In an opinion piece for the LA Stage Times, writer Don Shirley laments what he sees as a Tony Awards obsession at the Los Angeles Times. Here are his thoughts:
The morning after the Tony Awards, the LA Times' print edition ran five Tony-centric articles, two sidebars, and 13 photos, with a thirteenth photo on the front page of the entire newspaper. Online, there were 55 photos from the Tony ceremony. All this coverage in an LA paper for an awards ceremony for Broadway.
Yes, I know, Broadway is the center of the American commercial theater industry, and sometimes Tony awards influence theatre here in LA, but not, as Times critic Charles McNulty wrote, a "huge effect." Large swaths of LA theater are largely untouched by Tony hype.
Much of the impetus for Times Tony addiction probably comes from the fact that this is the only theater award ceremony on national TV, which tends to feed the notion that the Tonys represent American theater in general. Rather than challenge that misconception, the Times has chosen to re-inforce it.
I wouldn't mind so much the way the Times treats the Tonys, if it devoted more than the slightest token attention to the theater awards in its own city. As Stephen Sacs of Fountain Theatre wrote in a letter to the editor, "When will the Los Angeles Times shine its theater spotlight more on its own home city and start giving equal space and attention to theater in Los Angeles? Our own LA Ovation Awards get barely a mention in the Times each year."
Kudos to Sachs, but it would be even better if civilians who are interested in LA theater -- not actual participants in it -- would ask these same questions in the months preceding the Tonys, or in the weeks preceding the Ovation Awards ceremony each year.
The Times Tony orgy perpetuates the absurd but alarmingly common notion that Angelenos should go to New York to partake of exciting theater.
Reviewing the Tonys, Times TV critic Mary McNamara wrote: "We may not have seen most or any of the nominated plays and performances, but gosh, the numbers and clips look terrific and everyone seems so genuinely delighted with the collective work that it's difficult not to wonder what the fares to New York are like these days."
Gosh and gee whiz -- let's also tally the cost of New York room and board and the sky-high Broadway tickets themselves and see how much we can spend, when we could have seen something equally as interesting for a tiny fraction of those costs, right here in LA.
In an online Tonys post-mortem sponsored by the Times, even McNulty acknowledged that too much of the American theater is geared toward the Tonys." There's been too much consolidation," he said. "It is theater's biggest night -- and should be. But their centrality has a downside."
Of course it really isn't the American theater that's geared too much toward the Tonys as much as it's the coverage of the American theater by the LA Times.
Tell us what you think: does Times focus too much on the Tony Awards? Does it happen at the expense of local theater? Do you pay attention to the Tonys?