|Current Awards:||63rd Tony Awards|
|Description:||Excellence in theatre|
|Presenter:||American Theatre Wing and The Broadway League|
The Antoinette Perry Awards for Excellence in Theatre, more commonly known as the Tony Awards, recognize achievement in live American theatre and are presented by the American Theatre Wing and The Broadway League  at an annual ceremony in New York City. The awards are for Broadway productions and performances, as well as discretionary non-competitive Special Tony Awards and the Regional Theatre Tony Award, and the Tony Honors for Excellence in the Theatre. The awards are named after Antoinette Perry, co-founder of the American Theatre Wing.
The rules for the Tony Awards are set forth in the official document "Rules and Regulations of The American Theatre Wing's Tony Awards", which applies for each season only. In British theatre, the equivalent of the Tony award is the Laurence Olivier Award. A number of the world's longest-running and most successful shows, as well as some actors, directors, choreographers and designers, have been successful in receiving both Tony Awards and Olivier Awards. The Tony Awards are considered the highest U.S. theatre honor, the U.S. theatre industry's equivalent to the Academy Awards (Oscars) for motion pictures.
Awarded by a panel of approximately 700 judges from various areas of the entertainment industry and press, the Tony Award is generally regarded as the theatre's equivalent to the Oscars, for excellence in film; the Grammys for the music industry, and the Emmys for excellence in television. The award was founded by the American Theatre Wing in 1947 at the suggestion of a committee of theatrical producers headed by Brock Pemberton, but it was not until the third awards ceremony in 1949 that the first Tony medallion was actually given to award winners. The award is named for Antoinette Perry, an actress, director, producer and co-founder of the American Theatre Wing, who had recently passed away. The first awards ceremony was held on April 6 1947, at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York City.
The Tony Award trophy consists of a medallion, a mix of mostly brass and a little bronze, with a nickel plating on the outside; a black acrylic glass base, and the nickel-plated pewter swivel. http://www.playbill.com/features/article/118031.html Since 1967, the award ceremony has been broadcast on US national television and includes songs from the nominated musicals, as well as video clips of, or presentations about, nominated plays. The American Theatre Wing and The Broadway League jointly present and administer the awards. Audience size for the telecast is generally well below that of other awards shows, but the program reaches an affluent audience, which is prized by advertisers.
Note: all information except the rules for a new play are from: Tony Rules and Regulations
For the purposes of the award, a "new" play or musical is one that has not previously been produced on Broadway and is not part of the "historical or popular repertoire." This phrase has been the subject of some controversy, as some shows have been ruled ineligible for the "new" categories, meaning that their authors did not have a chance to win the marquee awards of Best Play or Best Musical (or Best Score or Best Book for musicals). On the other hand, some people feel that allowing plays and musicals which are commonly produced to be eligible as new gives them an unfair advantage, because they will have benefited from additional development time as well as additional familiarity with the Tony voters. Shows recently transferred from Off-Broadway or the West End are eligible as new, as are productions based closely on movies.
The Administration Committee has 24 members: 10 designated by the American Wing, 10 by The Broadway League, and one each by the Dramatists Guild, Actors' Equity Association, United Scenic Artists, and the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers. This committee, among other duties, determines eligibility for nominations in all awards categories. The Administration Committee for 2008-09: "American Theatre Wing's Tony Awards Administration Committee 2008-2009", TonyAwards.com.
The Nominating Committee makes the nominations for the various categories. This rotating group of up to 30 theatre professionals is selected by the Tony Awards Administration Committee. Nominators serve three-year terms and are asked to see every new Broadway production. Nominators for 2008-2009 are:2008-2009 Tony Awards Nominating Committee TonyAwards.com.
There are approximately 750 eligible voters, a number that changes slightly from year to year. These include the board of directors and designated members of the advisory committee of the American Theatre Wing; members of the governing boards of Actors' Equity Association, the Dramatists Guild, the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers, United Scenic Artists, and the Association of Theatrical Press Agents and Managers; those persons whose names appear on the first night press list; members of the Theatrical Council of the Casting Society of America; and voting members of The Broadway League.
To be eligible for Tony Award consideration, a production must have officially opened by the "eligibility date" that the Management Committee establishes each year. For example, the cut-off date for eligibility for the 2007-08 season was May 7, 2008; the cut-off date for the 2008-09 season will be April 30, 2009. The "Season" for Tony Award eligibility is defined in the Rules and Regulations.
A Broadway theatre is defined as having 500 or more seats, among other requirements. While the Rules define a "Broadway" theatre in terms of its size, not its geographical location, the list of "Broadway" theatres is determined solely by the Tony Awards Administration Committee, and as of the 2007-2008 season, the list consists solely of theaters located in the vicinity of Times Square in New York City (plus one at Lincoln Center).  
There are presently 27 categories of awards, plus several special awards. Starting with 11 awards in 1947, the names and number of categories have changed over the years; a complete history of each award category was published in 2005.  A newly established non-competitive award, The Isabelle Stevenson Award, will be given for the first time at the awards ceremony in 2009. The award is for an individual who has made a "substantial contribution of volunteered time and effort on behalf of one or more humanitarian, social service or charitable organizations."
While the theatre-going public may consider the Tony Awards to be the Oscars of live theatre, critics have suggested that the Tony Awards are primarily a promotional vehicle for a small number of large production companies and theatre owners in New York City. Only shows playing in one of 39 "Broadway" theatres designated by the Tony Awards Management Committee are eligible for the Tony Awards. The 39 "Broadway" theatres are all large venues located between 40th and 66th Streets and 6th and 10th Avenues in New York City, an area surrounding Broadway from Times Square to Lincoln Center. Shows playing in "off-Broadway" or "off-off-Broadway" theatres, or shows playing outside of New York City, are not eligible. Since there are only 39 theatres, only a portion of which will be featuring a "new" production in any given season, and 27 award categories, it's likely that many "new" shows will reap at least one award.
Some notable records and facts about the Tony Awards include the following: