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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, April 15, 2016 - Volume 44 Issue 16
And the Tony Award goes to...
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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And the Tony Award goes to...

by Eric Andrews-Katz - SGN A&E Writer

The Antoinette Perry Award for Excellence in Theatre (more commonly known informally as the Tony Award) is the most prestigious award for theatre in the United States. Celebrating its 70th year, the ceremony is one of the most watched award shows on television. Have you ever wondered how the votes are tallied, or what makes an award-winning performance? The Seattle Gay News sat down with Colleen Jennings-Roggensack, Executive Director for Arizona State University's Gammage Theater, the Associate Vice President of Cultural Affairs for ASU, and the only Tony Voter in Arizona State, to answer some of these questions.



Eric Andrews-Katz: What was the show that gave you the theater bug?

Colleen Jennings-Roggensack: I would say the very first show I saw when I was quite little. My parents were in the military Air Force and we moved around a lot. We were stationed at Billy Mitchell Air Force Base and my parents took me into New York City. We saw Ethel Merman playing in Gypsy. I also saw Madame Butterfly at the Old Met when I was five years old.

Andrews-Katz: How does someone become a member of the Tony Voting Committee?

Jennings-Roggensack: What happens is a person gets nominated or [one of the governing organizations gets a request to nominate someone.] Requests are made through the Broadway League or the Theater Wing; those are the only two organizations that vote. [My nomination] came through the Broadway League because I was a presenter of 23 years. I made the request and had two official members do references and write letters on my behalf. Then it goes before the boards of both [organizations] and gets voted on. The Committee is comprised of members who know about the business, but aren't directly associated with it. I get to vote as a presenter, but I cannot serve on the Committee because my relationship is too close. If someone acts, directs, produces& they can't be Committee Nominated Members. If you are a director or an actor, you can be a voter. [In that, the Committee also includes representatives of Actors' Equity Association, the Dramatists Guild, United Scenic Artists, and SDC, the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society.] [EDITOR'S NOTE: For additional information, visit www.tonyawards.com and scroll down to the bottom of the page to find Rules and Regulations.]

Andrews-Katz: How many shows are you required to see in a year?

Jennings-Roggensack: We are required to see everything that has a potential to be nominated. A year ago I was at the Tony Award Ceremony - and the day after the Tony Ceremony ends, the new season begins. I saw Act of God the next day. I think I've seen 30 shows so far for this year's awards. There are limited runs or shows that open and close quickly. A voter gets an invitation to see a particular show on a particular night. Some have very short runs. But you cannot vote in the categories for shows you haven't seen. This year the Tony Awards have been moved out of Radio City Music Hall and to the Beacon Theatre. They changed the date to June 12th with James Cordon as the host.

Andrews-Katz: How many categories are given nominations each year?

Jennings-Roggensack: There are 24 major categories and then Lifetime Achievement Awards and the Special Tony Awards&. Last year was the first year for the Tony Educator's Award.

Andrews-Katz: What does a voter look for in a performance that makes it nomination worthy?

Jennings-Roggensack: I always say its heart, head and gut and you will see something that makes you fall in love with whatever you are seeing. Your head begins to think things through, but your gut knows that this is an extraordinary piece of work. I saw Hamilton at The Public Theater and thought, 'This is it!' Sometimes you don't know and you need to see a show a second time or, heaven forbid, my phone rings and it's the management that says I should come back because such-n-such is out for the evening.

Andrews-Katz: Have there been any results that surprised you?

Jennings-Roggensack: Yes, there has been. I'm pretty spot on with whom I vote for, usually. There was a category of Best Supporting Actor, and I thought it was a busy category. Richard McCabe's win took everyone by surprise.

Andrews-Katz: If you had to pick a favorite show - out of the ones you've seen - what would it be and why?

Jennings-Roggensack: First of all, I truly believe it's the show I haven't seen. But I remember having a favorite show and then seeing Hamilton. I thought, 'Oh my Gosh.' I'm secretly a Sondheim-show kind-of-girl, and Company has always been a chestnut.

The 2016 Tony Award nominations will be announced on Tuesday, May 3, and the 2016 Tony Awards will air live on CBS, Sunday June 12. The host will be James Corden (The History Boys) who won a 2012 Tony Award for, Best Actor in a Leading Role in a Play, the show One Man, Two Guvnors.

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