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State Technician Tony

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State Technician Tony#1
Posted: 1/24/20 at 9:33am
I just found out that from 1948-1963 there was a Best Stage Technician Tony. I cant figure out why they stopped presenting the award but I thought it was very interesting. I also found out that there was only one prop master to win one, Joe Lynn, he was the only prop master to win a tony award for his work (i believe, correct me if im wrong)
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HeyMrMusic
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Stage Technician Tony#2
Posted: 1/24/20 at 11:02pm
There also used to be a Tony Award for Best Conductor and Musical Director, which was presented from 1948-1964. As conductors and music directors are eligible for Emmy and Grammy Awards, it’s pretty silly that they aren’t eligible for Tony Awards where their work is literally visible. (It’s ironic that music directors and conductors of cast albums are not eligible for Grammys unless they are listed as producers.)
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Stage Technician Tony#3
Posted: 1/25/20 at 1:16am

HeyMrMusic said: "it’s pretty silly that they aren’t eligible for Tony Awards where their work is literally visible."

AFM already tried, and failed, to make this happen in the 90s. With a musical nowadays, there's no clear delineation of who does what in the music dept. Sometimes the composer does much of the vocal rehearsal leg work. Other times, it's the Music Supervisor or Music Director. The Conductor can differ from the Music Director (and often the Associate conducts a few nights a week). The producer decides the size of the orchestra with some input from the composer, and the Contractor assembles the musicians. Not to mention the work of Dance Arrangers, Vocal Arrangers, and other music dept. personnel. The vast majority of Broadway shows are going to sound technically good, even if the score is awful.

Like Stage Management, there's no true criteria for judging the work of a theatrical Music Director.

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HeyMrMusic
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Stage Technician Tony#4
Posted: 1/25/20 at 10:02am
I’d argue that the same grey area can be applied to almost any category. Not one person is ever truly responsible for design or direction or orchestration or acting (there are multitudes of associate directors, associate choreographers, casting directors, music assistants, assistant designers). Literally every department has a team. However, look at any Playbill and you will see who’s musically at the top of the food chain, just like any other of those departments. In many cases, the job of a music supervisor/director has almost evolved over the years to include orchestration just so that person would be eligible for a Tony Award.

And obviously, if the music director and conductor aren’t the same person, then set rules on whether both are eligible or just the MD.
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Stage Technician Tony#5
Posted: 1/25/20 at 10:32am

HeyMrMusic said: "I’d argue that the same grey area can be applied to almost any category. Not one person is ever truly responsible for design or direction or orchestration or acting (there are multitudes of associate directors, associate choreographers, casting directors, music assistants, assistant designers). Literally every department has a team. However, look at any Playbill and you will see who’s musically at the top of the food chain, just like any other of those departments. In many cases, the job of a music supervisor/director has almost evolved over the years to include orchestration just so that person would be eligible for a Tony Award.

And obviously, if the music director and conductor aren’t the same person, then set rules on whether both are eligible or just the MD.
"

Exactly, there are plenty of ways they could clear it up, and the ambiguity in the duties, as HeyMrMusic stated, is far from unique to the music department, and has been for a very long time. Look at how it's widely acknowledged now just how much contribution Peter Gennaro had in developing the choreography to West Side Story, but his name is not included in that Tony Award for Best Choreography that the original production received. 

Did you know that every day Mexican gays cross our borders and unplug our brain-dead ladies?
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Stage Technician Tony#6
Posted: 1/26/20 at 12:18am

Think you're looking at things in an overly simplistic way.

AFM tried to create an industry-wide standard of Music Director/Music Supervisor duties 25 years ago, in an attempt to lobby for a MD Tony category. That led to the creation of the Orchestration category. Specific duties of that job are easier said than done, especially when there's a hands-on composer, or if the Broadway production originated elsewhere. Obviously it didn't really go anywhere, and has only become more complicated since then.

Them, there's the larger matter of how do you judge the work? It's nearly impossible to adjudicate the conducting and musical direction of a new score. The Tony Voters can hardly be trusted with the Sound Design and Orchestration categories, and this is even thornier.

If anything, get rid of the Orchestration category, and create a more inclusive Musical Arrangements category combining orchestrator, dance arranger, vocal arranger, and other relevant parties. 90% of the times the MD also serves in one of those capacities, so they would be covered in that way.

Updated On: 1/26/20 at 12:18 AM
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HeyMrMusic
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Stage Technician Tony#7
Posted: 1/26/20 at 1:35am
But an MD’s job has nothing to do with arrangement. MDs are also not in AFM; only actually players and conductors are in the union, not the specific job of music director. It’s a weird situation.

How do you judge directing? Lighting design? Choreography? Acting? When educated about what a music director does, it’s possible to recognize when the work is good (or not). Critics often mention music directors when their work is integral to the show. And let’s be frank: what would a musical be without a music director? It’s literally one of the most important jobs in the creative team.

Think of the big music directors on Broadway now: Stephen Oremus, Ted Sperling, Kim Grigsby, Tom Kitt, Alex Lacamoire, Mary Mitchell Campbell... (list goes on and on). All of their work as a music director and/or supervisor is absolutely evident in the shows of theirs we know and love. Not just as arrangers and orchestrators but as music directors. Hands-on composers like Cyndi Lauper didn’t do the job of Stephen Oremus in Kinky Boots as music director. The music director should absolutely be collaborating with the composer (and orchestrator and sound designer and director and choreographer, again list goes on).

Also, no, don’t get rid of the Tony for Orchestrations. Another person a new production (or revival) can’t do without.
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Stage Technician Tony#8
Posted: 1/26/20 at 2:18am

Since you seem more steeped in the music direction world than the rest of us, how specifically would you recommend that the Tony voters (theatre professionals who mostly don't have degrees in music) judge the work of a MD based on one viewing of a production (and when taking away all consideration of conducting and arrangements)?

It has always felt to me that like two other crucial elements of the theatre, Stage Management and Casting, there is no proper way to award MDs within the confines of how the Tony Awards currently operate.

Updated On: 1/26/20 at 02:18 AM
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Stage Technician Tony#9
Posted: 1/26/20 at 8:24am

Just a correction - MDs are absolutely in AFM and are covered under the 802 agreements. It's not like directors who are in SSDC, separate from Equity. The job can be vague and yes, there can be a separate conductor and the line between Supervisor/MD/etc is forever getting more and more blurred but AFM has jurisdiction.

And as an MD I feel like there doesn't need to be an MD Tony for the reasons stated - it's such an ambiguous job that I'm not quite sure what we're judging. I feel similarly about the Sound Design Tony - it seems to go to the loudest show, when to me the best sound design is usually the one you don't notice. I believe the reason the MD Tony went away was that one year somebody won who had been fired from the show for being subpar, but since the show was the big show of the year (was it "Hello, Dolly" maybe?) people just voted for the MD along with every other category. 

More and more the MDs are participating in orchestration and so a number of them have Tonys for that, and I think it's a good thing and a fair compromise. 

Updated On: 1/26/20 at 08:24 AM
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HeyMrMusic
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Stage Technician Tony#10
Posted: 1/26/20 at 11:06am

ErmengardeStopSniveling said: "Since you seem more steeped in the music direction world than the rest of us, how specifically would you recommend that the Tony voters (theatre professionals who mostlydon'thave degrees in music) judge the work of a MD based on one viewing of a production(and when taking away all consideration of conducting and arrangements)?

It has always felt to me that like two other crucial elements of the theatre, Stage Management and Casting, there is no proper way to award MDswithin the confines of how the Tony Awards currently operate.
"

Simply put, the MD is responsible for how the music is represented in the show, in the similar fashion that the choreographer is responsible for anything movement-oriented and the director is responsible for staging/concept/big picture elements. They are the three that run the show in rehearsals. After a show is open, the MD is responsible for maintenance of all things musical, from the cast to the orchestra to how it sounds in the house to diction and interpretation of lyric. These are some of the basic tenets of an MD. Of course, many MDs these days are hands-on and also get credit for arrangement and orchestration, but that is partly so they have a tangible credit either for Tony eligibility or a slice of the pie; it’s not a requirement for an MD to do any of that.

 

I just feel that if the Emmys have figured out a way to award technical direction and music direction (and yes, even casting), the theatre industry can figure it out too. There’s never a “need” for more categories, but if you educate people, they’ll understand what the job means, just like people have finally understood what lighting design is (and hopefully they kind of know what sound design and orchestrations are).

 

I don’t agree that the winner of Sound Design has gone to the loudest shows. The very first winner for a musical was South Pacific, where you didn’t notice it but experienced how glorious it sounded. And just two years ago, The Band’s Visit won for a design where you have to lean forward to hear. Winners like Once and Hadestown had the challenge of the full band onstage, but neither felt like it was ever too loud for the audience, as is the case for so many concerts.

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Stage Technician Tony#11
Posted: 1/26/20 at 12:37pm

You're continuing to prove my point, MrMusic, by not answering how a third-party Tony voter can adjudicate that type of work after seeing a show one time within the first few months of its run. There really isn't a logical way to differentiate between the MD vs composer vs cast in that context; the work should be seamless! That's much different than being able to see/hear how the Director or Choreographer or Designer's work plays out on stage.

(Like the Orchestration award, it would probably go to the Best Score winner, or the revival with the biggest orchestra, but that's a separate matter.)

For the Emmys, it helps that each category is only voted on by that peer group –– so the Music branch is only voting for those categories (similar to how the Oscar nominating process works). Whereas the Tonys are nominated by 40 theatre artists and awarded by ~850. And the Tony voting ranks really can't be expanded significantly: it's hard enough for hit shows to seat all the Tony voters and their +1s.