Collecting Our Things: Black Excellence Dominates the 2017 Oscars
If you weren’t lucky enough to get snuck in through the side door at the 89th Academy Awards Ceremony, I’ll give you the Broadway Black rundown. With Moonlight taking the big Oscar of the night, it seems The Academy heard us loud and clear when we demanded they give us our things, and I’m glad.
Watch highlight videos below! #TourBusGary, Viola, Mahershala, & Moonlights acceptances speeches, and more!
Although I do have some complaints I’d like to file regarding Ms. Taraji P. Henson and Mr. Denzel Washington, but that’s for another time.
The night began with Mahershala Ali winning Best Supporting Actor for his role as Juan in Moonlight. Mahershala celebrated many firsts on Oscar night: his first nomination and his first win. While many laud Ali for being the first Muslim actor to win an Oscar, his acceptance speech focused on his mentors, education, and his new baby girl.
“I want to thank my teachers, my professors. I had so many wonderful teachers, and one of the things they told me was…it’s not about you, it’s about these characters. You’re in service to these stories and these characters.”
Image: Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times
Moonlight celebrated Mahershala’s win and later took home Best Picture (after a perplexing mix-up with La La Land – see blow) and Best Adapted Screenplay. The creators and cast of Moonlight echoed Mahershala’s message of representation. In their acceptance speech for Best Adapted Screenplay, Tarell Alvin McCraney and Barry Jenkins pledged to defend those who don’t fit the mold:
“All you people out there, who feel like there’s no mirror for you or your life is not reflected. We have your back and for the next four years, we will not leave you alone. We will not forget you.”
Image: Kevin Winter/Getty
Jenkins’ words echoed the community and perseverance that Moonlight celebrates. His victory for his second feature film alone is a testament to the spirit of perseverance. His first feature film, the highly acclaimed Medicine for Melancholy, premiered in 2008. Jenkins speaks openly of the discouragement he felt in this eight-year gap, where, at times, he thought his career was at an end. But just like Jenkins couldn’t dodge that Best Picture Oscar, he couldn’t dodge his calling, and I couldn’t be more pleased.
Another highlight in that same speech came from McCraney, who is the playwright of In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue of which the film is based. He said:
“This goes out to all those black and brown boys and girls and non-gender-conforming who don’t see themselves, we’re trying to show you you and us. Thank you, thank you. This is for you.”
Further celebrating a night of untold stories, NASA’s Katherine Johnson joined the Hidden Figures cast on stage. With the grace of a thousand Dianas, Viola Davis accepted the award for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Rose in Fences. Her performance, which earned her a Tony for Best Actress in 2010, resonated with women and defined resilience to men.
We know Viola from Broadway and How to Get Away With Murder, but tonight she made history as the first Black actor to take home an Emmy, Tony, and Oscar for acting. Her role in Fences gives glory to the ordinary, and her speech showed her pride in that fact.
Now, about that Best Picture Oscar. Still can’t believe this actually happened. There are no words to describe what the conflicting feelings of confusion & joy bottled and shaken up, on the brink of explosion, actually feels like but here it is in video form:
As I cheered along, I thought of the power of ordinariness in Black communities. The legacy of Blackness exudes strength and resilience, but we should remember that excellence isn’t isolated to any tax bracket.
Audiences found power in Viola Davis’ Rose because August Wilson did not see powerful and ordinary as mutually exclusive. It is vital, especially today, that the Fences and Hidden Figures and Moonlights empower us.
These films tell the story of those perceived as ordinary, simply because the people looking had a singular point of view. So, yes, tonight was for Viola and her staple in history, for Mahershala and Moonlight collecting their things, and even for Denzel and Ruth Negga, no matter what The Academy says.
But even more, tonight was for the ordinary people who are, in fact, excellent and Broadway Black.
View the full list of winners at Oscar.
& the funniest moment of the night that we just can’t seem to get over. Watch #TourBusGary become a meme right in front of your eyes:
Hamilton, The Color Purple & More Light Up the 2016 Tony Awards
On Broadway’s biggest, and now most historic night, ten of the 14 Tony-nominated musicals of the 2015-2016 season brought light and life to the CBS telecast held at the Beacon Theatre.
Watch the triumphant performances below:
This year’s Tony-winning host James Corden opened the show with help from Tony-winner Leslie Odom, Jr., and the cast of Hamilton, proving he’s a chameleon when it comes to iconic roles such as Grizabella, The Phantom of the Opera, Mama Rose, and Effie White.
School of Rock
This summer, school is back in session as nominee Alex Brightman led the kids of School of Rock, based on the film, in their performance of “You’re in the Band,” a number written for the show by Andrew Lloyd Webber.
The biggest Hamilton fans in the country, President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, prefaced the performance with a video message. In light of the tragedy that occurred in Orlando, FL, Tony-winners Lin-Manuel Miranda, Daveed Diggs, and Tony-nominee Christopher Jackson (who sang “History Has Its Eyes On You”), and cast decided to forgo their musket props during their performance of “Yorktown (The World Turned Upside Down).” Turns out the award-winning choreography is just fine without them.
Sweet as pie! The cast of Waitress began their act with the opening number, “Opening Up,” followed by recording artist Sara Bareilles, who wrote the score, performing a gorgeous rendition of “She Used to Be Mine” on the piano. Jessie Mueller returned to the stage and left us edge-less.
Despite the Kickstarter controversy surrounding Ken Davenport’s Broadway revival of Deaf West’s Spring Awakening, the cast returned to remind us what was so special about this electrifying production, as both hearing and deaf actors performed “Mama Who Bore Me” and “The Bitch of Living.”
On Your Feet!
Grammy-winner Gloria Estefan performed a medley of her hits alongside Ana Villafane, Josh Segarra, and the cast of On Your Feet!, the musical based on the lives of her and her husband, Emilio.
The Color Purple
We don’t have any words for this either. But Danielle Brooks, Heather Headley, and the cast of The Color Purple revival snatchT us bald with “Mysterious Ways” — merely moments before the woman of the hour, TONY-WINNER MOTHER F***ING CYNTHIA ERIVO, bodied us all with her show-stopping solo “I’m Here.” Naturally, everyone gave her a standing ovation, which is required any time this goddess opens her mouth.
The charming new musical Bright Star opened their performance with an appearance by composer Steve Martin on the banjo. With a first appearance on the Tonys, Carmen Cusack pretty much sang us her life story, performing “If You Knew My Story.”
Led by Brian Stokes Mitchell, Billy Porter, and Audra McDonald, the cast of Shuffle Along performed their opening number, “Broadway Blues,” featuring an expecting McDonald dancing her ass off. The woman can do no wrong.
Chicago, 20th Anniversary
To help celebrate the 20th Anniversary of Chicago, now the longest-running American musical on Broadway, Bebe Neuwirth, Velma Kelly in the original revival cast, took the stage to perform the hit opening number, “All That Jazz,” which helped score her a Tony for the role. To date, Neuwirth is the only actress to perform as every female principle in the show.
Broadway legend Chita Rivera helped pay tribute to her friend and colleague, the late Roger Rees, and others we’ve lost in the past year, including Broadway’s first Black and youngest Jean Valjean, Kyle Jean-Baptiste.
She Loves Me
This eye-popping revival of She Loves Me performed a medley of songs with Gavin Creel and Jane Krakowski recreating that iconic split/drag-across-the-stage piece of choreography, followed by Zachary Levi singing the title song, and ending with Laura Benanti’s power vocals in “Ice Cream.”
Fiddler On the Roof
Bartlett Sher’s streak of lush revivals continues as the cast of his latest work, the Fiddler on the Roof performed “Sunrise, Sunset,” led by six-time Tony nominee Danny Burstein, followed by the “Bottle Dance.”
Closing — What Else? Hamilton
Because they weren’t going anywhere, fresh after winning their 11th Tony for Best Musical, without doing an encore, the lovely ladies of Hamilton — Renée Elise Goldsberry, Phillipa Soo, and Jasmine Cephas Jones — put their glorious harmonies to “work, work” with their number “The Schuyler Sisters.”
What a night. What a year.
Videos courtesy of CBS.