Countdown To The Tony Awards: How Does Tony Voting Work, Anyway?

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Countdown to the Tony Awards  How Does Tony Voting Work  Anyway  Tony poster 158x200 pngThere’s only one week left to go before the Tony Awards telecast, and I just realized something: I love watching the ceremony, and I always have shows I’m rooting for, but I have absolutely no idea how the nominees or winners are chosen. Consequently, I decided to do some digging to see if I could unravel the complicated web that is Major Award Show Voting. Here’s what I found out in the form of a handy-dandy FAQ:

What defines a “Broadway” show?
Interestingly, the definition doesn’t depend on location; rather, it depends on size. A production must be produced in a theatre that has 500 or more seats. It’s coincidental that pretty much all of those theatres are in Times Square or around Lincoln Center.

What defines a “new” play or musical?
A couple of things make up the definition: It can’t have been produced on Broadway before, and it can’t be a classic or part of the “historic or popular repertoire.” Naturally, there’s been some quibbling over this, e.g., can a show still be considered “new” if it’s had a couple of out-of-town try-out productions or if it’s a transfer of an Off-Broadway show; but ah well. Someone’s always going to be unhappy.

When does a production have to be open by in order to be eligible for nomination?
An “eligibility date” is set by the Management Committee each year. By the time that date has come around, productions must have officially opened in order to be eligible for nominations. For example, the eligibility date for the 2008-09 season was April 30, 2009. Shows that opened after that date were not eligible for the Tonys that year; however, they WERE eligible for for the 2009-10 season.

Who chooses the nominees?
There are two tiers of decision-making, the first of which is the Administration Committee. This committee is responsible for selecting the second tier, the Nomination Committee. The Nomination Committee rotates every three years and consists of up to 30 theatre professionals. These 30 people are asked to see every new Broadway production over the course of the season and meet after the eligibility date detailed above. They vote for their selection of the nominees via secret ballot, and the results are announced the following morning.

How does the actual voting of the awards work?
Back in 1947– the year of the very first Tony Awards– the voting pool was limited to the members of the American Theatre Wing, which was responsible for creating the Tony Awards in the first place. The pool was expanded in 1954 to include a whole bunch of other theatre professionals, and these days, there roughly 700 voters each year, give or take. Besides the American Theatre Wing and the Tony Nomination Committee, voters can come from the boards of any number of places: The Broadway Leagues, the New York Drama Critics’ Circle, the Association of Theatrical Press Agents and Managers, the different labor unions for actors, directors, playwrights, and choreographers (yes, we all have unions; they’re what give us health insurance, among other things), and so on. Voters are required to see any and all nominated productions, though if they don’t quite manage that, they’re not allowed to vote in any category in which they haven’t seen all of the nominees. As with the selection of the nominees, voting for winners happens through a secret ballot in the weeks leading up to the awards ceremony. The winners are known only by a chosen few, and they’re kept under lock and key until the ceremony.

Can there be ties?
Yep; in 2009, for instance, Billy Elliot and Next to Normal tied for Best Orchestrations

May the best plays win!