Sunday night's 70th annual Tony Awards was a celebration of everything great about theater, and by extension, everything theater represents. This year's awards were particularly poignant in the wake of the terrorist attack in Orlando, and the show proved to be a great reminder of what's possible when people commit themselves to diversity in serious and meaningful ways. Here are some examples of the Tonys being at their thoughtful best.
The red carpet has a terrible reputation for treating women as though they're merely dumb ornaments, but E!'s Alicia Quarles was the epitome of class when interviewing Tony-goers, especially the cast of Eclipsed, Danai Gurira's play about a group of women surviving the second Liberian Civil War. When the cast approached Quarles, she said,"I love that this group is all women — brown women!" Recognizing diversity and praising it, genuinely, is something we seldom see in Hollywood, and it was so great to see women supporting other women, especially women of color.
Miranda read a sonnet he wrote when accepting his Tony for Best Original Score for Hamilton, and it was a beautiful ode to endurance, hope and the power of art, and a reminder of how necessary it is that we work for a better world: "Love is love is love is love is love is love, cannot be killed or swept aside."
The Tonys recognized the talents of people of color in many ways this year, in addition to its worship of Hamilton. The Color Purple won Best Revival of a Musical, and Eclipsed for Best Play. Of Eclipsed, author Danai Gurira said, "The stories of women in war are never heard... It’s about that next generation of girls and women, and what we do to make sure their lives are different from what their mothers have had to endure."
Emilio Estefan introduced a performance of the musical about the career of he and wife Gloria Estefan with a barb to presidential candidate Donald Trump and others who would question the legality and right of immigrants to be in the U.S. "We all have papers," he said of the show's cast. "And they're all legal."
Sunday's awards featured a performance from Spring Awakening, which was also nominated for Best Revival of a Musical. Director Michael Arden spoke of the show on the red carpet of the Deaf West Theatre's production, in which the show is performed simultaneously in American Sign Language and spoken English. "It's not about disability, it's about different ability. The point of theater is to show the world a reflection of itself, and that's what this production is about."
Arthur Miller's A View from the Bridge won the Tony for Best Revival of a Play, and its assistant director, Elliot Douglas, took the opportunity to shout-out the role of immigrants in the show. "It's a great play about immigrants," said Douglas."It felt like the exact right time to do this play. It's a great song about the people of New York."
I have in my notes, "We are talking about the Puerto Rican debt crisis on an awards show red carpet." Lin-Manuel Miranda's conversation with interviewers Jordan Roth and Karen Olivo about the Puerto Rican debt crisis and what theatergoers can do about it is easily one of the most startling things I've ever seen on an awards show. It was smart and sobering, and an excellent use of time and famous energy to direct our attention to larger socio-economic issues.
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