Tony Awards Tackle Eligibility for Broadway’s Fall Titles

Mark Rylance will be eligible for a lead actor nom for 'Richard III' but slotted into the featured category for 'Twelfth Night'

Tony Awards Mark Rylance

Mark Rylance and Samuel Barnett, two major players in this season’s much-lauded and recently profitable revivals of “Twelfth Night” and “Richard III,” won’t compete with themselves in the same category for Tony nominations, according to a new ruling from the Tony Awards Administration Committee, which in its latest meeting answered a series of eligibility questions raised by the fall crop of Broadway productions.

In the most notable of the decisions, Rylance — the acclaimed two-time Tony winner who anchors the two Shakespeare-in-rep stagings that comprise “Tweflth Night/Richard III” — will be eligible in the category of lead actor for “Richard III” (in which he plays the title role) but in the running for a featured actor nom for “Twelfth Night” (in which he portrays the significant but less central role of Olivia). By contrast, co-star Samuel Barnett could be up for a lead thesping nom for “Twelfth Night” for his turn as protag Viola, but for featured for “Richard III,” in which he’s cast as Queen Elizabeth.

Although the two plays are produced as a single production with the same cast alternating between the two titles, the Tony Admin committee has opted to consider them two separate productions in terms of award eligibility. The same is true for “Waiting for Godot/No Man’s Land,” although in that case topliners Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart have been slotted into lead category eligibility for both productions, while co-stars Billy Crudup and Shuler Hensley have been deemed featured players.

The admin committee meets periodically over the course of the season to address issues of eligibility that might deviate from the norm, which puts above-the-title thesps in the running for lead acting noms and those below it in the mix for featured.

Other than resolving the eligibility uncertainty of two plays presented in rep as part of a single production, the latest round of decisions from the committee proved largely unsurprising, with actors who are obviously leads even though they’re not above the title — including Norbert Leo Butz in “Big Fish,” Mary Bridget Davies in “A Night with Janis Joplin,” Sebastian Arcelus in “A Time to Kill,” Mary-Louise Parker in “The Snow Geese” and Ethan Hawke and Anne-Marie Duff in “Macbeth” — all set to be considered for lead acting nominations.

Meanwhile, Celia Kennan-Bolger and Brian J. Smith, who play Laura and the Gentleman Caller in the critically praised, hit revival of “The Glass Mengarie,” are listed above the title but will be considered featured thesps, leaving co-stars Cherry Jones and Zachary Quinto in the running for lead noms. Similarly, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Michael Cumpsty and Alessandro Nivolo also will be considered featured for their perfs in “The Winslow Boy,” with topliner Roger Rees in the mix for a lead actor nod.

The Tony Awards Administration Committee will meet two more times over the course of the season in the run-up to the nominations announcement April 29.