A Tony Award is a medallion mounted on an armature affixed to a base. Each Tony is eight inches tall and weighs one pound, 10 ounces. Approximately 27 of them are currently hiding in a secret, undisclosed location (I asked, they wouldn't tell me), waiting to go to Radio City Music Hall on June 11, where they will be passed to the hands of various recipients. Seattle director Bartlett Sher and choreographer Donald Byrd each have a nomination, and The Wedding Singer, which had its pre-Broadway production at the 5th Avenue Theatre, has five. Intiman has won this year's 2006 Regional Theater Tony Award (they announce that winner early), confirming a sentence penned by my colleague Jen Graves, erstwhile of the News Tribune, on June 21, 2005: "Intiman is the hottest theater in Seattle." ("I am honored that my quote is so prominent on their website," says Ms. Graves, who has a hot award of her own—a bronze medal she won for synchronized swimming at the U.S. Olympic Festival in 1991. "Clearly, I am the hottest theater critic in Seattle.")
Once in the hands of a recipient, the award might be stuffed into a purse, a suitcase, or taken away. "They took ours back after the ceremony," said Ben Moore, managing director of Seattle Rep, which won the Regional Theater in 1990. "Then mailed them in a nice velveteen bag." Steve Richardson, producing director of Theatre de la Jeune Lune, which won the Regional Theater Award in 2005, said he flew his award back to Minneapolis in his wife's purse. "We didn't get a case or anything," he said. "Airport security stopped us and asked us what it was. We told them." Guards huddled around the x-ray machine to admire the eight-inch award. Jeune Lune built a Plexiglas case in the lobby to display its Tony, as did the Cincinnati Playhouse (2004), the Rep (1990), and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (1983). None of the theaters polish their Tonys. They don't seem to oxidize. "It looks silver but it's probably silver-plated," Moore said. "It's probably not as valuable as it appears." The regional Tony is, as Richardson said, "an enormous PR tool." But none of the aforementioned theaters saw a spike in ticket sales or donations after receiving their eight inches.
Moore works at the Rep and worked at ACT, in San Francisco, in 1979, when it won the Regional Theater Award. "The impulse for the award has changed," he said. "ACT didn't really have a presence in New York and the award acknowledged theaters that produced work primarily for their own communities. Now it acknowledges that a lot of work seen in New York originates at the regional level, which is wonderful. Organizations with artistic directors who have connections to New York are probably at an advantage." To wit, Bartlett Sher, artistic director at Intiman, is nominated for Best Director for his New York production of Awake and Sing! And Dan Sullivan, the director of the Rep when it won in 1990, is nominated for Best Director for his New York production of Rabbit Hole.