By: Angelica Bastien
The recently released 2016 Tony Award nominations reflect the especially diverse season on Broadway. But for the first time in the history of the award, there is a great chance that all four musical acting categories will be won by people of color which brings up a lot of hope about how theatre is addressing the call from diversity from fans and critics alike.
With the #OscarSoWhite controversy a lot of attention has been paid to diversity in film, television, and other art forms including theatre. While the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences have sought to address their dismal track record with nominating people of color in acting roles by updating the parameters of its membership and how voting works, time will tell how well that affects the awards going forward. The Tony Award nominations reflect how artists within the industry and fans are dealing with the rightful call for more diversity celebrated in the arts.
Many of the nominations are attributed to the critic and audience approved sensation Hamilton. In the lead acting category Leslie Odom Jr. who plays Aaron Burr is seen as the front runner will be squaring off against co-star Lin-Manuel Miranda. The other actors tipped to win include Cynthia Erivo (The Color Purple) and in the featured acting competitions Daveed Diggs and Renee Elise Goldsberry who both co-star in Hamilton. This isn’t the first time actors of color have won Tony Awards before including six-time winner Audra MacDonald, who was snubbed this year.
The potential for this historical moment at the Tony Awards, which will broadcast June 12, doesn’t mean Broadway has much further to go in regards to diversity in terms of who is writing and starring in these plays and musicals. The next season looks to be far less diverse than this one and award bodies often have many people of color nominated only for subsequent years to return to being dominated by white creatives. With the discussion around diversity in the arts hitting a fever pitch thanks to hashtags like #OscarsSoWhite, the conversation and expectations won’t end because a few actors of color win awards. There needs to be systematic, prolonged change for this to keep occurring.
The 2016 Tony Awards still mark an unprecedented chance to do what the Oscars seem incapable of doing recently. They further underscore not only how much progress has been made but how much still needs to be done.