The 2012 Tony Awards: Do they matter?

The 2012 Tony Awards: Do they matter?

Broadway can entertain and inspire.

People in the theater community often look askance at the Tony Awards. After all, Broadway is just a small part of theater in the country. Granted, it is the theater that gets the most attention. Tourists from all over the world come to New York to see a Broadway show. They rarely venture outside of mid-town, thereby missing a variety of innovative work happening downtown. Most actors, directors and playwrights will never get a chance to see their names in lights. And they don’t care.

One of the biggest complaints about Broadway is that it is entertainment and not artistic. Of course, people employed with these shows will beg to differ. To work on Broadway you need an immense amount of raw talent and imagination. There are millions of dollars on the line in each production. Investors want only the best and brightest on the production team.

But people in the theater community aren’t complaining about lack of opportunities. They aren’t jealous. Instead, they believe Broadway puts economics over artistry.
 
In order to make money, a Broadway show must appeal to the largest amount of people. It is unlikely that you will see an obscure play on the Great White Way. Producers usually want shows that will entertain audiences and make them feel good. They also tend to pick shows that have done well in the past, such as “Annie,” or “Jesus Christ Superstar.” This selection tends to be conservative and unadventurous. Investors want to recoup their money, and maybe even make a profit. Can anyone blame them for wanting to invest in a show that has the best rate of return?
 
If a show makes a profit, that means it reached an audience. Perhaps they didn’t come away wondering about the state of the world. Rather, they escaped the world for a few hours. Is that so wrong?
 
The Tony Awards celebrate one kind of theater. But in promoting the form, aren’t they shining a light on all of us?