The League of American Theatres and Producers and Actors' Equity Association today issued a joint statement announcing a resolution in their contretemps over the National Broadway Theatre Awards, to be presented at a gala dinner ceremony at The Supper Club in New York on May 21.
Established this year by the League to honor touring shows, the awards ran into controversy when Actors' Equity Association objected to the fact that non-union productions would be competing along with union shows. But Equity withdrew its objections to the NBTAs following lengthy discussions between Alan Eisenberg, executive director of Equity, and Jed Bernstein, president of the League.
Despite the resolution, John Ritter and Henry Winkler will not be hosting the awards ceremony as originally planned. Winkler and Ritter, both currently starring in Neil Simon's The Dinner Party on Broadway, had been announced to co-host the awards but balked when Equity raised its objections. As it turned out, Equity ultimately granted permission for Ritter and Winkler to host--"but they had made other commitments in the meantime," according to Susan L. Schulman, the press agent for the awards. As of this writing, no replacement host for the awards has been set.
Schulman told TheaterMania that, in the view of League president Bernstein, "audiences aren't particularly aware of whether a show is Equity, AGVA, or non union. The intention was to keep the awards open, but then Equity got upset." Under the terms of the agreement, beginning next season, the League's presenters will be asked to identify Equity tours in publicity materials and to display an Equity logo at the box office in order to distinguish particular shows as Equity productions. At this year's ceremony, a separate award will be given to an Equity actor or show if a non-Equity actor or show wins in any category.
The NBTAs are "people's choice" awards, with theater fans across North America encouraged to register on line no later than April 23 (via the website www.nationalbroadwayawards.com) to vote for their favorite performers and productions by e-mail or by filling out and mailing paper ballots provided by Variety, the official media partner of the awards. The NBTA categories are: Best Musical, Best Play, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Song in a Musical, Best Score, Best Direction, Best Choreography, Best Visual Presentation (Set and Lighting Design), and Best Costumes. More than 30 touring productions, from Annie to The Vagina Monologues, are eligible for awards.