In a bit of news that will surprise no one outside of New York City, nearly every single one of the 2016 Tony nominees are in shows that began life in non-profits. As American Theatre wryly notes:
The musical revival nominees include one commercial only-on-Broadway offering, Bartlett Sher’s staging of Fiddler on the Roof (even as his revival of The King and I continues at Broadway’s third nonprofit, Lincoln Center Theater), while the remaining two are the aforementioned Roundabout She Loves Me and Spring Awakening, which gets extra credit for originating at a 99-seat nonprofit, Los Angeles’s Deaf West Theatre Company.
That 99-seat theater is a key proving ground for new works and innovative revivals has long been an argument made in Los Angeles and elsewhere. Recently, Vanessa Stewart provided an extensive database on how many 99-seat shows later provided contracts to actors. This year’s Tony Award nominations is simply additional proof of that.
If Equity cannot figure out an economically viable means to have innovative work performed in non-profits, it may well cripple the country’s ability to maintain live theater as a culturally relevant artform.