The 76th Tony Awards marked an important milestone for Ariana DeBose. While it’s not her first time hosting the ceremony, it is the first time she did so without a script.
After opening the show with a wordless dance number, DeBose kicked off the evening by explaining why the event would be “live and unscripted” — urging audience members who thought that last year’s ceremony was unhinged to “buckle up.”
— GLAAD (@glaad) June 12, 2023
Her opening remarks highlighted how awards like the Tony’s usually include scripted material written by writers with the Writers Guild of America – and how this year’s strike required a unique compromise between the Tony’s and the WGA to make the event happen without undermining writers’ efforts for more equitable contracts.
DeBose’s shoutout was an important moment of solidarity with the WGA during a time when writers are striking and picketing productions to negotiate on issues like pay, streaming residuals, and the size of writers rooms on TV productions spanning 8 or more episodes. According to the WGA, “Studios have taken advantage of the transition to streaming to underpay entertainment industry workers, including writers in every area of work… as corporate profits grow, writers are just not keeping up.”
The Tony’s had initially sought a waiver with the WGA, which would’ve allowed writers a special exception during the strike to write for the awards. But when that waiver was denied, a compromise helped both groups find a way to move forward – the WGA agreed not to picket the event as long as the Tony’s didn’t hire writers to script remarks by presenters. Leading to some iconic moments like this one:
Ariana DeBose is hosting the Tonys without a script because of the writers’ strike. the notes on her arm were illegible, so she’s just winging it. iconic tbh
“I don’t know what these notes stand for, so please welcome whoever walks out on stage next” pic.twitter.com/5crjQFItKU
— Spencer Althouse (@SpencerAlthouse) June 12, 2023
While some viewers might’ve been hoping for a follow-up to DeBose’s iconic rap at the 2023 BAFTA Awards, the unscripted nature of the evening felt playful and spontaneous compared to most televised award ceremonies — all while owning the chaotic comedic moments that arose from an unscripted evening. And if there’s anyone who knows how to vamp it’s theatre people.
Check out GLAAD’s coverage of the entire evening, including some incredible speeches and memorable moments form a slew of queer winners, here.