CMU School of Drama

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Tony Awards Reinstate the Sound Design Categories for the 2017-2018 Season

Lighting&Sound America Online - News: The Tony Awards announces that the Sound Design categories -- Best Sound Design of a Musical and Best Sound Design of a Play -- will be reinstated for the 2017-2018 season. The categories had previously been removed in 2014, amid much protest from the theatre community and fans alike.

13 comments:

Mark Ivachtchenko said...

VERY GOOD

Mark Ivachtchenko said...

To expand on my earlier point, even though I’m not the almighty God himself when it comes to sound, it’s awesome to see it make a comeback since it’s a fundamental part of what happens in a production; it’s the entirety of one of the five senses. It’s not much of a surprise at the backlash received after Sound Design was removed as a category and it’s not very surprising that they brought it back. Especially with strong unions, like USA Local 829, sound designers working professionally won a huge victory by getting their category back. Furthermore, it’s good to see more change happening in terms of voting for the Tony awards. It seems like the new “layered” system of voting they’re going for is much stronger and makes a lot more sense. Now, all we have left to fight for is for managerial Tony awards and all sects of our trade will be recognized.

Simone Schneeberg said...

Sound is so continuously underrated; it's so good that there is something officially recognized by people both inside and outside the theatrical world that validates the importance of sound design again. Sound is one of those things that when done well seems so effortless so people who don't try to do it don't always realize the amount of work that goes into just balancing the actors correctly let alone designing the audio effects to reinforce the emotion and environment of a show. I understand that it is hard to judge an art form that is meant to be so fluid and integral that you don't entirely notice it's influence on a show (although it's absence is always noted). I think instating a voting system that seems to have experts (or at least people) in the trade making the first decisions will better judge the intricacies of sound design. Perhaps it wouldn't be a bad idea to have similar layered voting in other areas as well.

Alex Talbot said...

This is fantastic, but it took the American Theatre Wing too long to get here in my opinion. It was moronic in the first place that this was ever removed, and only from huge pressure by designers and collaborators across the country it was actually reinstated. Too many shows and designers between then and now were shorted of an award that the rest of the team had the ability to get. Sound isn't a new concept in terms of theatre design, and while some shows may only require minimal design, and more system design and reinforcement, I don't see how one could classify it as a completely technical field as the American Theatre Wing did.
In general, I feel like the Tony Awards needs to completely reform how they look at creative awards versus acting awards. Often, at least over the past few years when I watched the event, they tend to place awards in commercial blocks, and often breeze right over them. While the acting awards are clearly what gets the ratings for the program, to me and I'm assuming many other viewers, it seems as if they don't matter or are completely irrelevant.

Claire Farrokh said...

Well thank god. Removing the sound design Tony was such a ridiculously stupid decision, and I'm glad they finally got their act together. However, Joe was talking about this in class, since we had Production Audio literally twenty minutes after this news was announced, and he kind of helped us understand why it was removed. Many of the Tony voters do not entirely know how to judge design. Oftentimes with costumes and scenic, it's whatever is biggest and most complicated that wins, and that is not always what is truly the best, most fitting design of the season. While big and complicated is hard and definitely should be congratulated, it's hard to determine whether or not bigger is always better. As far as lighting and sound, it's even harder to judge. Most of the time, no one notices lighting. Only people who are trained to notice lighting will see a particularly effective use of lights, and even then it's often not super noticeable. Because of this, it's often the flashiest and glitziest shows that win, because people notice the crazy lights in insane dance numbers. For sound, people just don't know what the hell to do. "Yeah that was a bomb ass doorbell sound they had going on." For many shows, sound design is really not noticeable at all. When sound design is done well, everything in the world sounds natural. So how do you judge that?

Emily Lawrence said...

I am so happy that they have decided to bring back this category back into the awards. I have always been very disappointed that categories like sound, stage management and props are not included, but steps are being taken in the right direction. Sound design, in my opinion, is one of the trickiest out of the design fields because it can truly ruin a moment for someone. I can typically look back a bad lighting or scenic design, but if the sound design is bad, it takes me completely out of the moment and it takes me a while to get back into it. I think that all design should be equally appreciated, and I am not saying an award is the end all be all for determining good design, but it every design category should be acknowledge so that people come to respect it. I do not like that the design awards occur during the commercials on television, but it can only happen one step at a time. And this is a pretty good one.

Annie Scheuermann said...

I think its really great that the Tony awards are bringing back the category for sound design in a musical and play. In my production audio class we talked a little bit about it on wednesday. My biggest question was always why was it taken away in the first place, and Joe Pino explained that it had to do with the committee not really understanding sound design and finding it hard to select the show that was the best. I hope that with the award coming back they push to have people well versed in sound design judge the shows so it is not just a random, I think this show sounded good. Sound design is probably one of the most interesting designs for the stage, and unless you understand what goes into it, the only time you notice it during a show is when things go wrong. I hope that the Tony awards keep expanding and with the way theater is moving include an award for media designs, also would be pretty cool to see the Tony's recognize managers and award the stage and production managers of shows - that category I would have truly no idea how you could really judge though.

Ali Whyte said...

I am so excited that sound is back in the Tonys mix. I have had this debate with many other people both in and out of the theatre community, and I do see valid reasons for its removal in the first place, but I still firmly believe it is just as valid of a design field as costumes or scenery. The show that convinced me of this was The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. When I saw that show I remember how drastically the sound changed my perception of not only the set onstage, but the entire world of the theatre that I was in. Sound is often the only design field that makes it past the plaster line and to the audience itself. Because of this characteristic, I think ti has tremendous ability to bring an audience in or isolate them from the world of the play.

nick waddington said...

I am truly glad to hear that the Sound Design Tony award has been reinstated, (although it means i can no longer tease william lowe about it) because i think sound is one of the most incredible aspects of theater, and is often under appreciated. i too have talked lengthily with peers about the validity of the decision to remove the sound design tony in the first place, and while i can see valid arguments, i also know that there is a level of magic that sound brings to the stage. if you have ever sat in an audience and tried to listen to a musical without any mics, or music, or any kind of ambient sound, you are left with a pretty poor performance. also, i have seen sound designers(mainly will) completely geek out and want to tell everyone they know about this awesome thing they did or were able to figure out, and i think that kind of passion and enthusiasm deserves an award for the people who make it happen at such a professional level.

Cosette Craig said...

Praise the lord. After hearing the Tony’s excuse for why they cut the award in the first place, there was a little part of me that agreed with the fact that Tony voters were uneducated in sound and couldn’t accurately judge what they were watching. I also think awards were going to shows not for sound design but for the spectacle of the sound and the compositions. Too bad The Encounter missed out on the reinstating of this. After seeing Dear Evan Hansen and Great Comet over break, I remember thinking, wow, they just gave a big f*** you to the Tony’s taking away their award. They did things I didn’t know were possible. Ironically, I don’t think I’m educated in the subject enough to be able to judge sound. Now there’s hope that maybe they’re moving towards finally putting in a best media design award and stop including it in scenic and crediting and awarding the wrong people (i.e. Bob Crowley for American in Paris)

Megan Jones said...

Thank God they're finally bringing the sound design Tony back, it took way too long. I honestly can't believe that they took away the sound design Tony in the first place, as sound design is such a crucial part of the design process for so many productions. Part of the justification for why they took it away was that Tony voters said that they didn't know how to properly judge a design category that was non-visual. That's really baffling to me. If your judges don't know how to properly critique something that's not a sign you should get rid of an award, it's a sign that you need to get new judges. Here's a radical idea: maybe have sound designers judge the category that they've spent their lives dedicating their careers to? I'm happy that the Tony Awards have finally come to their senses, and I hope that they're able to judge these productions fairly and not just focus on the visual aspect of the design.

Claire Krueger said...

When I saw the article title I misread it as The Tony Awards Resistance of the Sound Design Categories for the 2017-2018 Season. Being a part of theater tech the feeling of invisibility is common, and the removal of the sound award caused unrest. So I couldn't imagine why it would face critics, no theater department in their right mind would outright trash another. And then I remembered I’m running on three hours of sleep and I had misread the title, which is actually The Tony Awards Reinstates Sound Design Categories for the 2017-2018 Season. It’s nice to see that technicians can have a political impact on a larger scale, when usually group efforts like this are just hundreds of people running into a wall over and over until the wall breaks or until they break, it’s nice to see the wall break for once and I’m excited for all the up and coming sound designers I know.

Sasha Schwartz said...

I was so glad to hear that the Sound Design Tony was going to be reinstated! This layered voting process is an intriguing idea and I hope that it’ll work better to have specialists in the department feel out the nominees before passing them over to the general committee (who previously hadn’t known what sound design was enough to fairly judge it). I’m not sure how I feel about just the sound design and orchestration categories being judged this way, as if they differ in comprehensibility from the other design categories. It’s an interesting question, because in one way you would think that a successful design would be able to be recognized by more people than just those who consider themselves specialists in that category (ie, any theater goer can recognize a good scenic design from a bad scenic design?). However, I think this may not necessarily be true amongst our acting/ directing focused Tony committee, especially considering that usually the biggest and flashiest displays of scenery/lighting/costumes win as opposed to, perhaps, some of the more thoughtful designs. Either way, I’m glad that this Tony has found it’s way back into the routine, and I hope that a media design Tony is on it’s way!

Pics from CMU Drama