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Broadway Struggles With Tonys And WGA Strike: “Hoping To Find A Great Solution”


Following news on Friday that the Writers Guild of America had rejected a waiver request that would allow the Tony Awards to be televised on June 11, New York’s theater communities are grappling with the implications of the decision for industry solidarity during the strike.

Ahead of the GLAAD Media Awards in New York on Saturday — where multiple hosts, honorees and the show itself issued statements in support of the work stoppage — Thick ham told co-producer Colman Domingo The Hollywood Reporter on the event’s red carpet that the fate of the show “is in the hands of creatives and with creative people, we can do anything.”

“I am a strong supporter of the WGA strike. It’s just an unfortunate situation for all of us, for anyone in the industry who wants everything to be fair, but who also wants to support Broadway,” he said. “I hope to somehow find a great solution to amplify these Broadway shows to have moments. Maybe it’s some kind of hybrid that we haven’t thought of yet.”

Broadway icon and singer Idina Menzel appeared at the event for a special performance of her new single “Move” from her upcoming album Drama queen. While there to “celebrate all my friends in this community teaching me how to live authentic lives and be brave in their own lives,” she also shared that whatever the outcome of the Tony Awards, “I just want that all my friends can celebrate and be proud of what they have done this year.”

The televised ceremony, which was to be produced by Entertainment’s White Cherry Glenn Weiss and Ricky Kirshner have historically brought national exposure to plays and musicals seeking a surge in ticket sales – in some cases to avoid closure. (Kimberly Akimbo, Some love it when it’s hot And Léopoldville are among the musicals and plays that can benefit.)

This year’s event would air on CBS and stream on Paramount+ on June 11, with a pre-show on Pluto TV. But with the awards ceremony scheduled more than a month after the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers and WGA failed to reach a new contract agreement by the May 1 deadline, the producers of the Tonys are said to have demanded a waiver to proceed as planned with a televised ceremony.

THR reported Friday that the waiver filed by the eight-member Tony Awards Management Committee just days before an emergency meeting was scheduled to discuss how to proceed with the show for this year was denied. (The WGA previously granted an exemption for the Grammy Awards during the 2008 strike and for the Tonys during the 1988 strike.)

On the GLAAD Awards carpet, Bob the Drag Queen – who took home a win in the Outstanding Reality Series category for the HBO series Were here – talked about one of the complexities of the ceremony that is not televised.

“I just found out today that the Tony Awards won’t be televised this year, which was wild because one of my friends (Peeled‘s) Alex Newell, broke a number of barriers as the first non-binary artist to be nominated for Best Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical category. And we might not even be able to see it, except for a few shots, which really hurts,” he said. “But I also understand that it is bigger than just individuals. This is one of those things where people might take a pay cut now or lose money, but eventually we’ll reap the rewards, and that’s really important.

On social media, others have spoken out and shared their support for the strike. Fair Wage Onstage, a collection of Off-Broadway Actors’ Equity members, sent a stark statement on Twitter, writing, “Solidarity never means allowing employers to pit workers against workers.”

“The only reason the WGA is going on strike is because the AMPTP is refusing to give writers a fair contract for their work,” the tweet continued. “All the consequences of the work stoppage are squarely on the AMPTP.”

Douglas Lyons — Procession star, Broadway’s playwright Chicken & Cookies and a WGA writer, also spoke out on Instagram, in a long statement stating that he “stands in full solidarity with WGA” but also acknowledges “that the cancellation of the Tonys is deeply damaging to my Broadway community.”

He specifically pointed to the theater industry’s ongoing recovery from the pandemic, with countless shows closing, the industry shutting down for 18 months, and new shows struggling to stay open as both domestic and international theater audiences dwindled. It was also the impetus for his move into TV writing.

“People can be mad because the Tonys are the biggest global commercial to prop up the box office of our struggling industry. It is a huge night for the future and sustainability of thousands of theater jobs,” he wrote. “But let’s not forget that this is not the fault of the WGA. This is the greed of the AMPTP that has forced this rippling effect across the industry.”

“Hopefully there will be a solution where writers get the royalties they’ve earned,” he continued. “I don’t have a solution, but I do have empathy.”

Mark Harris, journalist, author and husband of playwright Tony Kushner, responded to a larger discussion of the strike kicked off by AJ Holmes. The Kimberly Akimbo standby initially tweeted that “this wonderful show is in the crosshairs of the WGA strike” before adding that “by not signing a waiver, the WGA is condemning many to death.”

While the since-deleted tweet quickly drew criticism, Harris remarked on Twitter — responding to a WGA writer who replied to Holmes that “the AMPTP may end this strike tomorrow” and “blame the parties responsible” — that both views “could be true.”

“If the Tonys can’t take place, I hope everyone tweeting in support of the WGA strike will also tweet in support of the affected shows in a critically endangered industry facing yet another injury,” he continued. “Broadway, its shows and its employees are in no way the enemy.”

For Thick Ham‘s Domingo, there is also hope that the public will show their support no matter what.

“I think Broadway is an incredible place right now, and I think people are coming back to the city,” he said THR. “I hope that love for Broadway – people will feed themselves to come here and participate in what we have created.”

Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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