The Tony Awards' decision to cut its two sound design awards sends a disturbing message dismissing the role of sound designers in Broadway plays and musicals, USITT's executive director said.
"This decision tells me, and frankly our entire industry, that they have no respect for an art form that has become a truly essential and amazing contributor to Broadway shows," said David Grindle, executive director of USITT, the United States Institute for Theatre Technology.
Grindle reacted to news of the decision by composing a letter to the American Theatre Wing on behalf of USITT, the national non-profit association serving the technical theatre industry.
To announce such a move without explanation, he wrote, "imples that all previous sound design winners' work has been unworthy." He called the decision "short-sighted" and suggested that "a week without the sound designs running on Broadway would leave audiences outraged and demanding refunds."
USITT members are among the thousands of theatrical designers and technicians circulating a petition asking the Tony Awards Administration Committee to reconsider its decision, Grindle said.
He said theatrical designers and technicians are used to being backstage and out of the spotlight. The fact that their Tony awards are not televised indicates that the decision to eliminate sound design awards was not made out of concern for the length of the broadcast,
The two Tonys given for sound - Best Sound Design of a Play and Best Sound Design of a Musical -- were the most recently established, presented for the first time in 2007-2008 after years of lobbying from the theatre design community.
USITT has taken a lead role in recognizing sound design as a key component of performing arts and live entertainment.
This year, USITT gave world-famous sound designer Bob McCarthy, one of the originators of the SIM system of audio measurement, a Distinguished Achievement Award for his contributions to the field.
USITT also gave its 2014 Rising Star Award to a young sound designer and composer, Janie Bullard, who graduated from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts with her master's in sound design last year and has already built a promising career off-Broadway.
Taking away the sound design Tonys tells young artists like Bullard that they have little to aspire to, Grindle said. He said he hopes the public reaction will lead the Tony committee to reconsider.
"Hopefully the public response to this decision will not fall on deaf ears," he wrote. "Because that's what we would have without our Sound Designers."
USITT is the 4,000-member national association for professional designers and technicians in the performing arts and live entertainment. For more information, please go to www.usitt.org, visit usitt on Facebook, or follow @usitt on twitter.