NEW YORK CITY: In a move that’s been long-awaited (and advocated for) in the design community, the Tony Awards has announced that they will reinstate the categories of Best Sound Design of a Play and Best Sound Design of a Musical starting with the 2017-18 season.
Those categories were dropped in 2014 with the following reasoning, according to the New York Times: “Many Tony voters do not know what sound design is or how to assess it; a large number of Tony voters choose not to cast ballots in sound design categories because of this lack of expertise; and some administration committee members believe that sound design is more of a technical craft, rather than a theatrical art form that the Tonys are intended to honor.” (American Theatre ran a op-ed from Tony-nominated sound designer John Gromada last year decrying the decision.)
Over the last 18 months, the Tony Awards administration committee has reevaluated that decision, while reviewing the other 24 competitive categories. In the process, the committee has come up with a new voting process they feel will allow sound design to be properly evaluated. While the nominees for those categories will be decided by the Tony nominators, the winners of the sound design categories will be decided by a subset of the Tony voting pool, determined by their profession. The Best Orchestrations category will also adopt the same voting process.
While these new changes are too late for this year’s Tony Awards, which will take place on June 11, sound designers can rest assured that their work will be heard. The news was met with approval from the sound design committee of United Scene Artists, Local USA 829, the union of designers, artists, and craftspeople.
“We are very gratified by this outcome,” said Nevin Steinberg, co-chair of the sound design committee, in a statement. “Happily, the appeals and activism of our members, of the professional theatre community in New York and around the country, and the thoughtful arguments for reconsideration by some of the most prominent individuals and organizations across show business made an impact. Sound designers on Broadway will once again be recognized for the integral and creative work that their colleagues and audiences expect.”