The Tony Awards, honoring the best of the year in theater, have long been perceived as a gay man’s party. Well, I want to call shenanigans and invite us all to the party, because it is a damn fine party, and we all deserve to be there. Aside from the fact that a number of the lesbians I know refer to themselves as gay men on the inside anyway (my girlfriend, for one), the number of women now involved in every aspect of theater is incredibly important and needs to be celebrated.
Plus, it just wouldn’t be fair to anyone to not get equal opportunity to squee over the perfection of Neil Patrick Harris. Seriously, you are a perfect human being.
I also love the Tonys if just for the fact that for a few hours once a year, I can delude myself into believing that I am: 1) much classier than I actually am, and 2) much richer than I ever will be, and that with these things combined I will of course be able to go see all of these plays and musicals this year! No really, this year I will! See you soon, Broadway!
(It is such a delightful delusion!)
While the ladies are still under-represented at the Tonys — no women were nominated for any writing awards, as just one example — here’s my list of the best female-centric highlights of the evening, presented for the joy of reliving the night as well as for guidance in helping you plan the shows to see on your own theatrical trip to New York this year. (I will see you there! Probably! Maybe!)
1. The show started off with Judith Light winning Best Featured Play Actress for Other Desert Cities, a new play about how a woman’s memoir about her family dredges up tortured truths and pain that the family has a hard time confronting. (Guess who else is in this play? Stockard Channing! Yeah, I didn’t know she was still doing anything, either!) Judith Light, you are MY light! If you’re wondering where you’ve seen her before, let me remind you of a little show called Who’s the Boss, or more recently, Ugly Betty. In addition to her long life on TV, she is an unrelenting champion of LGBT rights, sitting on the board of the Matthew Shepard Foundation and the Point Foundation. She also founded the Give a Damn campaign with Cyndi Lauper in 2010, which urged more straight people to stand up for gay rights. Her Tony acceptance speech was passionate and classy and lovely and a great kick-off to the evening.
2. Oh, Bernadette Peters . You are divine. All you did was introduce a musical number, yet the diction, timing, and dramatic delivery of every word you spoke made me feel like I had somehow cheated my way to a free ticket and actually was at the theater, seeing the best 90-second show ever! In addition to your wonderful musical number introduction, I hear you also received a prestigious award called the Isabelle Stevenson Award for your contribution to humanitarian causes throughout your theater career. Which is funny, because I didn’t actually get to see that on my TV. Even though this sort of seems like a big deal. And I got to see Hugh Jackman receive a strikingly similar award. Don’t get me wrong, Bernadette, I love Hugh Jackman — who doesn’t? People who also hate puppies, probably — and the fact that his wife surprised him with presenting the award to him was absolutely heartwarming and wonderful. Also, her dress was outstanding. But Bernadette, I might dare say that you are the most distinguished, most recognizable Broadway actress of our time. You got an important award, too. How come I didn’t get to hear your speech?
Hmm. Maybe you can ask the people who are in charge of these things, and tell them that I am calling shenanigans on them. Regardless, you have my sincerest congratulations.
3. OK, now that I got a little sarcastic feminist bit out — I know, us bitter feminists are so pesky — here are the good bits! There were three female directors nominated, two in the musical category and one in the play category. None of them won, but still, directors are big deals! They’re positions of great power, positions that require a vision and the ability to tell everyone how to carry out that vision. A good director commands respect. They’re positions we’re really used to guys doing, and even more used to guys being celebrated for. The Tonys are at least a little better than the Oscars in this regard. In fact, quite a few ladies have received the Tony for Best Director for a Play or Musical in the past: Julie Taymor in 1998 (The Lion King), Susan Stroman in 2001 (The Producers), Mary Zimmerman in 2002 (Metamorphoses), Anna Shapiro in 2008 (August: Osage County), and last year Marianne Elliott shared the award with Tom Ellis (War Horse).
The count for the Oscars: Kathryn Bigelow in 2009 for The Hurt Locker. Aaand that’s it. So. Someone make a Socially Awkward Penguin meme about this — it could go something like, GAVE AWARD 83 TIMES. ONLY GAVE IT TO A LADY ONCE — and send it to the Academy for me. It’d make me feel better.
Other good Tony news for the ladies: Best Costume Design for a Play went to Paloma Young for Peter and the Starcatchers; all the other nominees were men. Best Scenic Design, also for Peter, went to Donyale Werle, again the only female nominee in her category. Natasha Katz won for Best Lighting Design in a Musical for Once. I point this out not to say, “Suck it, men who were also nominated for these awards!” but as a reminder that that thing I said at the beginning about women being involved in every aspect of theater? Yeah, see, I was right about that.
4. Most people associate Angela Lansbury with Murder, She Wrote, but I always think of her as the overwhelmingly comforting voice of Mrs. Potts in Beauty and the Beast. And just please, please, please Angela Lansbury, please never die, because I’m worried if you do I will want to burst into tears anytime I see a teapot, so you just can’t, OK? You just can’t.