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Theatrical sound designers sound off on Tony Awards snub; petition to restore awards launched

Steve Canyon Kennedy accepts the award for best sound design of a play for

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Steve Canyon Kennedy accepts the award for best sound design of a play for "Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill" onstage at the 68th annual Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on Sunday, June 8, 2014, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

NEW YORK, N.Y. - Sound designers are sounding off on getting snubbed by the Tony Awards.

The Tony Awards Administration Committee met and cut the categories of Best Sound Design of a Play and Best Sound Design of a Musical on Wednesday, three days after honouring them.

That didn't sound good to the theatre professionals who add sound effects and create soundscapes for musicals and plays.

Sound designer John Gromada, whose Broadway credits include "The Trip to Bountiful" and "Clybourne Park," was stunned by the decision to cut the awards, which were first handed out in 2008.

"This came out of nowhere," he said. "To do this in such a hasty and sudden way is pretty demeaning to us."

Members from his union didn't attend the committee meeting and had no inkling the awards were under threat.

So Gromada started an online petition at Care2 to reinstate the awards. As of Thursday afternoon, it had drawn more than 12,000 signatures and the support of such heavy-hitters as theatre icon Stephen Sondheim, directors and choreographers Susan Stroman and Debbie Allen, directors Des McAnuff and David Leveaux, playwright Jon Robin Baitz, songwriter Cyndi Lauper and composer and performer Lin-Manuel Miranda.

"What we're trying to do is show that there's a lot of support for these categories among not just the sound community but the theatrical community at large and audiences," Gromada said.

The Broadway League, which represents theatre owners and producers and puts together the Tonys, said through a spokeswoman that it would have no comment.

Gromada said he suspects there may be some confusion about what music designers do that may have led to the move.

"Often what we do isn't noticed," he said. "Because it's an aural experience, I think people aren't as aware of it."

The last winner of the musical sound design award was Brian Ronan, of "Beautiful: The Carole King Musical," and his counterpart in the play category was Steve Canyon Kennedy, of "Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill."

The Tony committee did keep a door open to honour sound designers, saying a Special Tony Award may be given "when it determines that extraordinary sound design has been achieved."

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Online: The petition, http://bit.ly/1n6TS2L

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Follow Mark Kennedy on Twitter at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits

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