Tony Awards: Big year for women as Lauper, MacKinnon, Paulus win

Cyndi Lauper reclines with her Tony for score, which she won for her work on "Kinky Boots," in the Paramount Hotel Winners' Room at Radio City Music Hall on Sunday night.
(Jemal Countess / Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)

This story has been updated.

Kathryn Bigelow famously became the first woman to win an Academy Award for directing for her 2009 Iraq war drama, “The Hurt Locker.”

Last night, the Tony Awards doubled down on that, handing out its top directing prizes to two women. Pam MacKinnon won for directing Edward Albee’s play “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,” while Diane Paulus picked up a prize for her elaborately staged revival of the musical “Pippin.”


And, as an added indication of feminine power in theater this year, Cyndi Lauper became the first solo woman to win a Tony for score, for the best musical winner “Kinky Boots.”

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“We’re hitting our stride, absolutely,” said MacKinnon of her fellow women in the theater.

After her win, Lauper echoed that sentiment: “I guess I’m the first woman, so maybe I’d do it for my mother and my grandmother who could not have careers. And for all the women that’ll follow me, because there’ll be lots of them.”

This was the second time that two women have won the top directing awards at the Tonys. MacKinnon fondly recalled the 1998 Tony Awards, when Julie Taymor and Garry Hynes won for directing “The Lion King” and “The Beauty Queen of Leenane,” respectively. That year marked the first time two women took both directing prizes at the Tonys, as well as the first time that a woman had won in either category.

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“That was the June that I moved to New York, so very exciting to be a part of that,” MacKinnon said.


She and Paulus became the fifth and sixth women to win directing Tonys; Susan Stroman won in 2001 for “The Producers” and Anna Shapiro won for the Tracy Letts play “August: Osage County” in 2008.

Paulus similarly pointed to the Taymor-Hynes victories as a moment of inspiration, but also looked to the future.

“I’m hoping that after tonight we’ll stop counting and women will be given the opportunity to be leaders, and I hope this encourages producers to trust women to think about the business of theater, which is what you have to do when you direct a musical,” she said. “I’m thrilled, I hope that it gives courage to young aspiring women directors all over the world to charge on.”

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While male winners still predominate in the Tony directing categories, the Broadway community has proved itself more inclusive in matters of gender than the film or television industries. Besides the solo win for Bigelow, only three other women – Jane Campion, Sofia Coppola and Lina Wertmuller – have even been nominated for directing Oscars.

On the television side, the totals are slightly higher, but a female director hasn’t won an Emmy for series television since 1995, when Mimi Leder was honored for her work on “ER.” The most recent female winner in a directing category was Dearbhla Walsh, a winner for the PBS miniseries “Little Dorrit” in 2009.


Nor was the diversity limited to gender on Sunday night. African American performers also dominated in the acting prizes Sunday night, with Tonys going to four actors of color: Patina Miller, Cicely Tyson, Courtney B. Vance and Billy Porter.

For the record, 9:55 a.m.: An earlier version of this story did not include director Anna Shapiro in the number of women who have won Tonys for directing.


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