How Did the Tony Awards Get Their Name?

Tony Awards
Tony Awards

If you’re a fan of Broadway, you’ve probably wondered: Who is the Tony guy these awards are named after, anyway?

The Tony is question is actually a woman, and at first, she spelled it Toni. Antoinette Perry was born in Colorado in 1888, and got her start as an actress; she would go on to become a director and a producer—roles that, in her time, were usually held by men. She was also the co-founder and chairwoman of the American Theatre Wing, which puts on the Tonys with the Broadway League.

"When I was six," Perry once wrote, "I didn't say I'd become an actress. I felt I was one. No one could have convinced me I wasn't." She joined her uncle’s touring company when she was 15, and remained with it until 1905, when she came to New York and got a part in The Music Master and, later, A Grand Army Man. But despite her success, she left acting after she married an old beau, Denver businessman Frank Frueauff, in 1909. "Mother's literary and bohemian set clashed with father's conservative lifestyle," their daughter, Margaret, recalled to Playbill in 1998. "When she became pregnant with me, father persuaded her to quit theatre to raise a family." They settled in New York, and Perry became a full-time wife and mother.

But Perry just couldn't quit the theater. In 1920, she was approached by producer Brock Pemberton to become an investor in his production of Miss Lulu Bett, which won the Pulitzer Prize. Soon after, she became Pemberton’s silent partner, eventually getting her husband's blessing to continue investing in stage productions.

After Frueauff died in 1922, Perry returned to the stage, acting until 1927 when, according to her biography on the Tonys website, she suffered a stroke that paralyzed the left side of her face. In 1928, she took up directing, putting on 17 productions in 13 years. Eventually, she struck up a romantic relationship with the married Pemberton; they even shared an office. At night, “she came home, ate as she read scripts and saw we did our school work,” Margaret told Playbill. “Promptly at nine, Brock would phone and they'd talk for hours. They remained devoted friends until Mother’s death."

In addition to acting, directing and producing, Perry was also a philanthropist: She backed new playwrights, underwrote auditions for aspiring actors and actresses, and helped to open a national school for actors, where now-famous names like George Burns, Bob Fosse, Angela Lansbury, Charlton Heston, and Christopher Plummer studied. During World War II, Perry co-founded the Theatre Wing of Allied Relief, which would become the American Theatre Wing. The Wing sponsored 54 programs in New York and around the world during WWII, and established the Stage Door Canteen, where stars worked as waiters, dishwashers, and entertainers for servicemen.

When Perry passed away from a heart attack in June 1946, Warner Bros. story editor Jacob Wilk suggested that an award honoring achievement in theater be created in Perry’s name, and the Antoinette Perry Award for Excellence in Theatre was born. “The thing he wanted to do the most for her was to make a yearly show that would keep her name alive in the American theatre,” Wilk’s son, Max, recalled in 2006. “He was darn good at doing it, too. [The Tonys] do keep her name alive, and they are important [for the theatre]. If my father were here, he'd feel good about that.”

The Tony came by its common name at the very first event, held at the Waldorf Astoria on Easter Sunday, April 6, 1947. When he was presenting an award (then a scroll; the medallion was first given out in 1949), Pemberton called it a Tony.

Jim Henson's Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas Is Returning to Theaters

The Jim Henson Company via Fathom Events
The Jim Henson Company via Fathom Events

For anyone who grew up with HBO in the 1980s, the holiday season meant two things: Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas and The Bells of Fraggle Rock. Though the beloved Jim Henson classics have been largely confined to home video-only screenings over the years, they’re making their way back to the big screen for the first time via Fathom Events when the Jim Henson Holiday Special arrives in theaters nationwide for a limited, two-day engagement.

More than 600 theaters across the country will host screenings of the Jim Henson Holiday Special on Monday, December 10 (4 p.m. and 7 p.m.) and Sunday, December 16 (1 p.m. and 4 p.m.), which will pair the two specials—both of which have recently been remastered—alongside an all-new featurette, Memories of the Jug-Band.

"Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas was a favorite project for my dad since it included such sweet characters, Paul Williams’s delightful music, and a timeless holiday message,” Cheryl Henson—Jim Henson’s daughter and president of the Jim Henson Foundation—said in a statement about the special, which is a music-filled twist on The Gift of the Magi.

“Also, the special was a great opportunity for him to experiment with puppetry techniques and effects that would be seen in his later works," Henson continued. "[It] is exciting for families to share this holiday classic along with the special episode The Bells of Fraggle Rock, a rare opportunity to see the Fraggles on the big screen, and to introduce these beloved characters to a whole new audience."

On December 18, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment will release Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas on Blu-ray for the first time ever so that you can make the special a permanent part of your regular holiday movie marathon. This news comes on the heels of Emmet Otter's first-ever official soundtrack release, more than 40 years after its original premiere.

Click here to find out the Jim Henson Holiday Special is playing near you, and to pre-order your tickets today.

10 Filling Facts About A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving

Warner Home Video
Warner Home Video

Though it may not be as widely known as It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown or A Charlie Brown Christmas, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving has been a beloved holiday tradition for many families for 45 years now. Even if you've seen it 100 times, there’s still probably a lot you don’t know about this Turkey Day special.

1. IT’S THE FIRST PEANUTS SPECIAL TO FEATURE AN ADULT VOICE.

We all know the trombone “wah wah wah” sound that Charlie Brown’s teacher makes when speaking in a Peanuts special. But A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, which was released in 1973, made history as the first Peanuts special to feature a real, live, human adult voice. But it’s not a speaking voice—it’s heard in the song “Little Birdie.”

2. IT WASN’T JUST ANY ADULT WHO LENT HIS VOICE TO THE SPECIAL.

Being the first adult to lend his or her voice to a Peanuts special was kind of a big deal, so it makes sense that the honor wasn’t bestowed on just any old singer or voice actor. The song was performed by composer Vince Guaraldi, whose memorable compositions have become synonymous with Charlie Brown and the rest of the gang.

“Guaraldi was one of the main reasons our shows got off to such a great start,” Lee Mendelson, the Emmy-winning producer who worked on many of the Peanuts specials—including A Charlie Brown Thanksgivingwrote for The Huffington Post in 2013. “His ‘Linus and Lucy,’ introduced in A Charlie Brown Christmas, set the bar for the first 16 shows for which he created all the music. For our Thanksgiving show, he told me he wanted to sing a new song he had written for Woodstock. I agreed with much trepidation as I had never heard him sing a note. His singing of ‘Little Birdie’ became a hit."

3. DESPITE THE VOICE, THERE ARE NO ADULTS FEATURED IN THE SPECIAL.

While Peanuts specials are largely populated by children, there’s usually at least an adult or two seen or heard somewhere. That’s not the case with A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. “Charlie Brown Thanksgiving may be the only Thanksgiving special (live or animated) that does not include adults,” Mendelson wrote for HuffPo. “Our first 25 specials honored the convention of the comic strip where no adults ever appeared. (Ironically, our Mayflower special does include adults for the first time.)”

4. LUCY IS MOSTLY M.I.A., TOO.

Though early on in the special, viewers get that staple scene of Lucy pulling a football away from Charlie Brown at the last minute, that’s all we see of Chuck’s quasi-nemesis in A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. (Lucy's brother Linus, however, is a main character.)

5. CHARLIE BROWN AND LUCY STILL KEEP IN TOUCH.

Though they only had a single scene together, Todd Barbee, who voiced Charlie Brown, told Noblemania that he and Robin Kohn, who voiced Lucy in the Thanksgiving special, still keep in touch. “We actually went to high school together,” Barbee said. “We still live in Marin County, are Facebook friends, and occasionally see each other.”

6. CHARLIE BROWN HAD SOME TROUBLE WITH HIS SIGNATURE “AAARRRGGH.”

One unique aspect of the Peanuts specials is that the bulk of the characters are voiced by real kids. In the case of A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, 10-year-old newcomer Todd Barbee was tasked with giving a voice to Charlie Brown—and it wasn’t always easy.

“One time they wanted me to voice that ‘AAAAAAARRRRRGGGGG’ when Charlie Brown goes to kick the football and Lucy yanks it away,” Barbee recalled to Noblemania in 2014. “Try as I might, I just couldn’t generate [it as] long [as] they were looking for … so after something like 25 takes, we moved on. I was sweating the whole time. I think they eventually got an adult or a kid with an older voice to do that one take."

7. LINUS STILL GETS AN ENTHUSIASTIC RESPONSE.

While Barbee got a crash course in the downside of celebrity at a very early age—“seeing my name printed in TV Guide made everyone around me go bananas … everybody … just thought I was some big movie star or something,” he told Noblemania—Stephen Shea, who voiced Linus, still gets a pretty big reaction.

"I don't walk around saying 'I'm the voice of Linus,'" Shea told the Los Angeles Times in 2013. "But when people find out one way or another, they scream 'I love Linus. That is my favorite character!'"

8. THANKS TO LINUS, THE THANKSGIVING SPECIAL GOT A SPINOFF.

As is often the case in a Peanuts special, Linus gets to play the role of philosopher in A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and remind his friends (and the viewers) about the history and true meaning of the holiday. His speech about the Pilgrims’ first Thanksgiving eventually led to This is America, Charlie Brown: The Mayflower Voyagers, a kind of spinoff adapted from that Thanksgiving Day prayer, which sees the Peanuts gang becoming a part of history.

9. LEE MENDELSON HAD AN ISSUE WITH BIRD CANNIBALISM.

In writing for HuffPo for A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving’s 40th anniversary, Mendelson admitted that one particular scene in the special led to “a rare, minor dispute during the creation of the show. Mr. Schulz insisted that Woodstock join Snoopy in carving and eating a turkey. For some reason I was bothered that Woodstock would eat a turkey. I voiced my concern, which was immediately overruled.”

10. MENDELSON EVENTUALLY GOT HIS WAY ... THOUGH NOT FOR LONG.

Though Mendelson lost his original argument against seeing Woodstock eating another bird, he was eventually able to right that wrong. “Years later, when CBS cut the show from its original 25 minutes to 22 minutes, I sneakily edited out the scene of Woodstock eating,” he wrote. “But when we moved to ABC in 2001, the network (happily) elected to restore all the holiday shows to the original 25 minutes, so I finally have given up.”

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