American Theatre Wing
The American Theatre Wing, "the Wing" for short, is a New York City-based organization "dedicated to supporting excellence and education in theatre," according to its mission statement. Originally known as the Stage Women's War Relief during World War I, it later became a part of the World War II Allied Relief Fund under its current name. The ATW created and sponsors the Tony Awards in theatrical arts.
The Stage Women's War Relief, World War I
In 1917, seven ladies of theater--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, actors, or both. These seven, when they formed the said organization, initially called it "The Stage Women's War Relief." It 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 troupes of entertainers to perform wherever needed. In total, the group raised nearly $7,000,000 for the war effort.
The American Theatre Wing, World War II – present
In 1939, as World War II began, a second group of theatrical women, which group Crothers again led but whose members, this time, included Mary Antoinette "Toni" Perry among others, reestablished the Stage Women's War Relief in Manhattan, changing its name to "The American Theatre Wing." With the entry of the United States into the war, the Wing established "The Stage Door Canteen" to entertain American servicemen.
After the war ended, 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, but it is best known in contemporary times for having created, in the same year, "The American Theatre Wing's Antoinette Perry Awards for Excellence in Theatre," or "Tony Awards" for short, which it still sponsors and which awards were themselves named for Perry, its co-founder and wartime chair, who had died in 1946.
The initial presentation of the Wing's 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 to 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, and is called "The Isabelle Stevenson Award." It is the Tonys's answer to the Academy Awards's Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.
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