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Could all of this year’s Tony Awards nominees for direction be women?

Broadway News examines the history of Tony Award-nominated female directors and the records that could be broken with this year’s nominations.

(Top, L-R): Schele Williams, Jessica Stone and Rachel Chavkin (Credit: Jeremy Daniel; Dimitrios Kambouris; Erik Tanner); (Second row, L-R): Leigh Silverman, Lila Neugebauer, Whitney White and Danya Taymor (Credit: Courtesy of Polk & Co; Courtesy of Lincoln Center Theater; Melissa Bunni Elian; Bruce Glikas/Getty Images); (Third row, L-R): Mari Madrid, Tina Landau, Maria Friedman and Anne Kauffman (Credit: Little Shao; Walter McBride/WireImage; Bruce Glikas/Getty Images; Tess Mayer); (Bottom, L-R): Sammi Cannold and Rebecca Frecknall (Credit: Bruce Glikas/Getty Images; Dave Benet/Getty Images)

The plays and musicals of the 2023-2024 Broadway season feature a strong crop of female-identifying directors. Nearly half of the 21 musicals that opened (or will open) this season were helmed by a woman or featured a team of co-directors where at least one of the pair was a female-identifying individual. While the statistic is smaller for plays — five out of the season’s 16 new productions were staged by women — this year’s Tony Award nominations could break several records in terms of female-honored directors.

Historically, women have been underrepresented not only as directors on Broadway, but in terms of awards acknowledgement. Across the Tonys’ 76 past ceremonies, 41 female-identifying individuals have been nominated in the directing categories. Accounting for the few that have been honored with multiple nominations, that equates to 61 total nominations for female directors. Taking home the award has been an even rarer occurrence. Out of 139 total awards given for direction, only 12 have gone to women. (Those 12 represent 10 individual directors; Marianne Elliott, who won three times, is the only female-identifying director to win more than once).  

“I’m so happy to be following in a long line of awards for women as directors,” Julie Taymor glibly said in her 1998 Tony acceptance speech for helming the musical “The Lion King.” Taymor was only the second woman to win for direction; earlier in the same evening Garry Hynes became the first when she won for directing the play “The Beauty Queen of Leenane.”

With the amount of shows helmed by women this Broadway season, the 2024 Tonys could offer new firsts for the history books. It is possible Best Direction of a Play and Best Direction of a Musical categories could both be filled entirely with female nominees. Per Tonys rules and regulations, each of the 26 categories allows for four nominees; the number increases to five if there are nine or more eligible entities in a category. (A two- or three-way tie in selecting nominees can also allow for six or seven nominees). 

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