By PAM HARBAUGH
The Tony Award nominees fills the news this week. And I’m sure that poor Iain (of YouTube’s ‘Iain Loves Theater’) is gobsmacked that one of his favorites, “Finding Neverland,” was snubbed.
But in your rush to read about the Broadway nominees, I want to make sure you don’t ignore the announcement of a Tony Award winner: The Cleveland Playhouse, which IS receiving a 2015 Regional Theatre Tony Award.
The award is always announced along with the nominees. While it is given by the Tony Awards Administrative Committee, the award is based on a recommendation of the American Theatre Critics Association.
All of us in ATCA may nominate a regional theater. The nominated theaters receive a second and then are put onto the ballot for members to vote.
The Regional Theatre Award began in 1976. And, 2014 became the first year in which a non-profit theater based in New York City could be considered for a Regional Tony Award. And, last year the honor went to the Signature Theatre in New York City.
While this is a highly secretive process, I can tell you that the winning theaters quickly pop to the top of the nominees. They are active theaters with a strong education component and civic outreach. Funding comes from strong across the board support from those with deep pockets as well as foundations and public funds. New plays initiatives are always a vital part of those theaters’ missions. They also enjoy a long history of artistic play production and are leaders in their region’s arena. Many of their productions typically move on to other theaters and eventually Broadway. More recently, many of them have gone through big expansion and renovation.
All this is said to convince you to look at these Regional Theatre Tony Award winners as a draw when it comes to cultural tourism. I had the opportunity to see Chita Rivera in “The Visit” years ago when it was at another Regional Theatre winner — the Signature Theatre in Arlington, VA.
Already, many of you head to New York City to see big shows; and you should be going. But do remember these regional theaters. They will surprise, delight and inspire you more than you might imagine.
Here is text from ATCA’s website (americantheatrecritics.org) about Cleveland Play House:
“The Cleveland Play House is the country’s first regional theater. Founded in 1915, CPH has entertained 12 million people in its more than 1,300 productions. Longevity aside, CPH’s commitment to fostering new talent makes it extraordinary. Alan Alda and Paul Newman started their careers at Ohio’s flagship theater. In 2011, CPH left its longtime home on Cleveland’s East Side for downtown’s Playhouse Square, the nation’s second-largest performing arts center. The move into the Allen Theatre complex, with its three state-of-the art venues, allowed for more inventive staging and varied play selection. Today, the addition of CPH to Playhouse Square is the engine of an artistic renaissance that has helped revitalize downtown Cleveland. In 2012, CPH debuted The New Ground Theatre Festival, a weeklong celebration of original and avant garde works that culminates in the public reading of a play by a promising young playwright. Participants have included Quiara Alegria Hudes and Jordan Harrison. In May, the comedy “Fairfield” by Eric Coble, will make its world premiere at CPH. Coble developed the play at the CPH Playwrights’ Unit, an initiative designed to nurture new work. Coble’s “The Velocity of Autumn,” which opened on Broadway in 2014, was born at the Playwrights’ Unit. The theater is also home to the Case Western Reserve University/ Cleveland Play House MFA Acting Program. Alums of the three-year, tuition-free program include Tony Award nominee Elizabeth A. Davis, and “Mad Men’s” Rich Sommer. For these reasons and a century of excellence CPH deserves this year’s regional Tony. “
To see a list of previous Regional Theatre Tony Award recipients, click here.