American Theatre Wing

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American Theatre Wing lapel pin

The American Theatre Wing (the Wing for short; originally known as the Stage Women's War Relief during World War I and then became a part of the WWII Allied Relief Fund as the American Theatre Wing) is a New York City-based organization "dedicated to supporting excellence and education in theatre," according to its mission statement. ATW created and sponsors the Tony Awards in theatrical arts.


In 1917, seven ladies of theatre- Rachel Crothers, Louise Closser Hale, Dorothy Donnelly, Josephine Hull, Minnie Dupree, Elizabeth Tyree and Louise Drew-converged to discuss the possibility of forming an organization to aid in war relief. All were active in Broadway theater, as patrons or actors or both. The Stage Women's War Relief established workrooms for sewing uniforms and other garments, with total output totaling 1,863,645 articles; clothing and food collection centers; a canteen on Broadway for servicemen; and began sending troops of entertainers to perform wherever needed. In total, the group raised nearly $7,000,000 for the war effort.[1]

In 1939,as World War II began, a group of theatrical women again led by Rachel Crothers and joined by Antoinette Perry(among others), reestablished the Stage Women's War Relief as the American Theatre Wing in Manhattan. With the entry of the United States into World War II, the Wing established the Stage Door Canteen to entertain American servicemen. [2]

After the WWII, the Wing founded the Community Players to assist war veterans and their families on their return home. The Community Players was co-chaired by Katharine Cornell, who was active on the Stage Door Canteen.

With the close of the war, the Wing concentrated on holding seminars about American theater, and on funding numerous scholarship grants. It sponsored the First American Congress of Theatre (FACT) in 1947, and is best known as creator and owner of The American Theatre Wing's Antoinette Perry Awards for Excellence in Theatre -- the Tony Awards—named for its co-founder and wartime Chair. The initial presentation of its Tony Awards program on radio and television was broadcast only locally in New York City. In 1967, it partnered with the League of American Theatres and Producers, now called The Broadway League, to present them on nationwide network television. From 1965 until 1998, Isabelle Stevenson was the President of the ATW. After retiring, she served as chairwoman of the board of directors until her death in 2003. A special non-competitive Tony Award, for humanitarian or charitable work, is named in her honor (the Isabelle Stevenson Award).[3]

Stevenson was succeeded as chair person by Sondra Gilman and Doug Leeds who served as chairperson and president respectively from 2004-2008, when their 4-year term was completed. They were succeed by Theodore S. Chapin. The current chairman of the board is Tony Award-winning costume designer William Ivy Long. Angela Lansbury currently serves as honorary chairman and Heather A. Hitchens is President and CEO of the American Theatre Wing.

Besides the Tonys, ATW operates an array of programs to support its goals, including:

  • The long-running "Working In The Theatre" series of televised seminars with top practitioners in the field;
  • A free audio and video archive of theatrical seminars and discussions on the American Theatre Wing YouTube channel;
  • The Jonathan Larson Grants, supporting emerging creators of Musical Theatre
  • National Theatre Company Grants, aiding theatre companies and organizations who have articulated a distinctive mission, cultivated an audience, and nurtured a community of artists in ways that strengthen the quality, diversity, and dynamism of American theatre.
  • SpringboardNYC, a college to career bootcamp for actors
  • The Theatre Intern Network; a social and professional networking organization for Theatre Interns in New York City


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