The Tony Awards Administration Committee voted in June to eliminate the two Sound Design categories. The announcement came just three days after Steve Canyon Kennedy won Best Sound Design of a Play for Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill at the 2014 Tony Awards ceremony. NEW YORK, NY—On June 11, The Tony Awards Administration Committee, which oversees the annual awards celebrating the best of Broadway Theater, voted to eliminate the awards for Best Sound Design of a Musical and of a Play. No reason was offered for the elimination of the awards, which were first given in the 2007-2008 theatrical season. The committee decided that in their place, a special sound design Tony may be awarded in the future if a production features particularly notable sound.
At the same meeting, the Committee also named its 2014-2015 Tony Awards Nominating Committee on Wednesday. Filled with theater, production, lighting, projection, scenic, lighting and costume designers, among others, the 50-person nominating committee does not include any sound designers or members primarily working in audio-related roles.
The elimination of the Awards quickly spurred outcry online, as theater professionals around the globe expressed anger and frustration on social media, posting to the Tony Awards’ Facebook wall and venting on Twitter, often with the hashtag #TonyCanYouHearMe? Since then, numerous theatrical organizations, including the Dramatists Guild and the League of Resident Theatres, have sent letters to the Tony Committee supporting the reinstatement of the Sound Design awards.
One of the most high-profile responses has been an online petition demanding the reinstatement of the Sound Design award. Started by sound designer John Gromada, who was nominated for a Best Sound Design of a Play Tony Award in 2013 for The Trip to Bountiful, the petition had garnered more than 32,000 signatures at press time. According to Gromada, the Committee is expected to revisit the issue and vote again at its next meeting in September, this time with input from various entities speaking on behalf of the sound design community.
The awards’ elimination came just three days after the annual Tony Awards took place in New York City, when Steve Canyon Kennedy won Best Sound Design of a Play for Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill, and Brian Ronan took home the Tony for Best Sound Design of a Musical for Beautiful—The Carole King Musical.
The award marked Ronan’s second Tony win and fifth nomination, and he used part of his acceptance speech to dedicate his win to Jack Mann, who died January 28 at the age of 89. Mann was the first person to get a sound designer credit on a Broadway show, when he tackled audio for Show Girl, a 1961 musical comedy revue. Kennedy’s award marked his first Tony win and second nomination.