In 1917 in the darkness of war, seven compassionate women gathered hundreds of others from the theater and the American Theatre Wing was born. At a time when national suffrage was yet to be realized the women of the Wing upheld the country’s highest ideal—sacrifice for a common cause. They worked 24/7 sewing clothes, packing medical supplies, raising funds and caring for widows, orphans and the wounded.
When World War II threatened, the women of the Wing, now joined by men, returned to the fray. They took in refugees, raised money and morale on the home front and offered respite on the battlefield. Six years before the armed forces were integrated, the Wing boldly established an interracial policy at their stage door canteen.
Tonight as we celebrate the Tony Awards, named for one of the founders, Antoinette Perry, the work goes on. Through grants and programs and outreach, the Wing continues to help artists find new ways to tell the American story, a story that reminds us of our strength in diversity, our common bonds and our enduring national spirit that has always guided us through adversity. Born in perilous times, the Wing in its next century will do what it’s always done: Illuminate the darkness with the blazing truth of art.
Text in full as spoken by Sally Field on the 2017 Tony Awards broadcast. Written by Patrick Pacheco.