The Tony Awards have always been a big deal at my house, because I am a huge musical theatre nerd. I've never been to New York; the Tony's are my way to vicariously experience the wonder of the Great White Way. This year there was the extra interest because a woman I went to a year of college with was nominated for an award! Keala Settle attended SUU for a year while I was there before going off to do some other things.
Some of those things led her to Broadway. She did the tour of Hairspray(as Tracy Turnblad) and was in the ensemble of Priscilla, the Queen of the Desert, before being cast as Norma Valverde in Hands on a Hardbody. (Edited to add: Unfortunately, Keala did not win, but she looked gorgeous!!)
I happened to be at my parents house celebrating my daughter's birthday, so my mom and I watched the Tony's together. My dad was watching with us for a few minutes, and he commented that no one seems to know who all these big awards are named after. For example, who on earth is Oscar? Is there a person named Grammy? (that one I doubt!) and why are they the "Tony's?"
The Tony's are so named for Antoinette Perry, an actress who worked in the early part of the 20th century and who was one of the founding members of the American Theatre Wing, which is the group which awards the Tony's. While she worked fairly consistently in her day, she is not particularly well known, even in theatre circles, except for the award which bears her name, which was first granted to theatrical professional on Easter Sunday (April 6th that year) in 1947. The physical award which most of us recognize today was designed as part of a contest sponsored by the United Scenic Artists and was first handed out in 1949 as a medallion. It was mounted on a black base in 1967 so that today, it looks like this:
Want to learn more about Antoinette Perry? Read some of her life story here
Want to learn more about The American Theatre Wing? Read their history here