Tony Award - History

History

The award was founded in 1947 by a committee of the American Theatre Wing headed by Brock Pemberton. The award is named after Antoinette Perry, an actress, director, producer and co-founder of the American Theatre Wing, who died in 1946.

The first awards ceremony was held on April 6, 1947, at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York City. The first prizes were "a scroll, cigarette lighter and articles of jewelry such as 14-carat gold compacts and bracelets for the women, and money clips for the men." It was not until the third awards ceremony in 1949 that the first Tony medallion was given to award winners.

Awarded by a panel of approximately 700 judges from various areas of the entertainment industry and press, the Tony Award is generally regarded as the theatre's equivalent to the Oscars, for excellence in film; the Grammys for the music industry, and the Emmys for excellence in television. In British theatre, the equivalent of the Tony Award is the Laurence Olivier Award. A number of the world's longest-running and most successful shows, as well as some actors, directors, choreographers and designers, have received both Tony Awards and Olivier Awards.

Since 1967, the award ceremony has been broadcast on U.S. national television and includes songs from the nominated musicals, and occasionally has included video clips of, or presentations about, nominated plays. The American Theatre Wing and The Broadway League jointly present and administer the awards. Audience size for the telecast is generally well below that of the Academy Awards shows, but the program reaches an affluent audience, which is prized by advertisers. According to an article in The New York Times: "What the Tony broadcast does have, say CBS officials, is an all-important demographic: rich and smart. Jack Sussman, CBS's senior vice president in charge of specials, said the Tony show sold almost all its advertising slots shortly after CBS announced it would present the three hours. 'It draws upscale premium viewers who are attractive to upscale premium advertisers,' Mr. Sussman said..." The viewership has declined from the early years of its broadcast history (for example, the number of viewers in 1974 was 20,026,000, in 1999 9,155,000) but has settled into between six and eight million viewers for most of the decade of the 2000s. In contrast, the 2009 Oscar telecast had 36.3 million viewers.

The medallion

The Tony Award medallion was designed by Art Director Herman Rosse and is a mix of mostly brass and a little bronze, with a nickel plating on the outside; a black acrylic glass base, and the nickel-plated pewter swivel. The face of the medallion portrays an adaptation of the comedy and tragedy masks. Originally, the reverse side had a relief profile of Antoinette Perry; today it contains the winner's name, award category, production and year. The medallion has been mounted on a black base since 1967.

A larger base was introduced in time for the 2010 award ceremony. The new base is slightly taller — 5 inches (13 cm), up from 3+1⁄4 inches (8.3 cm) – and heavier — 3+1⁄2 pounds (1.6 kg), up from 1+1⁄2 pounds (680 grams). This change was implemented to make the award "feel more substantial" and easier to handle at the moment the award is presented to the winners. According to Howard Sherman, the executive director of the American Theatre Wing:

"We know the physical scale of the Oscars, Emmys and Grammys. While we’re not attempting to keep up with the Joneses, we felt this is a significant award, and it could feel and look a bit more significant.

"By adding height, now someone can grip the Tony, raise it over their head in triumph and not worry about keeping their grip. Believe me, you can tell the difference."

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