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Why the Tony Awards Matter
By Hunter Bell
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Editor's Note: In 2010, we asked Hunter Bell, a Tony-nominee the previous year for [title of show], to write to the Tony Awards fan e-mail list and talk about why the Tonys are important to him. Here is what Hunter had to say.

Dear Tony Awards® Fan,

My name is Hunter Bell and like you, I am a Tony junkie.

A few days ago the Tony Awards team asked me to reach out to you to talk about why the Tony Awards matter. Now, some of you may be asking, "Hunter, what makes you such a Tony authority? Couldn't they get Julie Harris?" Well consider this: I am a Broadway writer and performer, I am a former Tony nominee for Best Book of a Musical (for [title of show]...hold for applause), and I have a collection of VCR tapes entitled "Tony Award Highlights 1, 2, and 3" which contains every musical number (and a few scenes from plays) from the Tonys starting with The Act up through the late nineties! Pre-YouTube, people. And yes, I know. That is awesome.

Also, Julie Harris was not available.

Why do the Tony Awards matter?

A few answers popped into my head immediately. They matter because the awards acknowledge talent. That's good, especially if you're the one being acknowledged. They also bring the national spotlight to Broadway and theatre, which in turn sells a lot of tickets. That's good too, for everybody...but those reasons are sort of "business-y" things.

Why do the Tony Awards matter? A few other thoughts popped into my head.

I grew up in the South, in North Carolina and Georgia. I was a creative, awesome little weirdo who loved the theatre. It became my home. It is where I felt safe to be myself, to express myself, and where I found my true friends and my chosen family. I did not live near New York, but I knew about Broadway. How did I know about Broadway? Well, I had my original cast recordings (OCRs for you junkies) and one night a year...I had the Tony Awards. It was my Super Bowl. My Olympics. My night to plop in front of our TV and lose myself in a world of marquees and songs and dances and Bernadette Peters and Gregory Hines and all my favs and watch and dream. I wanted to crawl inside my television box. I remember so vividly being so excited.

The Tonys are more than just Broadway, or even New York. For millions of Americans--especially those that can't afford to travel to New York and see a show--The Tony Awards are one of the few glimpses to see Broadway come to life. They were for me. The Tony Awards matter because they are the only national telecast that celebrates the theatre community. Think about that. It's the one night that celebrates our art--our passion--on a national stage. And even more than recognition and celebration, The Tonys are an inspiration to the next generation of theatre fans and performers. I am living proof of that. When I sat watching the awards as a creative, awesome little weirdo in the South, I started dreaming. I discovered my world.

The Tonys matter because theatre matters. Because art matters. As I type this, arts advocates are fighting to keep arts education alive in schools. Celebrating theatre and the arts always matters. Out there on June 13th in every city will be you guys, because you think it matters too.

Of course, as one of our biggest supporters, you already know all this. I'm preaching to the choir, as they say. But because it matters so much, and because the Tonys are so close, I'm writing to you to ask you to help.

"But how can I help, Hunter?" Take a minute to think about what the Tony Awards mean for you personally, and what they mean for our art, and for culture in general. Think about why they matter. And if you decide that they matter enough to you, think about how you can share that passion and inspiration with your friends and family.

So the countdown to the Tonys is on, people, and as the ole cheer goes, "We got spirit yes we do, we got spirit how 'bout you?" I think I'll go pop in my "Tony Award Highlights 1 tape." I need to see Liza sing "City Lights."

Until next time, fellow Tony junkies,

Hunter Bell

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Revised April 24, 2012

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