There Is No Theatre Without the Writers

I congratulate the Tony broadcast and do not seek to chastise it, but I want to call attention to the telecast which was well paced and well-intentioned to serve the theatre lovers of America. Disclosure: I have nothing to do with producing on Broadway. My company serves the theatre community and we license shows after their lives Broadway to some 35,000 high schools, 70,000 grade schools, 10,000 community theatres and thousands of professional theatres throughout America and in many other countries. There are (in the USA) about five million households (approximately 15 million Americans) that care about or are involved in theatre.

Since the broadcast, constituents we serve have started to question us about the omission of any awards on camera for the winning playwrights, composers or lyricists (who create and own these shows)! They have contacted us with only one question: "Why?" because our company is regarded by them as a repository of the largest collection of musicals in the United States, licensing musical shows to these students and adults, and it is they who principally comprise the audience watching the Tonys.

There is no theatre (whether it be a play or a musical) without the writers. They are the foundation, indispensable heart and essence of everything that appears on the stage; be it a play or a musical, whether in a school, community theatre, a church, or professional theatre in any town in America and also of course on Broadway (plus more than the 68 countries around the world that regularly produce and perform American theatre.)

Writing a play is lonely. It takes hard work, discipline and craft, requiring an author to bring characters to life and tell a story. Authors imagine words as dialogue being delivered by actors who need direction. The structure and story have to keep the audience interested and (hopefully) involved. All of this starts with the mind and talents of a writer. With a musical, it is more complex because that requires a collaboration of different talents getting along, setting egos aside and working toward a common goal without any science or magic formula. It requires organic trial and error and relies on a sort of alchemy for how scenes evolve into songs, songs replace dialogue and dialogue then continues. The songs can bring tears to the eyes, add laughter, lighten the heart and the dialogue continues the story and seamlessly melds with the music and the lyrics into one great surge of impact on the audience. The music often subconsciously acts like great motion picture scores, driving emotions of fear, tension, anxiety and romance, and most of this takes place without the audience being aware what is happening to them. They've either had a good time or not at the end of the evening. They either remember it or they don't... and sometimes they find it indelible and life-changing, or end up arguing afterwards about the meaning and their respective interpretations of what it all meant! Hopefully they are never bored.

Authors work for years together to make this experience happen. You cannot phone it in or research it on Google. You have to work hard. You have to work with each other and often, reverse course and be willing to try again, and then again, with discipline and resilience and courage.

This form of communication at the end of the day is purely an American trait and quintessentially an American art form. The idea of transporting an audience from a seat in a dark theatre to the stage, to suspend belief in everything around them, to keep them from clearing their throats, spending hours in a fabricated world that mesmerizes, enlightens, entertains, is provocative and (at times) hysterically funny and/or disturbing is no accident. Hard work, craft and talent as the crux of storytelling in a very special way and the best of the best should be given their due, the winners their moment. We join our constituents in their disappointment.

It was particularly disheartening to witness the absence of Jeanine Tesori and Lisa Kron as the historically significant first all-female team to break through and write the Tony winner for Best Musical: the adventuresome, dazzling Fun Home, based on Allison Bechtel's book based on her life.

Oscar Hammerstein, a legendary lyricist (who this year might well have not have been invited to the podium with Richard Rodgers to accept their award), wrote words spoken by the character who plays the King of Siam in their Tony winning musical THE KING AND I and the King says: "Tis a puzzlement" and I say: "Tis sad."