The Envelope, Please


After 61 times having zero chance of being called to the podium for the requisite thanks to family, friends, co-creators, etc., sound designers can finally feel that same tingle of anticipation that lighting, set, and costume designers — among the myriad others — have known for decades. At long last, the news was handed down a few weeks ago that the American Theatre Wing's Tony Awards® will now include two new awards for sound design, one for Best Sound Design of a Play and another for Best Sound Design of a Musical, starting with the upcoming 2007-2008 season.

It was just two years ago that the Tony Awards Administration Committee added categories to delineate plays versus musicals for lighting, set, and costume design, thereby adding an award in each category for those designers, and further annoying sound designers the world over. Who could blame them, really? Talk about being treated like second-class citizens!

It's about time, but what does this do for other folks on the creative team who still go unrecognized? The Tony Awards have certainly evolved over the years. In fact, back in the day, there was an award category for Stage Technician, but that hasn't been given since the early 1960s. But what about projection designers? I don't think anyone would claim that they are less part of the creative team then, say, the lighting or set designer. Did you see Bill Dudley's video design for Woman In White? Or Wendall K. Harrington's work on Grey Gardens?

So now what? Projection designers are going to want a share in the Tony legacy sooner or later, and they certainly deserve it, as do their sound-designing counterparts. Is it because not all plays and musicals use projection that these folks are neglected (certainly, more and more employ projections these days), and would the Committee have enough nominees each year to fill Best Projection Design for both a play and musical? Theatre needs sound and lighting and costumes, but is projection looked upon as a luxury (or nuisance, depending on whom you ask)? And what happens when projections dictate the set? Should the projection designer be eligible for a Tony for set design?

Food for thought…I'll be interested in your feedback. In the meantime, congrats to the sound community.