3 Things the theater can learn from the Oscars

84th_Academy_Awards_Show_05b71Sometimes I wonder if NYC will ever declare Oscar Sunday a city-wide holiday.  I mean, the streets are already deserted, people are having dinner parties . . . all we need to do is suspend some parking rules and bingo – instant holiday.

The Academy Awards are perhaps the biggest award show of any kind in the entire world.  I watch, not because I’m a big movie buff, or because I have money in an office pool or anything.  I watch to see if there are any tips the theater can pick up for our big awards show (The Tony-Tony-Tony), or for our industry in general.

Here are three things I gleaned from Sunday night’s big show:

1.  Nominate the number of good ones, not just a number

The Oscars changed up the number of nominees for Best Picture again.  Now it can be anywhere from five to ten (this year it turned out to be 9).  While we don’t have as many possible nominees to choose for our Best Play or Best Musical Tony Award, there are years when there are more than four great shows written, and call me crazy, but when that happens, we should nominate more than four.  This accomplishes both goals of Awards shows:  1 – it recognizes more artists, 2 – it helps market those shows.

2.  Embrace the international community.

The tiebreaker for my office Oscar pool should have been, “How many different accents will you hear during acceptance speeches?”  Italian, French, Pakistani, were just a few of the native languages of some of the winners.  While we can’t nominate productions actually seen in other countries, perhaps there is a way to honor some?  Or perhaps we can honor those artists?  Or perhaps this doesn’t have anything to do with awards, and our industry should just start producing more international works.  By demonstrating that theater is a unifying global art form, we could increase its awareness.  Or maybe it’s time for this idea.

3.  Just because it isn’t a blockbuster doesn’t mean it’s not important.

Independent film has been kicking A at the Oscars for a number of years. Off-Broadway is the Independent Film of the theater world.  It’s time for its own award.  Just one.  Even if it’s an Achievement Award, or a Citation of some sort.  Recognizing the work done by Off-Broadway artists is a way to make sure that they keep slaving away for the theater . . . and don’t run off to Hollywood.

Movies have a tremendous advantage over theater.  Because it’s so much easier to distribute movies throughout the world faster and cheaper than it is to distribute theater throughout the world, the products and the people are able to attract more attention, more revenue and therefore more power.

But, as I tweeted on Monday morning . . . you know what the most exciting moment of the Oscars was for me and so many of the 30 plus million people watching around the world?  The live theatrical performance by Cirque du Soleil.

What makes it more difficult for us, is also our greatest asset.


(Got a comment? I love ’em, so comment below! Email subscribers, click here, then scroll down, to say what’s on your mind!)



– Win 2 tickets to my reading of Garage Band!  Click here.

– Join me at the NY Cares Soiree!  Get tix here.

– Take the Musical Boot Camp!  Click here for info and an application.

– Broadway Road Trip from DC on 4/28.  Click here.



Related Posts


Ken created one of the first Broadway podcasts, recording over 250 episodes over 7 years. It features interviews with A-listers in the theater about how they “made it”, including 2 Pulitzer Prize Winners, 7 Academy Award Winners and 76 Tony Award winners. Notable guests include Pasek & Paul, Kenny Leon, Lynn Ahrens and more.