The Tony Awards were a Big Deal in Washington this year: We already had one in the bag, thanks to the Shakespeare Theatre’s regional theater award win, and we had a chance at several more, with the multiple nominations for the Kennedy Center’s “Follies” and “Clybourne Park” — which, although nominated for its production at the Walter Kerr Theatre on Broadway, got an early start at the Woolly Mammoth Theatre in D.C. Critic Peter Marks noted, “This, too, is the rare year in which “Washington” and “theater” could be uttered in combination several times during a nationwide broadcast.”
So much for that. Follies only took home one trophy, for costume design. Clybourne Park’s Washington connection was one step removed, and thus not important enough to merit mention in most coverage (except for Playbill!), even though Bruce Norris’s Best Play acceptance speech thanked Woolly (which got a huge shout from a few people in the audience — presumably from the Shakespeare Theatre group in attendance). Outside of Washington, the Shakespeare Theatre’s achievement got only a cursory mention in wrap-ups of the show, with many other outlets neglecting to mention it, or Washington, at all.
Of course, Washington theatrical accomplishments will be most interesting and pertinent to people here, where, naturally, it’s the first thing we mentioned in our coverage of the show. But as robust and brilliant as Washington theater can be, we’re still just one of the planets orbiting around the center of the theatrical universe, Broadway. Did we get our hopes up too high? Shouldn’t we be used to this by now?
In our special “State of Washington Theater” issue in January, Marks wrote that “the city’s ambitions as a theater town of bona fide national distinction remain somewhat under-realized.” With these Tony connections, nominations and awards, we’re getting there. It just might take a while for everyone else to notice.