The 2023 Tony Award nominations were announced this past Tuesday, and for the first time ever, two nonbinary performers were nominated in acting categories.
Alex Newell (he/they/she) was nominated for Best Performance By An Actor In A Featured Role In A Musical for her role as Lulu in the new musical, Shucked- scoring one of the musical’s nine nods- while J. Harrison Ghee (he/they) was nominated for Best Performance By An Actor In A Leading Role In A Musical for their portrayal of Jerry/Daphne in Some Like It Hot, a musical adaptation of the 1959 film of the same name. These two are the first out nonbinary performers to be nominated in any of the Tony’s acting categories, however they are not the first out nonbinary theater professionals to be nominated.
Last year, Toby Marlow (he/him), co-creator of Six: The Musical, became the first openly nonbinary composer-lyricist to win for Best Original Score. Adam Rigg (they/them), who is agender, was the first nonbinary person nominated for Best Scenic Design of a Play for The Skin of Our Teeth.
Many conversations are being had about what awards shows should do regarding gendered categories. This year both entertainers opted to be nominated as “Actors.” In an interview with Rolling Stone about their nomination, Alex Newell said, “Actor is a genderless word. It truly is. And the last time I checked, we didn’t say plumb-ess for a plumber. We didn’t say I’m going to see my doctor-ress.”
Some nonbinary actors have chosen to pull themselves from consideration all together based on the gendering of some categories. Justin David Sullivan (he/they/she) chose to abstain from consideration this year for their role in & Juliet, as did Asia Kate Dillon (they/them) last year for their role as Malcolm in Macbeth. Both actors called for awards shows to scrap gendered categories altogether. While it is unclear what moves the American Theater Wing may take to handle this situation in the future, whatever happens will hopefully make room for more nonbinary theater professionals to be recognized and awarded for their contributions and achievements.
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