Several winners at the 2023 Tony Awards expressed their solidarity to striking Hollywood writers during the unscripted live show.
Host Ariana DeBose acknowledged the “compromises” made for this year’s ceremony and told audience members to “buckle up” as she kicked off the 76th annual event in New York on Sunday.
It comes as over 11,000 members of the Writers Guild of America (WGA), remain on strike, primarily over royalties from streaming media.
The strike, which began on May 2, had previously threatened to derail the Tony Awards.
The WGA ultimately agreed to a waiver for the show, so that its members would not picket the event and allow the broadcast on US network CBS to go ahead.
References to the WGA strike were made by various actors, including best leading actress in a musical winner Victoria Clark.
“We are nothing without our writers and I support the WGA and their struggle for the contract they deserve,” she said.
Collecting the award for best performance by an actress in a featured role in a play Miriam Silverman added: “We are staunchly pro-union household.
“My parents raised me to believe in the power of labour and workers being compensated and treated fairly – we stand with the WGA in solidarity.”
David Lindsay-Abaire, who won the Tony for best book of a musical also urged audiences to support the WGA.
“I want to say… how special it is that we’re all here tonight, supporting the theatre community, which we adore so much, and that tomorrow, we’re going to be on the picket line supporting the beloved other industry TV and film,” he said.
“Please support the WGA – we just want to be treated fairly.”
DeBose began the show with a high-energy routine, which saw her flipping through empty pages in a binder labelled “script” in a dressing room.
She later told audiences: “I’m sure some of you caught that I opened the number by opening a script – blank pages.
“There’s a very good reason for that. Our siblings over at the WGA are currently on strike in pursuit of a fair deal.
“(And) I’m sure for some of you at home you’re thinking, ‘Okay, what does that have to do with the Tony Awards?’ I’m going to tell you, thanks for asking.
“Award shows are traditionally written by members of the WGA, so in order for this show to go on, a whole host of people had to come together in order to find a compromise.
“And we are all here. So to every single person who had a hand in finding that compromise. I say a full-throated thank you.”
She continued: “So now you’re asking, ‘what’s the compromise?’ Well, we don’t have a script you guys. I am live and unscripted. You’re welcome.
“So to anyone who may have thought that last year was a bit unhinged. To them I say ‘darlings, buckle up’.”
She then explained that she and every presenter would be operating without a script or a teleprompter, with only a countdown clock for people to know how much time they had left for their acceptance speeches shown onscreen.
At times throughout the show DeBose referred to notes on her hand, but could not make them out, telling audiences “please welcome whoever walks out on stage next.”
The WGA has had major impacts on numerous Hollywood productions and events, including the 2023 MTV Movie and TV Awards, which took place last month.