Even though I don’t get to the theatre as much as I used to, it will always remain my first love. And last night’s Tony Awards were a reminder to me of why I fell in love in the first place. It was hard to miss the passion and joy on the faces of the people on the stage from host Neil Patrick Harris to all the presenters and winners. The show was fun and funny and felt more alive than the Oscars has in years.
Unlike the Oscar show which reeked of snarky sexism, the theatre, which is arguably just as male centric as the film business, put that aside and made it look like it was gender friendly industry to the outside world. Both Diane Paulus (Pippin) and Pam MacKinnon (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf) won for best director of a musical and a play respectively. Two women won an award for best director! This has only happened one time before, in 1998, when Julie Taymor (The Lion King) and Garry Hynes (The Beauty Queen of Leenane) both won. Interestingly, both Paulus and MacKinnon are based in regional theatres outside NYC, Paulus at ART in Cambridge, and MacKinnon at Steppenwolf in Chicago. Arguably, these two women are at the top of the heap in the directing business which is very exciting.
Cyndi Lauper who continues to reinvent herself in amazing ways, became the first solo woman to win best score — music and lyrics — for her Broadway debut, Kinky Boots. There have been women who have won this category before but always in partnership with men.
The acting awards on the women’s side were also exciting. Two women of color won — Patina Miller for Pippin and Cicely Tyson for the Trip to Bountiful won the leading actress categories, and two older women — Judith Light for the Assembled Parties and Andrea Martin for Pippin won in the supporting category.
Bringing it back to reality, no women won lifetime achievement awards, and Ann Roth who won for costumes for The Nance was the only woman to win in any of the technical categories.
The Oscar folks would be smart to take some tips from the Tony Awards. First, nominate some women and second, have fun. The show last night made me hungry for the theatre, which is exactly what it was supposed to do.