On Feb. 1, the Tony Awards Administration Committee announced its first eligibility rulings for the 2022-2023 season. Soon after, “& Juliet” cast member Justin David Sullivan shared that they removed themselves from Tony Awards eligibility consideration due to the categorization of performance awards by gender.
Sullivan is one of multiple nonbinary performers within the company of “& Juliet” and plays nonbinary character May. They released a full statement on their Instagram on Feb. 2 regarding the decision:
“As a non-binary performer playing a non-binary principal role on Broadway, I have been asked by many what I plan on doing about this year’s award season nomination categories. While I was thrilled to see that some are eliminating gender from their nomination categories, I was disheartened to learn that the Tony Awards are not planning on making this year’s nomination categories more inclusive of gender expansive or trans non-binary performers like myself. Because I was told I had no other option but to choose between one of the two gendered categories in which I would be eligible, I felt that I had no choice but to abstain from being considered for a nomination this season. I could not in good faith move forward with denying any part of my identity to conform to a system and structure that does not hold space for people like me. Although this decision was difficult to make, I am hopeful that award shows will learn from this and make the meaningful changes necessary in order to consider, nominate, and award people of all gender identities moving forward.”
Broadway News reached out to the producers of “& Juliet” to gain insight regarding discussions with Sullivan and how the determination to abstain was reached. Producers responded with the following statement:
“The production worked closely with Justin and their team, and we’re fully supportive of Justin’s request not to be considered for eligibility in either the Featured Actress or Featured Actor category,” the producers said. “We’re encouraged to hear that the Tony Awards are actively discussing positive change for future seasons, and we honor everyone in this industry currently working towards a more inclusive future.”
Traditionally, the Tonys performance categories have been divided between men and women, leaving nonbinary performers to land in one or the other. The Broadway League and The American Theatre Wing, co-presenters of the Tony Awards, released a statement on Wednesday acknowledging the lack of inclusivity.
“We recognize that the current acting categories are not fully inclusive, and we are currently in discussion about how to best adjust them to address this,” the Feb. 1 statement began. “Unfortunately, we are still in process on this and our rules do not allow us to make changes once a season has begun. We are working thoughtfully to ensure that no member of our community feel excluded [on the basis of gender identity] in future seasons.”
The 76th annual Tony Awards will take place June 11 at the United Palace Theatre.