme. These new voters just may want to find out a little about what they’re deciding. Maybe they’ll check out websites for the shows, watch video clips, read reviews, possibly even see the plays. Hold a competitive search for next year’s voters, and people will beg to play their part in the theater.
People are taking this entertaining commercial for Broadway, and lately for touring companies also, too seriously. Does it matter who votes or doesn’t vote? Who wins or doesn’t win? What matters is making the most effective sales pitch possible. Bring on the musical numbers, the show scenes. Why not include a scene from something staged at the “best regional” of the year? Then take a cue from reality TV and make the voting process part of this spectacle.
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