I was away this past weekend celebrating Philadelphia Pride (a post to come), and missed the Tony Awards Sunday night, but caught up watching them on Monday evening. I honestly loved watching them a day later so I could fast forward through the commercials. A couple of notes before I start, Neil Patrick Harris should host everything; he is one of the best hosts I have ever seen. The number about the Broadway stars on failed television shows, priceless. On to the main event, the awards.
As I was watching, the first award was Featured Actor in a Play, and the award went to Courtney B. Vance from "Lucky Guy." As the night went on both Director Categories were announced Daine Paulas won for "Pippin", and then surprisingly Pam MacKinnon won for "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" As the night went on the lead actor and actress in both the musical and play category were announced and the winners were as follows: Billy Porter in "Kinky Boots," Patina Miller in "Pippin" and Cicely Tyson for "Trip to the Bountiful." Cyndi Lauper was also another big winner for Best Original Score-"Kinky Boots."
There is obviously a pattern I am highlighting with the winners of these high profile awards, the winners were either women, black or African American men, or black or African American women. If you look at most major award shows the winners are often white washed, or women only win in categories designed for them to win. Here three women won in major categories they do not often win at at the Tony Awards or in any other major award show.
Best Direction in a Play: Pam MacKinnon is only the fifth woman to win in this category, previously women have won for directing are Vivian Matalon for Morning's at Seven (1980), Mary Zimmerman for Metamorphosis (2002), Anna D. Shapiro for August Osage County (2008), and Marianne Elliot (co-directing win) for War Horse (2011).
Best Direction in a Musical: Diane Paulas is only the third female to win this award at the Tony's. The first winner was Julie Taymor for The Lion King (1998) and Susan Stroman for The Producers (2001).
So overall only eight women have won directing trophies at the Tony Awards, but that is better than the Emmy Awards with two directing winners in the drama categories one directing winner in the comedy category, one directing winner in the miniseries, movie, or dramatic special. The Emmy Awards have several other directing categories, but you get the picture. The Oscars have also only had one directing winner, Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker. While eight is not a great number the Tony Awards seem ready to honor females in these roles more so then other award shows, or
Best Original Score is another category with few women at the Tony Awards, Lauper is only the third women, there have only been two in the 85 years of Oscar history, and they only happened in collaboration or when the category was split.
If you look at all of these categories at most award shows, this is a man's world, but this year the Tony Awards proved they appreciate talent on all levels, showing recognition for the best work, and honoring women in the same breadth. In looking at the nominees and winners theatre is proving that behind the scenes women can be just as influential as men. With more women directing, and composing things are only improving.
On the acting front, I have never seen 4 winners of color at any award show, the Emmy Awards have been abysmal at this, meanwhile the Oscars are only slightly better. This is not about the wins, but the amount of work out their for people of color in the theatre within the last decade musicals and plays like Motown, Nashville, In the Heights, Fela, Trip to the Bountiful, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Fences, Bring it On the Musical, The Lion King, and many many more have shown that Broadway creates quality work for diverse people.
Over the years every medium has improved some, more women are visible directors, although none were nominated last year at the Oscars. Many women are executive producers/creators of shows, but if they were not Tina Fey they did not get a nomination. Films about people of color often involve a white person saving them, they or they are servants. On the other hand theatre has/was created by the outsider, and I feel as though this is why there is more representation on the stage, and behind the scenes. Bottom line, theatre is advancing, and it's time for film and television to get there!