There is no night bigger for awarding excellence in the world of theatre than the Tony’s. Here is where aspiring actors, writers and musicians vie to have their hard work recognized by the masses and rewarded. How did the Tony Awards come about though?
It was in 1947 that a group called the American Theatre Wing (ATW) put together an awards program that would acknowledge and celebrate the achievements in the art of theatre. The award itself was named after Antoinette Perry, a woman who was a producer, actress, director and important leader of the ATW during wartime. The award ceremony started after her passing. It was a dinner gathering, which was hosted in the famous Waldorf Astoria hotel’s Grand Ballroom in 1947. The evening, a black tie event, hosted entertainment, dancing and dining. 11 Tony Awards were presented for 7 different categories alongside 8 special awards.
The first two years that the Tony Awards took place, there was really no official award presented. Instead, winners of this coveted award where given a scroll and a small memento, such as an intricate compact case for the ladies and a golden money clip for the gents.
In 1949 a contest was sponsored by the United Scenic Artist to find an appropriate design for an award. It was Herman Rosse who submitted the winning model, which was a medallion in the shape of a disk that had the well known Comedy/Tragedy masks that is associated with the theatre. The other side of this medallion had a profile image of Antoinette Perry. It has since been the official award presented at the Tony’s. In 1967 an addition was made to the medallion; a black pedestal that had a curved arm holding the medallion.
Fun Fact: The awards presented do not have the names of the winners on them. This is done after the ceremony, where the winners names are engraved onto the award.
Today, the Tony Awards are still considered the highest honour one can be given in the U.S. industry of theatre and is deemed to be the equivalent of motions picture Academy Awards, music’s Grammy Awards and television’s Emmy Awards.
The big night is usually held in June and at the famous Radio City Music Hall. Its an event that is televised but thousands flock to the scene to get a view of the many famous artists that attend the ceremony, all dressed to the nines in their glamorous, and sometimes over the top, outfits.
During the era of television it was the television station CBS who started airing the one hour Tony Awards show in 1978, which featured live entertainment performed by well known actresses and actors and the presenting of the awards. For some it was the only chance they had to be part of this glorious evening. I myself got the chance to be part of one of these big nights and the throngs of adoring fans and theatre goers was enormous! Television just cannot do this big night justice. The bright lights, vivid colours, and upbeat vibe can make you feel like you are witnessing royalty. You should make a point of being there at least once in your life.