The Tony Awards are a ceremony centered on inclusiveness, seeking to stretch the theater community beyond its New York parameters and into the far reaches of every theater-loving fan’s living room around the world. On a night when the annual best-of-theater celebration happened just hours after at least 50 people were killed in America's deadliest mass shooting, this spirit rang especially important and especially true.
"Love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love, cannot be killed or swept aside," Hamilton mastermind Lin-Manuel Miranda said, near tears, as he accepted his Tony award for Best Score on Sunday evening. “Now fill the world with music, love, and pride.” (You can read the full text of Miranda's poem below.)
Miranda’s missive followed a somber opening from host James Corden that let the victims of the Orlando shooting know they were not on their own: "Your tragedy is our tragedy,” Corden said, looking straight into the camera. "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 stands as a symbol and a celebration of that principle."
The night’s performances and winners, though previously selected, echoed this sentiment. All four of the major acting awards went to actors of color. The nominated productions included the stories of a breakthrough black musical, a Jewish family in 1900s Russia, four women during the Liberian civil war, deaf schoolchildren in 19th-century Germany, and, of course, our country’s $10 Founding Father. And these productions' performances — from Corden's recollection of his days as a small-town English boy dreaming of becoming a stage star to Hamilton's three performances and 11 wins — were vibrant depictions of the power of art and storytelling, and the strength found within them.
Celebrated actor Frank Langella also spoke about the shooting during his acceptance speech for Best Leading Actor in a Play: "When something bad happens, we have three choices: We let it define us, we let it destroy us, or we let it strengthen us. Today in Orlando we had a hideous dose of reality. And I urge you, Orlando, to be strong. Because I am standing in a room full of the most generous human beings on earth and we will be with you every step of the way."
Beyond these select few speeches, the show went off largely unchanged, outside of Hamilton's decision to remove a musket from its performance. Earlier in the day, the Tony awards account tweeted that this year’s show would be "dedicated to those affected by the events in Orlando” and created a special ribbon in remembrance of Orlando, which was seen on many of those in attendance:
But perhaps it was Barbra Streisand who summarized it best, before presenting the award for Best Musical to Hamilton: "Tonight, our joy is tinged with sorrow. But we’re here to celebrate Broadway, and the beauty that artistry can bring into this world."
Here's Miranda's full poem:
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 last longer.
And 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.