Merely two days ago, tragedy struck America in what is now the worst mass shooting in American history. In Orlando, a gay nightclub, PULSE, was attacked by Omar Mateen, an Islamic extremist and a regular at the nightclub, who reportedly also used gay dating apps. The vicious attack resulted in the death of forty-nine victims and injuries of over fifty more victims. The hate crime has caused ripples throughout America, and has been labeled as the worst terrorist attack since 9/11. At the 70th Annual Tony Awards, members of the Broadway community came together in an amazing display of solidarity and compassion for the victims of the attack, as well as those close to them. When news of the attack broke out, the Tony Awards immediately announced that the show would be dedicated to the victims of the shooting. From then on, the entire awards ceremony was laced wit the honouring of the victims. Special ribbons were given to people at the red carpet, and the show also opened with host James Corden giving a powerful opening speech:
“Good evening. All around the world, people are trying to come to terms with the horrific events that took place in Orlando this morning. On behalf of the whole theater community and every person in this room, our hearts go out to all of those affected by that atrocity. All we can say is you are not on your own right now. Your tragedy is our tragedy. Theater is a place where every race, creed, sexuality and gender is equal, is embraced and is loved. Hate will never win. Together, we have to make sure of that. Tonight’s show stands as a symbol and a celebration of that principle. This is the Tony Awards.”
Early in the evening, Hamilton star and creator Lin-Manuel Miranda accepted his first award of the evening with an impassioned sonnet that was nothing short of beautiful. Miranda walked onstage and said: “I’m not freestyling. I’m too old. I wrote you a sonnet instead.” Many were initially disappointed, as people have come to expect freestyle raps from Miranda, but by the end of it, no one was. The speech was incredibly emotional for all, and Lin-Manuel himself was in tears as he walked off the stage.
My wife’s the reason anything gets done
She nudges me towards promise by degrees
She is a perfect symphony of one,
Our son is her most beautiful reprise
We chase the melodies that seem to find us
Until they’re finished songs and start to play
When senseless acts of tragedy remind us
That nothing here is promised, not one day
This show is proof that history remembers
We live through times when hate and fear seem stronger
We rise and fall and light from dying embers
Remembrances that hope and love lasts long
And love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love
Cannot be killed or swept aside,
I sing Vanessa’s symphony, Eliza tells her story
Now fill the world with music love and pride
Miranda and the Hamilton team also performed Yorktown, a number that makes use of muskets, though they opted to drop the use of the guns entirely, out of respect for the victims.
Later on, veteran actor Frank Langella went on to win Leading Actor in a Play for “The Father”. Upon accepting his reward, Langella thanked a few people involved in the production. He then shared that he could list off a long list of people he could thank, but something more important had to be said; something that people would appreciate more than just another list of names.
“When something bad happens, we have three choices: we let it define us, we let it destroy us, or we let it strengthen us,” he said. “Today in Orlando we had a hideous dose of reality.
“I urge you Orlando to be strong because I\’m standing in a room of the most generous humans on Earth and we will be with you every step of the way.”
This year, the Tony Awards and its many participants perfectly embodied the true heart of the theater community in a moving display of acceptance and compassion. A night of joy and talent was dedicated to the victims of a terrible hate crime, and we were reminded that solidarity and love will always eclipse hate.
We applaud the Tony Awards and members of the Broadway community for taking a stand against hate and violence. Our hearts go out to the victims of the shooting, as well as their friends and family. In the end, we take to heart: “…love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love, cannot be killed or swept aside”.