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The Tonys

Tony Awards© are granted by the American theater Wing for excellence in the theater in a number of categories. Here The Muse Of Literature presents a list of Tony Awards® winners for Best Play.

Winners for best play

about the tony awards for best play

Tonys are awarded annually in June. Tony Awards for Best Play are among them.

Tony awards for Best Play are listed on the chart displayed above. The first Tony for Best Play was given for Mister Roberts 1948, one year after the first Tony award presentation ceremony in 1947.

About the Muse's choice of Tony Award Categories

Tony Awards are given for excellence in the theater a variety of categories. The Muse has determined that the only Tony Award category that pertains to literature is the award for Best Play. Accordingly, Best Play is the only award category displayed here.

  • Why is Best Play the only Tony Award category of interest to the Muse? Why must an award category pertain to literature before it is relevant? For answers, see an explanation of The Muse Of Literature's approach to drama. Visit Electricka's About Drama page: click here.

About the american theater wing

The American theatre Wing is the organization responsible for granting Tony Awards. The Wing an organization dedicated to the institution of the theater and to theatrical performance. It was founded in 1917 to aid First World War war relief efforts; during the Second World War was the group behind the activities of the famous Stage Door Canteens.

As the needs and interests of society changed after its founding, the Wing responded by sponsoring a number of programs to promote the acting profession and to benefit the public. Among their contributions is the American Wing Professional Training School, which opened its doors to returning veterans.

Today, the American theatre Wing is still an active participant in the American theatre community. One of its most important contributions is theatrical education; another is the recognition of excellence in the theater by granting prestigious Tony Awards and other activities.

The Wing probably is best known to the public for its efforts to recognize excellence. Its chief role in this respect is as grantor of the Antoinette Perry Awards, the awards that have given the Tony its name.

A 1943 movie titled Stage Door Canteen gives a Hollywood's version of what life was like for the actors, musicians, dancers, and other performers who entertained and rubbed shoulders with servicemen in the Stage Door Canteens during the WWII years. It's a musical starring scads of the biggest names in entertainment of the day, many of whom actually worked in the canteens and were members of the American theater Wing.

  • Explore the movie Stage Door Canteen at the IMBd web site: click here.

About the tonys and how Votes are cast

The Tonys are named in honor of Antoinette Perry, an actress, director, producer, and dynamic wartime leader of the Wing. theyhave gradually gained prominence, prestige, and glamour at home and abroad until today they have become an American institution.

Who was Antoinette Perry? Perry was a prominent Broadway actress, director, and producer who helped found and lead the American theatre Wing. She ran the Wing when it operated the famous Stage Door Canteens. After her death, her friends and colleagues sought to memorialize her contribution to the American theatre, and the Tony Awards were created in her honor.


  • See a brief biography of Antoinette Perry at the Wikipedia web site: click here.
  • Explore the naming and the history of the Tonys at the American theater Wing web site: click here.

tony Award Winners and nominees in other categories

  • See a current list of nominees in all Tony award categories. Visit the Wing's web site: click here.
  • See past Award winners and nominees in all categories. Explore the Wing's Archives database, video collection, and photo galleries: click here.

the tony awards show web site

  • Explore the televised Tony Awards presentation show. Visit the official web site of the Tonys for news events, contests, quizzes, polls, votes, predictions, photo gallery, multimedia presentations, and parties. Visit the Tony Store: click here.

which best plays are literature?

Although The Muse lists all Tony Award winners for Best Play above, in The Muse's opinion not all plays on the list are literature. Do you agree with this assessment?

Before you answer, The Muse invites you to compare your definition of Literature with The Muse's definition.

  • See The Muse's definition of Literature. Then return here: click here.

Now that you've compared notes with The Muse on the subject of what it means to be literature, scan the list of Best Plays, above. Try to identify which of the plays you believe to be Literature (with a capital L) and which are not. Keep in mind that what you are assessing is not the play as produced on the Broadway stage; rather you are assessing the published version of the script, the one the author wrote with future stage performance in mind.


When is a play literature?

There are no right or wrong answers. The Muse leaves it up to you to decide whether you agree or disagree with The Muse's definition of literature or with the way The Muse applies it to plays. Nor is there any implication that literary drama is somehow superior to non-literary drama. The Muse merely invites you to use the Tony Award winners as a litmus test to arrive at your own conclusions about what makes a play literature.

The Muse leaves you with this thought. Literature is a little like pornography. No matter how difficult it may be to define, you know it when you see it.

ETAF Recommends

Below are four books about the Tony Awards that are available through the ETAF-Amazon Collection.

Since new awards are granted yearly, books on the awards go out of date rapidly. For this reason we do not recommend that you buy a book if you are only after current information. Visit the Wing's web site instead.

All the books shown here are out of date. You may have to acquire your copy through a used book dealer. The first book on the list is the most recent; it covers the period from the Award's inception in 1947 through the year 2000. This book is a paperback. Hard covers are also listed.

To avoid spending money for an out-of-date book, you may want to search for a library copy. If you feel that you must own your own copy, even if it's out of date, we suggest that you explore and compare what's available. Try to find a copy that gives you the combination of features you are looking for, one that covers the period of most interest to you personally.

  • The Tony Award: A Complete Listing of Winners and Nominees with a History of the American theatre Wing, by American theatre Wing
  • The Tony Award Book, by Lee Alan Morrow
  • The Tony Award Book: Four Decades of Great American Theater, by Lee Alan Morrow
  • The Tony Award: A Complete Listing With a History of the American Theatre Wing, by Isabelle Stevenson



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