July 2014

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June 2014

News & Notices

USITT Responds to Tony Decision to Cut Sound Awards

When the Tony Awards administration decided on June 11 to eliminate future Tonys for sound design, USITT realized it had to publicly address the shock and dismay sweeping through the theatrical design and tech community.

The next morning, USITT Executive Director David Grindle wrote a letter to the American Theatre Wing expressing USITT’s position that cutting the sound design Tonys dismisses and disrespects the artistic contributions of sound designers in Broadway shows, and that the decision should be reversed.

Hundreds of USITT members took to social media outlets to spread a petition created by sound designer John Gromada asking Tony administrators to reinstate the awards for Best Sound Design of a Play and Best Sound Design of a Musical.

The petition has attracted tens of thousands of signatures from people throughout the theatre world. David Grindle’s letter also has been widely circulated, and many USITT board members followed suit by also emailing the American Theatre Wing.

Mr. Grindle also was asked to write a commentary on the controversy for the Syracuse's newspaper. You can link to it here.

Following is the full text of Mr. Grindle’s June 12 letter:

Heather Hitchens, Executive Director
American Theatre Wing
570 Seventh Ave, Suite 501
New York, NY 10018

Dear Ms. Hitchens:

The news that the American Theatre Wing has decided to discontinue recognizing Sound Design with a Tony Award is incredibly disturbing.  To do so without explanation, saying only that a special award may be given "when it determines that extraordinary sound design has been achieved," implies that all previous winners have been unworthy.

The collaborative effort of a design team includes the sound designer and thus their work should be treated equally.  Without the environment created by sound designers shows would lose their vibrancy, sense of time and place would be diminished, and in some instances, performers would never be heard.

Sound Design is more than amplification and the ringing of phones.  Sound Design completes the visual environment that realizes the vision of the playwright and magnifies the work of the performer.

I dare suggest that a week without the Sound Designs running on Broadway would leave audiences outraged and demanding refunds.

The awards for design are already given “at another time.” Thus the decision isn’t because these awards cause the broadcast to run long.  Instead, you seem to be saying that the choice to begin the awards in 2008 was a mistake and these people and their work have no value.

The Tony broadcast celebrates people attending live theatre and encourages people to do so.  I applaud that effort.  But this decision sends the message that the collaborative work to make the performing environment is worth acknowledging, except for what you hear.  That part, anyone can do.

I strongly urge the American Theatre Wing to reconsider this short-sighted decision.  To say Sound Design is not worthy of recognition tells an entire group of artists that their work as part of a collaborative has no value.  Hopefully the public response to this decision will not fall on deaf ears, because that’s what we would have without our Sound Designers.


David Grindle
Executive Director