Tonys Big Winners: Asians and Lesbians....Tonys Big Losers: Asians and Lesbians

Chris Peterson

By now you've probably read that history was made at last night's Tony Awards. The only problem is, you probably didn't hear or see it last night during the telecast because the producers did their best to make sure you didn't know history had just occurred. 

With wins for Jeanine Tesori and Lisa Kron for Best Score, they became the first female writing team to win in that category. But it didn't stop there. With wins for Natasha Katz, Paule Constable, Catherine Zuber, Bunny Christie and Marianne Elliott, almost every female won over their fellow male nominees. The only problem was, the TV audience and more importantly young women everywhere, only got to see 1 of them actually win their trophy. Only Marianne Elliott's win for Best Direction of a Play was presented during the live broadcast. Even Tesori's long overdue Tony, along with Kron's historic win, was hurriedly presented during a commercial break. Sitting in the press room, more than a few of us vocally made our disdain known. But it didn't stop there. 

As an Asian American actor/director/blogger, I know full well the reality of employment success on Broadway for people who look like me. Even more hard to swallow is the Asian American representation when it comes to Tony victories. 

So last night, when Ruthie Ann Miles upset the Fun Home power trifecta, I could barely keep it together. For the first time in Tony History, an Asian American had won for Best Featured Actress in a Musical. 

More importantly, Miles is only the second Asian American Actress to win a Tony and it hasn't hasn't happened since Lea Solonga did it 24 years ago for Miss Saigon. 

Let's think about that for a moment. There are Asian American actors who are graduating college this year who have never seen someone from the same ethnicity, ascend the Tony stage until last night.

Was this mentioned during the telecast? Nope. 

I made sure to make the gravity of the moment known with the first question I asked to Ms. Miles in her press room Q&A. The moving video is below. 

As the telecast continued, I thought to myself, they'll recognize that history is being made here tonight right? Slip something to Alan or Kristin to say? Not at all. 

And the hits kept coming. 

Nothing was mentioned about how The King and I, a musical with a majority Asian cast, is one of the few shows that is undefeated when being nominated for Best Musical or Best Revival of a Musical, 3-0, how many shows can claim that statistic? Not many, if any. Was this mentioned? Absolutely not. 

And then the most egregious moment of them all. Fun Home, a musical based on the writings of a Lesbian, with a lesbian protagonist, adapted by women, starring a majority female cast, won Best Musical. The roar in the press room was deafening....and then came the silence and gasps which were just as deafening. 

As the cast and producers were on stage, celebrating a truly historic and special moment, and right when one of the producers was thanking those responsible for making a musical that had not been made before....the play off music started to hum....then got the time they got to thank Alison could hardly hear them. 

Being the last award of the evening, there shouldn't have been play off music, the show is basically over. So why was this awe inspiring cast and crew hurried off stage? 

For Jersey Boys to close a ceremony in June by singing a song about December....

It was a truly awful thing to see live and an incredibly embarrassing moment for the Tony Awards producers. 

Back in 1997, the Academy Awards knew they had a special moment that was almost certainly going to happen. Matt Damon and Ben Affleck were both nominated for Best Original Screenplay. If they won, Affleck would have become the youngest person ever to win that award. 

Knowing this would be a much talked about moment, the Oscars producers decided to move that award from it's usual spot in the middle of the ceremony and pushed it towards the end, right before the Best Acting awards. They understood history was likely going to be made and they made sure everyone saw it. 

For the sake of Asian Americans and young women everywhere, I wish the Tonys producers had the same awareness. 

Oh and the song that was playing when the producers forced Fun Home off the stage? 

"There's No Business Like Show Business"

I guess that says a lot. 

How to Be…Successful

Next Year at the Tonys, I’d Rather See Less Performances and More Awards