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What Are You Even Talking About, Hunter Foster?

Oh Hunter, how quaint.  A Facebook page exhorting the universe to “Give the Tonys Back to Broadway!”?

Yes.  Let’s get angry about the fact that Jay-Z and his mega-watt wife got more screen time than Barbara Cook and her Mumu and her subpar Sondheim review.  And let’s rail against the injustice of giving Jets Quarterback Mark Sanchez the privilege of handing out an award instead of… you?

Because that’s the real problem here.  The heinous injustice of a network trying to run a profitable program that, incidentally, gives the theater world and this struggling art-form the national exposure it might never otherwise achieve.  Wouldn’t want anyone who isn’t truly dedicated to theater to stumble upon this program and perhaps consider seeing a show.  That’d be a nightmare.

I’m not saying I didn’t think Sanchez was totally out-of-place and frankly, not that noteworthy.  And I’m not saying I want to see every Hollywood starlet who ever got bored stumbling across the New York Stage and usurping jobs from credible theater focused actresses.

What I’m really saying, I guess, is that a watered down, ratings-driven telecast is the least of our problems.  (And let’s be real.  A Facebook page whose real purpose isn’t entirely clear—you’ve already had to clarify your intentions at least once—isn’t going to help anyone anyway.)

The real problem is that the Tony Awards have come to represent what is perceived as safe and palatable and potentially profitable.  That instead of rewarding art for its merit, we’re awarding it for…  what?  Its ability to possibly stay open if you give it a big enough award?  Its ability to not offend too many people or provoke too much thought and sound kind of passably okay in the process?

The real problem isn’t a watered-down telecast.  It’s watered down awards.  Because when you disallow critics from the voting pool, you foster an Old-Boys-Club mentality which leads to awards that are less about excellence and more about which show has more investors in the voting pool that year.  And the Tony Awards become increasingly meaningless at the same time as they encourage the investment in and creation of sub-par theater that takes no risks and thus, slips closer and closer to cultural irrelevance every single day.

But by all means, please, keep complaining about the fact that you have to hang out with too many mainstream celebrities on Tony night and you and Marc Kudisch aren’t getting enough screen time.  That should really help our struggling art-form.  Just like Million Dollar Quartet has really pushed the boundaries of the… jukebox musical…

{ 2 comments… add one }

  • Nathaniel R June 18, 2010, 6:06 pm

    This is a little mean spirited. If you love the theatrical artform, wouldn’t you want true theater performers like Kudisch and Foster to be, well, fostered by the industry they’ve given so much to?

    It sounds like both the writer of this piece and Hunter Foster believe in the theater. And many people believe in giving the journalists back their vote (for quality control purposes) but I don’t see how attacking good stage actors helps.

  • jamie June 18, 2010, 11:01 pm

    YES. To every word- YES!

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