As Broadway celebrates the best of the 2022-2023 season June 11, some of the night's winners and attendees are making sure to call attention to supporting writers during the 76th Annual Tony Awards.
The WGA did not picket this year's Tony Awards following several promises from the Broadway League, namely presenting the awards without any work that would normally require a WGA member, necessitating an unscripted ceremony.
The lack of a script became a defining aspect of the night's opening number for Act II, hosted again by stage and screen star Ariana DeBose. The number opened in a dressing room with DeBose staring at a blank page before dancing a number through the United Palace theatre choreographed by Karla Puno Garcia. After kicking off the night, she spoke about how the WGA is pursuing a fair deal and decided to inform audiences everywhere how the strike means the night's ceremony is live and off-the-cuff. "Darlings, buckle up!" she said to everyone who thought "she was unhinged last year" as host of the 75th Annual Tony Awards. There are no teleprompters, both of which were shown to be dark at the event; the only monitors are being used to display a countdown for acceptance speeches.
DeBose made another reference to the unscripted nature of the ceremony when announcing that the award for Best Featured Actress in a Play was next. Having changed into a suit, she pulled the sleeve of her jacket up to show marker-made notes on her arm. "I have no idea what these notes mean," she said, "so welcome whoever is about to walk out on that stage!"
While presenting the award for Best Leading Actress in a Play, Utkarsh Ambudkar jokingly introduced himself as his co-presenter, Marcia Gay Harden. "I'm sorry everyone, the teleprompters are empty. I miss the writers."
In accepting the Tony that made him the most-winning playwright in Tony Awards history, Tom Stoppard joked about being familiar with not having a script when he won his 1976 Tony for Travesties. He then made his point, "I am feeling emotions right now that a chat bot wouldn't understand." Victoria Clark also spoke about the strike in her acceptance speech, saying, "We are nothing without our writers. Support the WGA and their struggle for the contract they deserve."
During Jeanine Tesori and David Lindsay-Abaire's acceptance speeches, the two wore WGA pins and advocated for supporting the WGA. "We first want to thank the great state of New Jersey and every town in New Jersey that we mentioned. Tonight, our favorite town in New Jersey is Union. If you believe in the power of storytelling, please support the WGA and everything that they're fighting for," said Lindsay-Abaire. Upon winning the Tony for Best Book, Lindsay-Abaire spoke about how wonderful it is that Broadway has gathered to support theatre today and "will be on the picket lines tomorrow." He continued, "Please support the WGA. We just want to be treated fairly."
In her acceptance speech, Best Featured Actress in a Play winner Miriam Silverman spoke to being very pro-union, having been raised by parents who "believed in the value of labor." She added that she stands with the WGA.
A frequent part of showing solidarity with the WGA has also been wearing a pin for the union. The pin has been spotted on Tesori, Lindsay-Abaire, Jessica Stone, and Lin-Manuel Miranda. It's also worth noting that some of the attendees already spotted this evening indicate that WGA members are attending the ceremony, though the union had originally asked its Tony-nominated guild members to not attend the evening as the Hollywood union continues to strike.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the union sent an email to Tony-nominated guild members requesting that in lieu of attending the awards, members pre-tape an acceptance speech or ask a non-guild member to accept on their behalf. Since May 2, the WGA, which represents TV and film writers, has been on strike following a breakdown in negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers over royalties for streaming titles and the potential use of A.I. in screenwriting, among other grievances. As a result, this year's Tony Awards are fully unscripted.