The show, as they say, must go on, and indeed the Tony Awards will move forward with broadcasting its 2023 ceremony. The most high-profile celebration of American theater was compromised, as many other broadcast events have been, by the Writers Guild of America strike. The WGA initially denied the Tonys a waiver to put on the show, but on Monday conceded that the guild would not picket the event after producers agreed to alterations.
“As has been previously reported, the Writers Guilds of America East and West (WGA) will not negotiate an interim agreement or a waiver for the Tony Awards,” the guild wrote in a statement (via Deadline). “However, Tony Awards Productions (a joint venture of the Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing) has communicated with us that they are altering this year’s show to conform with specific requests from the WGA, and therefore the WGA will not be picketing the show.”
While there has been no confirmation of what alterations will take place, a source told the New York Times that the show “would not feature any scripted material by screenwriters in its opening number or comedic patter,” and “would not use any part of a draft script that had been written before the screenwriters’ strike began.” Instead the run of the show will apparently be bare bones, giving out awards and performances from Broadway shows. It’s unclear if Ariana DeBose, the host announced before the strike began, will still be involved.
Unlike other awards shows that were scheduled during the strike—like, say, the MTV Movie & TV Awards, for instance—the strike’s effect on the Tonys has been cause for some debate, even within the guild. The very point of a strike is to cause serious disruptions, both logistically and financially. (A recent statement from the WGA suggested the strike is costing California’s economy $30 million a day, per Deadline.) It’s a tangible way to demonstrate the writers’ importance to the industry from an artistic and economic standpoint.
However, supporters of the Tonys argued that broadcasting the awards show is a labor issue in its own right. The Broadway celebration is viewed as an important advertisement for live theater, which is seen as all the more imperative as the industry struggles to regain footing amid the coronavirus pandemic. Placing blame for the issue solely on the AMPTP (the studios’ bargaining unit), WGA member and playwright Jeremy O. Harris previously wrote on Twitter, “You can’t negotiate by instilling terror but I hope our union will listen to the voices of their writers asking behind closed doors for a solution to be found that won’t be a death nail in the coffin of an industry struggling to survive.”
“Responsibility for having to make changes to the format of the 2023 Tony Awards rests squarely on the shoulders of Paramount/CBS and their allies,” read the WGA’s statement on Monday. “They continue to refuse to negotiate a fair contract for the writers represented by the WGA.”
However, the statement also emphasized solidarity with the many hundreds of workers in the theater community. “As they have stood by us, we stand with our fellow workers on Broadway who are impacted by our strike,” it concluded. Actors Equity president Kate Shindle reposted the statement on her own Twitter with gratitude toward the WGA, encouraging her members to show up for the guild’s picket lines. “Oh, and because it can’t be said enough: this is still #AMPTP’s fault, and the writers should never have been put in this position,” she wrote. “We can appreciate the grace AND point at the culprits, right?”
The Tony Awards will air on CBS and Paramount+ on June 11, 2023, at 8:00 EST.