American Theatre Wing Wants Podcasts Promoted. Should Ex-Tony Voters Bother?

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TonyAwardsThe dilemma! The drama!

We’ve got Michael Reidel at the New York Post openly hoping for trench warfare over the still-idiotic, still inadequately explained disenfranchisement of first-string critics from the rolls of Tony Award voters (“I’m all for a down and dirty fight,” he cooed).

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And then we’ve got Adam Feldman, writing in the Upstaged blog of Time Out New York, hoping the fracas will amplify attention on the Drama Critics Circle, of which he is president.

Well, given the double-standard membership rules of that august group (my application was rejected, I was told a few years ago, because no publication can have more than one representative — Time Out New York’s two critics being an exception), I’ll hoist my hope beside Feldman’s hope and hope against hope hope wins out. Feldman’s quote:

As an individual writer, I hope that the widespread, nearly universal criticism that has greeted the Tony decision-in the press, predictably, but also in chatrooms and in the community at large-will encourage the Tony committee to revisit its decision and reinstate at least some of the first-nighters now excluded. As president of the New York Drama Critics’ Circle, however, I also feel that this decision, and the values it tacitly endorses, could provide an extra push toward expanding the mandate and profile of the NYDCC’s own venerable awards, which are now in their 75th season.

But while all this hoping proceeds apace, a press release from the American Theatre Wing clearly suggests a different kind of hope exists: that print and digital-media journalists and blogger will alert the theater community to the return of “Downstage Center,” the Wing’s “acclaimed” podcast. (Precisely who, I wonder, lavished such an appellation?)

Since the Wing represents half the custodianship of the Tony Awards (the other half is the Broadway League, the trade organization for commercial Broadway, which should be banned by the Dictionary Society of America for abusing the word “acclaimed”), the question is this: Should journalists take up typing time and cyberspace to promote podcasts by the same people that snipped first-string critics from the voting roster?

I, for one, say sure. Why punish the public? (They’re already published for overuse of the word “acclaimed.”) And the podcasts themselves are actually terrific. So here is the press release, below. But just remember, Tony folks: This is by the grace and favor of the fourth estate. We. Owe. You. Nothing.

AMERICAN THEATRE WING
ANNOUNCES THE RETURN OF
“DOWNSTAGE CENTER”
ACCLAIMED INTERVIEW SHOW
RETURNS AS PODCAST WITH
TONY-AWARD WINNER
GREGORY JBARA ON AUGUST 3, 2009

The American Theatre Wing has announced the return of its acclaimed interview show “Downstage Center,” back by popular demand. The show returns as a podcast on Monday, August 3 with Tony Award-winner and Billy Elliot star Gregory Jbara. Hosted by American Theatre Wing Executive Director Howard Sherman, “Downstage Center” will continue to feature weekly in-depth interviews with the leading artists and professionals working on stage today. Podcasts are available through iTunes or an RSS feed. Click http://americantheatrewing.org/podcasts/index.php to subscribe.

…On the return episode of “Downstage Center,” Jbara traces his stage career from his first grade appearance as the title role in Frosty the Snowman all the way to his Tony Award-winning turn in the current Broadway musical Billy Elliot. Along the way, he discusses a college career that began at the University of Michigan and wrapped up at the Juilliard School; his first significant role as The Monster in the campy Have I Got a Girl For You (The Frankenstein Musical); chronicles the sudden acclaim (Off Broadway) and quick demise (on Broadway) of Caryl Churchill’s Serious Money; his various appearances in Forever Plaid around the country — and how he made more doing it in Washington, DC than the original cast made in the New York company; what it was like to work with show business icons like Jerry Lewis (in Damn Yankees) and Julie Andrews (in Victor/Victoria); how his role of André, and the songs, in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels were shaped as the show was being developed; and what it’s like to play opposite a different actor as Billy every single night in Billy Elliot — often not knowing who he’ll be on with until moments before the curtain rises.

For more info. on “Downstage Center” and American Theatre Wing programs, visit www.americantheatrewing.org.