The ensemble of 'SpongeBob SquarePants.' (Photo: Joan Marcus)

The Actors’ Equity Association is pushing to create two new Tony Award categories that honor equity choruses and ensembles in musicals or plays.

Actors’ Equity is championing the two proposed awards, Best Chorus in a Musical or Play, and Best Ensemble in a Musical or Play, as part of a national campaign launched Wednesday. The union has sent a letter to the American Theatre Wing and the Broadway League to request the inclusion of the categories in the 2018-2019 season.

Members of Equity have been pushing for these awards for some time, as the union feels that chorus and ensemble members are some of the hardest-working individuals on Broadway and deserving of recognition, Kate Shindle, president of Actors’ Equity, said in an interview with Broadway News.

“We feel like it’s really an essential part of the equation of the show,” Shindle said.

The launch of the campaign, which includes a website featuring an online petition and digital ads, comes after Equity’s National Council formally voted to request the two new categories, and as the union continues its push to be “more aggressive and responsive to its membership,” Shindle said. 

Equity said it sees chorus and ensemble members increasingly taking on more responsibilities in productions, including covering multiple tracks and sometimes playing musical instruments in addition to singing, dancing and acting.

Additionally, Equity notes that regional theater awards and SAG-AFTRA included categories for ensembles.

Shindle sees it as a boon for producers as well, as additional categories could bring a Tony Award to a show that may not otherwise have been considered.

Administrators for the Tony Awards said they had no comment on the matter.

Equity considers the ensemble to “be the entire cast of a musical or play, inclusive of all principal, featured, chorus and swing roles,” whereas a chorus is “a group in a musical or singing and/or dancing group that makes up part of a dramatic play.”

Tony Award categories have undergone change recently, as this year marks the return of the awards for Best Sound Design of a Play and Best Sound Design of a Musical, after the Tony Awards Administration Committee eliminated them in 2014.