A Woman’s Place Is in the Resistance

Cover photo art by Hayley Gilmore and is available for download along with her other designs! Thank you, Hayley!

Well it’s been a bit of a week, I’d say.

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Me at Hamilton in Chicago.

On Wednesday, January 18, I saw Hamilton in Chicago with my best friend. It’s hard to put the experience into words (without a lot of superlatives). After listening to the Hamilton Soundtrack for nearly a year and the Hamilton Mixtape since it was released in December, I thought I knew the show pretty well. And it’s true, 90% of what’s on the soundtrack is in the show.

But there’s a reason why musicals are more than just concerts. Everything that’s happening on stage is incredible. From the minimal, rotating set, to the company dancing, to the inflections and movements of the actors, each bit of visual candy creates a richer experience than just blasting the soundtrack in your car every day.

Even though we saw the Wednesday matinee, we saw all the main cast: Miguel Cervantes as Alexander Hamilton, Ari Afsar as Eliza Schuyler Hamilton, Karen Olivo as Angelica Schuyler, Chris De’Sean Lee (a junior in college) as Lafayette/Jefferson, and the new Aaron Burr, in his second day of shows, Wayne Brady. I had my doubts about Brady as Burr, but rest assured, he was incredible. So many goosebumps in “Wait For It.”

The best thing about Hamilton, though, is what makes it so amazing no matter what form you watch or listen to it in: the history of our country’s founding is told through performances by diverse men and women who more accurately reflect today’s America. It was comforting and empowering to see people of color performing roles previously occupied by white men and women telling a story about a country—our country—that fought for its freedom.

But that fight continues today.

It was a unique experience to see Hamilton just two days before America’s first black president left office, only for that office be taken over by the man we must now call President. I couldn’t bear to watch the inauguration and see our country slide backwards.

So when the inauguration ceremony kicked off, I was at the movies watching Hidden Figures, a story of the black women who helped get America’s astronauts into space. What an incredible film! I had never heard the story of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, and all the black “human computers” who worked at NASA in the early 1960s. Not once. To paraphrase a black woman’s post on Facebook about the movie: “I was moved to tears by the movie and so proud of these women. But I’m also angry that I was never taught about these women and others like them. What would have been the trajectory of my life if I’d known of them?”

I, too, am angry and feel a sense of betrayal that I never once learned about these women. I didn’t know they existed. To not teach little girls that women—specifically black women—helped get astronauts into space seems such an egregious oversight. All women and all minorities should have been looking up to Katherine, Dorothy, and Mary for the past 50 years, but we’re just now getting a movie? It’s not fair, especially not to black girls and women.

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A couple great Hamilton signs at the Women’s March in Indy.

And that is just one reason why on Saturday, January 21, I marched. I marched (or rallied, as it were, in Indianapolis) in my pink hat with a Planned Parenthood button on my Hamilton-Chicago t-shirt because of the inequalities we still face in this country. I marched because women don’t make equal pay for equal work. I marched because I’m afraid my access to affordable birth control is in jeopardy. I marched because I am afraid for the lives of the thousands of Americans who will lose their insurance without the Affordable Care Act. I marched because immigrants deserve the same rights as natural born American citizens. I marched because LGBTQ individuals face discrimination every day, particularly in Indiana. I marched because people of color face discrimination every day, no matter where they are. I marched because I believe in the power of women, not just the power of 3 million women and their friends yesterday who marched across the world, but the power of all of us moving forward to fight for what we believe in.

We will not go back. Let’s get to it, ladies.

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Love trumps hate, indeed.

EXPeriencing the 2016 Tony Awards

Cover image via.

At 2 a.m. on Sunday, June 12, 49 people were shot dead and 53 were wounded at a gay nightclub in Orlando. Eighteen hours later, the 70th Annual Tony Awards were held at the Beacon Theater in New York City. On a day where the LGBTQ community—and the United States—was devastated by a sickening hate crime, it seemed only fitting that one of the most diverse and inclusive communities in show business should hold its award ceremony, the biggest night in Broadway.

And what a big night it was. For the first time in 70 years, Tonys for all four musical acting categories were awarded to people of color. Four black actors received Tonys for their leading roles on Broadway, two full companies of black actors took the stage, and several more companies with diverse casts performed. In the same year where #OscarsSoWhite was a trending hashtag for days and not a single person of color was nominated for a major acting role, the Tonys stands in stark contrast. Hollywood has no excuse for its whiteness, and the performances on Sunday illustrated that.

Beyond diversity and a strong sense of community and solidarity on Sunday—especially with Lin-Manuel Miranda’s heart-wrenching acceptance sonnet—the Tony Awards itself was an incredible show. I love James Corden. I have ever since I first saw him on Doctor Who when he became a pseudo-companion (shout-out to Stormaggedon). We all know he’s musically talented thanks to Carpool Karaoke, so it’s really no surprise his rendition of a lifetime of musicals to open the show was spot on.

Speaking of performances… let’s talk about Hamilton. Their Tonys-specific opening with James Corden was a great way to get “Alexander Hamilton” into the show without performing it outright. And then they performed my favorite all-company song, “The Battle of Yorktown.” I didn’t know they were performing that, so I was pumped to say the least when it started. Then, the show’s credits played out to the cast performing “The Schuyler Sisters”—in their gowns and tuxes with Tonys in hand. Of course Hamilton was going to win 11 awards. It was inevitable. To borrow the words of President Obama who introduced the performance, Hamilton has given America a civics lesson we can’t get enough of.

And while I am thrilled for Hamilton, I’m sad that School of Rock didn’t win any awards. It was very deserving of the four Tonys it was nominated for. I’ve been lucky enough to see a good number of Broadway shows in Chicago, London, and finally this year in New York. I saw Matilda and, on a whim, School of Rock. School of Rock was the most fun I’ve ever had at a theater. Priscilla Queen of the Desert and Avenue Q are two of the funniest musicals I’ve ever seen, but School of Rock was definitely the funnest. You can’t not have fun at a musical where you rock out for two hours to a show performed live by kids half your age that don’t make you feel useless in all you’ve done in your life. Seriously one of the best theater experiences I’ve ever had.

On a day where we all so desperately needed to smile, to dance, to sing, and to feel loved, I’m so grateful for the Tonys. The show must go on, as they say, and I’ve never been more thankful to be a fan of musicals and theater. Despite all the bad of this weekend, I feel compelled to close out this post the same way Hamilton’s producer Jeffrey Seller did his acceptance speech for Best Musical: “Look around, look around, how lucky we are to be alive right now.”

2016 Tony Awards - Show

NEW YORK, NY – JUNE 12: Alex Brightman (C) and the cast of ‘School of Rock’ perform onstage during the 70th Annual Tony Awards at The Beacon Theatre on June 12, 2016, in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)