The Tony Awards are commonly thought of as a prestigious award
by much of the theater community. This year, six University alumni
were nominated and three went home with awards.

Two of the three alums won awards with the hit Broadway musical
comedy “Avenue Q” — Jeffery Seller (’86)
received an award for producing the play, and Jeff Marx (’92)
won Best Original score. Seller has had four nominations and has
won three awards.

Jack O’ Brien (’61) won Best Direction of a Play for
“Henry IV.” O’ Brien has had seven nominations
and won a 2003 Tony Award for Best Direction in
“Hairspray.”

First-time nominee and winner Marx received his Bachelor of Fine
Arts degree in Musical Theater from the University.

Marx went to law school after obtaining his BFA with the notion
of becoming an entertainment lawyer. But he took a writing
workshop, met his collaborator and eventually produced
“Avenue Q” last year.

At 33, Marx said the experience of being nominated is
“wild,” given that he and his collaborator, Robert
Lopez, are very young.

Marx described the musical as one “about young people for
young people that attracted newer and younger
theatergoers.”

He also said that the musical has not lost money since its
opening.

“It’s unbelievable … to be competing with
Stephen Schwartz and Tony Kushner,” Marx said of his fellow
nominees.

He added that being involved in theater has given him a new
perspective to celebrities.

“People who end up doing things they want to do
don’t have special abilities. They are normal people who
focus on their work, people who hang in there, people who keep
going when other people have given up,” he said.

Margo Martindale, who received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1974
before the BFA program was established, has been an actress for 37
years.

She echoed Marx’s view of hardship in the theater.

“It has been hard, being poor in New York for many years,
but it is now very, very rewarding,” she said.

Martindale was nominated for Best Performance by a Featured
Actress in a Play for her role in “Cat on a Hot Tin
Roof.”

The Tony Awards are given out by the American Theatre Wing and
the League of American Theatres and Producers.

The Tony Awards were named for Antoinette Perry, the founder of
the American Theatre Wing. The organization was established in 1917
and is the longest-running theater service group.

Other nominees include: Hunter Foster (’92) for Best
Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical for his role in
“Little Shop of Horrors” and Matthew Rego (’92)
for his production of “Wicked.”

Professor Brent Wagner, the chair of the Musical Theater
department within the School of Music, said that the department is
excited and proud of its past students’ achievements and
dedication to the theater.

He also said this year is particularly exciting because many
generations of alumni are involved.

“It doesn’t matter whether or not they win. It is an
honor for them to make it this far,” Wagner said.

Wagner has worked with Foster and Tony Award veteran Seller in
workshops for the department since they graduated.

Wagner also said that these students’ accomplishments
would attract talent to the department’s unique program.
Established in 1984, the program offers a BFA in Musical
Theater.

The program has turned out 250 students since it started in
1984.

“Our graduates have done great work around the
world,” Wagner said.

Presentatations of the first Tony Awards were made in 1947 and
for the first two years, no official statue or award was given out.
Instead, substitutions included a scroll, a cigarette lighter and a
money clip.

In 1949, Herman Rosse created a medallion with the masks of
comedy and tragedy on one side and the profile of Perry on the
other.

In 1967, the medallion was mounted on a base, and to this day,
it continues as the official Tony Award for winners.

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