NEW YORK — In one of the odder dustups in the history of the Tony Awards, a Broadway production has been dropped from consideration for the prestigious annual prizes after one of its producers reportedly barred a member of the Awards’ nominating committee from attending the show.
As a result, the actors and design team of a stage adaptation of George Orwell’s “1984,” which featured actors Tom Sturridge, Olivia Wilde and Reed Birney, will now not be eligible for the 2017-2018 season’s Tonys. The awards are given each June for the best work on Broadway.
Top Broadway hands said they could recall no other incident like this, and the impetus for the dispute remains unclear. According to a report by The New York Times, the production, whose lead producer is Scott Rudin, refused to provide tickets for one of the Tony nominators, Jose Antonio Vargas, and as a result, Tony officials pulled “1984’s” eligibility. (Broadway sources, speaking on background because they weren’t authorized to comment, said the Tony Awards were also rebuffed in efforts to buy the tickets for Vargas.)
” ‘1984’ was deemed ineligible by the Tony Awards Administration Committee,” the organization said in a statement. “It was determined that not all elements of the required eligibility were fulfilled. Both the production and the committee have discussed the matter in private. While all parties involved do not necessarily agree on the outcome, all parties agree that the issue was handled properly according to the bylaws of Tony Rules and Regulations and the matter is settled.”
The play, adapted and directed by Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan, ran at the Hudson Theatre for five months and 125 performances before closing on Oct. 8.
Vargas, a former reporter for the Washington Post, now serves as chief executive of Define American, an organization he founded to advocate for undocumented immigrants. He is one of 49 members of the nominating committee, the group that meets each May to name up to five nominees in each of the awards’ two dozen categories. Like all the members of this year’s committee — which also includes playwright Paul Rudnick, actress Celia Keenan-Bolger, and Arena Stage executive producer Edgar Dobie — Vargas is supposed to see every show that opens on Broadway during the season.
Reached for comment, neither Vargas nor representatives for Rudin would speak about the matter. A story outlining the incident first appeared on deadline.com.
Producers sometimes take their shows out of the running — as was the case last season, when the producers of a well-received revival of “Sunday in the Park with George” chose not to compete. But that seemed to be a financial decision based on the fact that it was an extremely limited run, lasting only 61 performances, a situation in which the costs of supplying tickets for the nominators and about 800 Tony voters can prove prohibitive.