This just in: Tony Awards nix crix | Upstaged | Time Out New York:
The ax fell quietly, by e-mail, at a little before 6pm today. “After careful consideration,” begins the letter from Tony Award Productions, “the Tony Awards Management Committee has determined that Tony-voting privileges will no longer be extended to members of the First Night Press List, commencing with the 2009–2010 season.” In other words: Critics are hereby purged from the Tony voting rolls. No official reasons for this decision are given, but the letter goes on to note that critics already get to have their say during the year, and that “certain publications and individual critics have historically pursued a policy of abstaining from voting on entertainment awards in general, to avoid any possible conflicts of interest in fulfilling their primary responsibilities as journalists.”
This strikes us as a disappointing decision. Critics have long been part of the Tony voting pool, alongside industry insiders from the American Theatre Wing, Actors’ Equity Association, the Dramatists Guild, the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers, United Scenic Artists and other groups. The rationale for the new exclusion—a vague allusion to conflicts of interest, the precise nature of which are hard to imagine—is thin stuff indeed. If anything, critics are among the voters least compromised by conflicts of interest, and most likely to vote objectively and fairly for the work they judge to be best. (The others are liable to have greater personal, professional and financial stakes in the outcome.) The excision of this voting block represents a step backward in the seriousness of the awards.