Thursday, June 12, 2008

Absentee balloting

I've got to agree with Rocco at What's Good/What Blows: the Tony voters should just go see the shows. (Hey, that rhymes!)

Rocco was referring to a Bloomberg News article by Jeremy Gerard about the voters who decide Broadway's best. (The article says there are 797 voters, but the Tony Awards Web site pegs the number at about 750, which is says fluctuates from year to year, and a New York Times article about Tony predictions puts the number at 796.) "The voters' only obligation is to see each of the 36 shows that opened this season. Many of them -- hundreds, in fact -- didn't bother, even though they certify their attendance when casting their ballots."

One example cited in the article happens to be one of my favorite shows from the past year - Laurence Fishburne's mesemerizing one-man performance in Thurgood. A member of Thurgood's production team told Gerard that less than 40 percent of the voters have seen the show, about the civil-rights lawyer and Supreme Court justice. If they haven't seen it, they're not supposed to vote in the category of Best Actor in a Play, in which Fishburne received a nomination. But of course, some of them probably will.

Ok, maybe the article isn't that revelatory. I'm sure similar things happen with the Oscars and the Emmys. There's always a tendency in cases like this to sound like Captain Renault in Casablanca: I'm shocked, shocked!

Like the Tonys, the Oscar ballot clearly indicates that you're not supposed to vote in a category in which you haven't seen every nominee. Remember the controversy in 2006 when several members of the Motion Picture Academy, including Ernest Borgnine and Tony Curtis, said they had no intention of watching Best Picture nominee Brokeback Mountain because of the gay love story at the center of its plot?

And the Academy's documentary branch came under criticism in 1995 when the widely acclaimed Hoop Dreams failed to receive a nominaton. Director Martin Scorsese famously said he heard that the members of the documentary nominating committee switched off his 1978 rock 'n' roll film The Last Waltz after 10 minutes because it was "too loud."

The difference with the Tony Awards is that there are so few voters - and so few shows - that you'd think they'd consider it a personal obligation to see each and every one.

And doesn't it make sense that they would? I mean, they're a Tony voter because they have some affiliation with and love for the theatre, right? There were only 36 shows that opened this year. It's not a herculean task, especially if you live in New York City. (I realize some voters may not live near New York City). They get free tickets, don't they? Wouldn't they want to see each and every show?

What really gets to me is that if I had the opportunity, I'd love to be able to see every show that opens on Broadway. I'd even see some of them more than once.


Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Like I said over at What Blows, if even I can get to all of the nominated shows, certainly those entrusted as Tony voters should be able to!

Esther said...

Exactly, Steve. Why don't they just weed out the people who, for whatever reason, can't make it to every show? There are so many talented theatre professionals who'd make great Tony voters.

Dale said...

How can we get on the list? If I can see 3 shows in 2 days, I could do 36 in a few weeks, vote and still possibly make it to the telecast.

I don't remember hearing about the Ernest Borgnine/Tony Curtis boycott, that's rich.

Esther said...

I know what you mean, Dale. I saw 7 musicals in 5 days last July. It's doable! And we could probably squeeze in a few off-Broadway shows, too!

Joseph Gomez said...


You are my favorite blogger of ever-ness just because you put a Casablanca quote in your post. Here's looking at you, kid.

Oh, and I live in Texas. And I've seen all the shows nominated this year. And I work full time. And go to school full time. And act in my own productions. And am definitely not rich. At all. That's all I'm saying.

Esther said...

Awww shucks, thanks Joseph! You made my day. :-) Casablanca is my all-time favorite movie. I'll have to start quoting from it in my blog more often!

The whole thing just galls me. We all have busy, demanding lives. None of us is rich. And yet, because the theatre, going to Broadway, is something we love, we find the time and the money. We cram as many shows as we can into a small period of time during our all-too-infrequent trips to New York because we want to see everything. And I bet the Tony voters never even have to use up a single vacation day!

Vance said...

Whoa, Joseph beat me.

I can say I saw half the Best nominated shows at best, living in a different city (though I guess I could claim country too! ha!).

I think my record so far was 10 shows in 6 days. Or 3 shows in 1 day!

Totally doable!!!