Actors' Equity Launches Campaign For Tony Awards Categories To Recognize Broadway Ensembles
Actors' Equity Association announced today the launch of a new national campaign to create two new Tony Award categories, Best Chorus in a Musical or Play and Best Ensemble in a Musical or Play. The inclusion of these categories would recognize all Equity performers who appear on a Broadway stage.
The campaign launched with a website, EveryoneOnStage.com, and a nationwide digital ad campaign which will run through the Tony Award season asking theatre enthusiasts to sign a petition to support recognition for Chorus and Ensemble performers.
"Today, the Equity members who work in the chorus and ensemble are often expected to be able to do it all: act, sing, dance, even play one or more instruments," said Kate Shindle, President of Actors' Equity. "It's not an exaggeration to say that the ensemble is frequently the hardest-working group on the stage. These new Tony categories would help ensure that every one of the performers who appear on stage can have their talent and efforts recognized."
On so many Broadway shows, Chorus and Ensemble members make up the bedrock of the production. As Broadway Theatre has evolved, the demands on these members has increased: They are often expected to be able to act, dance, sing and sometimes even play musical instruments. As swings and understudies, there is no limit to the number of tracks they need to master.
Countless regional theatre awards throughout the country have created categories that recognize Chorus and Ensemble members. Additionally, SAG-AFTRA created several Ensemble-recognition categories at their televised awards ceremony more than two decades ago.
These new awards categories productions would benefit all who are involved in the production of a Broadway show. Aside from finally ensuring that members of the Chorus and Ensemble are recognized for their work like others who appear on stage, it would also serve as another way for producers to market their shows.
"These new Tony Awards Categories can be a win for everyone, from the performers to the producers," said R. Kim Jordan, 2nd Vice President and Chair of Equity's Advisory Committee on Chorus Affairs. "It's not too soon to start thinking about the next Tony season and how we can ensure that the chorus and ensemble members who are such an important part of bringing a Broadway Production to life can be recognized for their invaluable contributions."
Equity officially sent its request in a letter to the American Theatre Wing and the Broadway League requesting consideration of the new categories for the 2018-2019 Broadway season. The request comes following a vote of Equity's National Council to request the new awards categories.
About the Categories: Actors' Equity defines a Chorus as a group in a Musical or singing and/or dancing group that makes up part of a Dramatic Play (excluding extra and walk-on parts, and Chorus roles where the members speak but do not sing or dance). Actors' Equity considers an Ensemble to be the entire cast of a Musical or Play, inclusive of all principal, featured, chorus and swing roles.
Actors' Equity Association, founded in 1913, is the U.S. labor union that represents more than 51,000 professional actors and stage managers. Equity endeavors to advance the careers of its Members by negotiating wages, improving working conditions and providing a wide range of benefits (health and pension included). Member: AFL-CIO, FIA. www.actorsequity.org #EquityWorks
Photo: Via EveryoneOnStage.com - Broadway companies on opening night: Fiddler on the Roof company reaching out to touch Jeffrey Schechter's robe for good luck.