The Tony Awards Should Have Been a Press Release.
And that’s that.
As it stands right now, Broadway is set to return on June 1st. With a vaccine already approved and in transit nation-wide, this date may be plausible, though of course, if this year has taught us anything, it is that things don’t turn out like you thought they would.
No one in the precious few shows that were able to open during the 2019–2020 season could have predicted that COVID-19 would happen. And the fact that not every show was able to open does not make those that did less worthy of recognition.
But with hundreds of thousands of artists either unemployed or working outside of theatre as a result of COVID-19, to mount a fully-produced Tony awards in recognition of a few dozen folks feels out of touch. It feels “The Capitol in the Hunger Games Trilogy” out of touch.
In this very same year, the entire industry was taken to task about its role in perpetuating white supremacy. For a great many theatres, it remains unclear what substantive steps will be taken to build an anti-racist theatre of the future. And by “remains unclear” I don’t mean in the woo-woo way in that we have no idea what the future holds; I mean in the substantive way in which very few theatres have made any kind of public commitment to the steps they will personally take to make sure their theatres are anti-racist. But we have time to produce the Tony Awards.
Thousands of people are in danger of losing their health insurance because they haven’t been able to work the necessary number of weeks. But we have time to produce the Tony Awards.
We are collectively experiencing mass death and grief in a manner that is previously unknown to most folks living in the United States. But we’re producing the Tony’s though.
As much as I love theatre as a form of artistic expression, the anti-theatre™ take feels more and more valid by the day. And like Dwyane Wade throwing up an alley-oop to Lebron James, the abject horror of this year, if nothing else, gave these institutions the opportunity to prove to all of us theatre is actually responsive to the world it inhabits. That there is a capacity to see the world as it is, imagine how it could be different, and then actually work towards that goal.
But instead, we got the Tony’s.