Inspired by the online conversation around Actor's Equity Association's campaign to create new Tony Award categories to recognize performers to in leading roles, actor and choreographer Chaz Wolcott share a candid conversation on the value of such an award.
To all of you dismissive of AEA's push for an Ensemble Tony....
....don't you think Tonys for Broadway Ensembles would help convince regional theatres to use AEA contracts on Ensemble members, instead of only on principals??
There's a certain degree of "the ensemble isn't worth it" thinking in the regional theatre world, and I think that's very unfortunate. I think it stems from the fact that even Broadway ensembles aren't recognized (outside of the Astaire award). If Broadway doesn't recognize amazing ensembles, why would Joe Producer in Nebraska care about your talents if you are "JUST" a gypsy jumping from ensemble to ensemble. I think this award could help legitimize an entire group of performers who deserve recognition.
All of us Ensemble folk know how INCREDIBLY difficult it is to be in the ensemble of a show. Many people would agree that you have to be MORE versatile of a performer to be in an Ensemble than to play a principal, so why would we not want that recognized? Why should that training, years of hard work and determination and persistence not be rewarded like it is for so many other creatives in a Broadway show? (Yes, we should bring the Tony for Sound Design back too!)
Think back to shows like The Scottsboro Boys, Newsies, Peter and the Starcatcher, etc. and tell me that those ensembles shouldn't have been recognized for the incredible contribution they made to the productions. I'd bet a good percentage of my generation of dancers were moved to theatre because of the musical Cats. I know I was. I highly doubt it was just Grizabella that helped us catch the theatre bug. I, for one, will never forget being in Cats and crawling around the audience and the wonder I'd see in kids' eyes. Those kids were riveted, intrigued, and inspired by the experience, which was created by the ENSEMBLE of the show....the entire ensemble of cats, not just the leads who sing the big songs!
If your criticism is "don't we have bigger problems" -- I hardly think AEA is putting all of its eggs in this basket. They started a campaign that they encourage actors/supporters to support by signing a petition. I don't think their negotiating time has been sacrificed. I'm certain they are still working on healthcare solutions, etc. But, I think that this was likely done in the interest of gaining some legitimacy for the Broadway gypsy in hopes of it leading to more job opportunities and more respect. Maybe negotiating power will improve with Ensemble Tonys included in actors' credits. I applaud Actors' Equity Association for this petition.