Brock Pemberton

Brock Pemberton was an American theatrical producer, director and founder of the Tony Awards. He was the professional partner of Antoinette Perry, co-founder of the American Theatre Wing, and he was also a member of the Algonquin Round Table. Pemberton gave the Antoinette Perry Award its nickname, the Tony (at the initial event in 1947, as he handed out an award, he called it a Tony). As Perry’s official biography at the Tony Awards website states, “At Jacob Wilk’s suggestion, Pemberton proposed an award in her honor for distinguished stage acting and technical achievement.”

Upon graduation from Emporia College, he became a press agent in New York City. Later, Pemberton directed and produced the American premiere of Luigi Pirandello’s Six Characters in Search of an Author (1922) as well as its first Broadway revival two years later. In 1929 he produced and directed Preston Sturges’ play Strictly Dishonorable, which was filmed twice, in 1931 and again in 1951.

Among his other productions was Miss Lulu Bett, whose writer Zona Gale became the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize in Drama, Personal Appearance by Lawrence Riley, which was a Broadway hit and was later turned into the film Go West, Young Man and Harvey, Mary Chase’s play about a man whose best friend is a large imaginary rabbit, later made into a film starring Jimmy Stewart.

A Tony Award was given to Pemberton posthumously in recognition of his role as the founder and the original chairman of the Tony Awards.