A look at the impact of the WGA strike on the 2023 Tony Awards

Writers Guild of America (WGA) East members participate in a “Rally at the Rock” strike event outside NBCUniversal offices on May 23. Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

The Writer’s Guild of America usually has no direct influence on the Broadway world. However, the Tony Awards, the CBS televised and Paramount+ streaming event that awards American theater winners, is governed by the WGA. Someone needs to script the show. When the WGA went on strike early this month, the Tonys asked for an exception in hopes that they could still go ahead as planned on June 11. They were initially denied that, but last week, according to a WGA statement, they were allowed to air because “they’re changing this year’s show.” to comply with specific requests from the WGA.”

These specific requests have not yet been made public, in addition, the broadcast cannot use the previously written script. Oscar winner Ariana DeBose is still slated to host, but with the changes, we don’t yet know in what capacity. Even with the blessing of the WGA, the Tonys and by extension Broadway still face a huge problem caused by the strike: how do you publish shows without the annual awards show.

Better than nothing

Broadway insiders are generally pleased with the way the Tony Awards are being conducted this year. In solidarity with the WGA, Actor’s Equity, which includes stage actors and stage managers, and the Dramatists Guild, which includes playwrights, many of whom derive most of their income from film and TV projects, support the strike, as do many other related labor unions.

While there’s no official word yet, it’s rumored that there will still be live performances from the nominated shows, streamed live or pre-recorded. “It’s the right way to go,” Douglas Lyons, an actor, playwright and WGA member who has his feet in both Broadway and TV/film, told Observer. Lyons is a writer for Apple TVs Fraggle Rockas well as a Broadway playwright (Chicken and Cookies) and actor, currently in Procession, which has been nominated for six Tonys, including Best Revival.

Lyons says, “I think Broadway desperately needs the Tony Awards. It’s tradition. It’s the only intersection of the WGA and Broadway. The WGA not participating, but also making room for the Broadway community to celebrate this very important night.” is the perfect way to move forward.”

Without scripted material and host-led opening and closing performances, the June 11 broadcast could be more of a “press conference” style, naming the winners and allowing them to give acceptance speeches. This could be a boon to the WGA if the winners mention the strike in their speeches and no one needs to “write” it.

However, the lack of a fully scripted broadcast could affect viewership and future ticket sales. “Viewers are used to pre-recorded comedy shows, variety hours, etc. and the thrill of live acceptance speeches remains,” says Catherine QuinnNew York-based creative and writing theater director Peeled on Broadway, which has been nominated for nine Tony awards, including Best Musical. She also collaborated and collaborated with Marathon Digital, the digital marketing team she works on Peeled and other Broadway productions.

These showcases provide extra publicity for the shows currently running to keep the lights on. “It’s a big commercial,” says Lyons.

In the Best Revival category, In the woods is a front runner. Still, this production is no longer on Broadway, so a win might boost tour ticket sales, but does nothing for the New York theater. However, if the other revival shows could perform, even if they didn’t win, viewers deciding which shows to buy tickets for this season would have a better idea of ​​whether they’re ready for Sweeney Todds dark likeness, Parades heartbreaking historical drama or camelots romantic classic. Lyons said this happened in 2014 when he was in the original cast of Nice. The show did not win Best Musical, but “won the night in terms of the number of ticket sales that resulted from that performance.”

The problem of Broadway marketing

The Tonys remain the primary means of advertising to tourists and anyone who is not a theater connoisseur. The live performances and spectacle of the Tonys and the announcement of the year’s winners define much of the summer tourist season and beyond. Shows can close without the publicity and acclaim of a Tony, as evidenced by the closing dates of Bad Cinderella And Bob Fosse dances announced shortly after they failed to receive nominations.

However, a large portion of theatergoers do not actually watch the Tonys, which had an unprecedentedly low viewership following the pandemic. Lately, shows like Moulin Rouge, Peeled And Procession have seen greater engagement with potential audiences after successful social media campaigns.

“Musical theater has materially infiltrated pop culture as it has not since the 1960s and before; we have to respond to that,” says Quinn. “Hopefully that will make the audience trend younger.”

The strike and its impact on the Broadway community could be a good thing in the long run.

“Times are changing, and I think Broadway might want to catch up so the Tony Awards aren’t the only people knowing about the new work in New York,” says Lyons. He predicts this year’s shakeup will eventually change and “expand the way we commercialize Broadway and how we reach people.”

About a season still failed to manage (let alone surpass) financial gains in pre-pandemic years, Broadway could use all the help it can get. There is no perfect solution, but all parties hope for an end to the WGA strike. Unfortunately, studios and networks haven’t budged yet in their negotiations, and writers are nowhere closer to being paid fairly for their work. As long as that is the case, the ripples of the strike will continue to spread beyond the reach of TV and film.

How do you solve a problem like the 2023 Tony Awards?

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