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Shots Fired! Hamilton Cast Addresses Special Guest VP-Elect Mike Pence

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The world turned upside down at Friday night’s performance of the hit Broadway musical, Hamilton, when Vice President elect Mike Pence took his seat. He was appropriately met with the sound of boos, and perhaps one or two cheers.

It didn’t take long for word to get out on the interwebs, with photos and video uploaded straight to social media.

Following the performance, Tony nominee Brandon Victor Dixon, who plays Aaron Burr, stepped forward to acknowledge their retreating special guest.  After insisting to the jeering crowd that “There was nothing to boo here. We’re all here sharing a story of love,” Dixon proceeded to address VP-Elect Pence on behalf of the colorful production:

“We, sir — we — are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights,” he said. “We truly hope that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us.”

 

It didn’t take long for President-elect (we still have trouble saying it) Donald Trump to put in his two cents and demand an apology from the cast.

Of course, it didn’t take long for the dragging to begin.  Fury and contention of Black Twitter, Broadway, liberals, and just plain ol’ Trump opposers who could not be here for the white tears of a man, a campaign, who THRIVED on the booing, harassment and belittling of the very people who stood on that Hamilton stage last night.  Every SINGLE performer (and most of the themes) in Hamilton represent something that Trump’s campaign vehemently opposed and attempted to oppress, so it is no wonder why those very people insist on being heard.

#BoycottHamilton is now trending on Twitter. Naturally, that’s easy to do when tickets are sold out into 2018.

And of course the hypocrisy is LAUGHABLE.  400+ hate crimes across America go unresolved, but Trump gets his panties in a bunch for a Black man who gets on stage with nothing but respect, intelligence and a call to action.  Nice to know what we’re in for.

Theater has always been a space for the voice of the unheard.  From Shakespeare to Shuffle Along, the stage is where we tell our story.  Following the results of this tumultuous election, there is no doubt artistic anarchy is on the rise.  Freedom of speech is a thing, Mr. Trump. Just you wait.

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#StayWoke: Audra McDonald Gets Candid About Race On The Nightly Show

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“I also feel so badly for Trayvon Martin’s family, because every single time this shit stain comes back up and he tries to gain notoriety from this horrible thing that he did they have to relive [it] over and over and over again!”

These were the words six time Tony winner Audra McDonald delivered passionately on Comedy Central’s “The Nightly Show With Larry Wilmore”. The Broadway actress, who is still making promotional appearances for her current show, Shuffle Along Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed, took part in a panel discussion. Here, Larry Wilmore along with two Nightly Show contributors and McDonald, discussed the hot topic of George Zimmerman, murderer (we know he wasn’t convicted. We don’t care) of unarmed teen Trayvon Martin, and the auction he started to sale the murder weapon used in that particular crime that was soon taken down.

 

Audra McDonald discuses Trayvon Martin with Larry Wilmore, Jordan Carlos and Robin Thede

It’s no secret that McDonald is passionate about equality across race, gender and sexuality. In fact, if you follow her on Twitter, she is very vocal about her stance on these subjects. But, rarely do we hear the Broadway Queen speak so candidly about Race in actual interviews. There could be many explanations for this. One of them being that the Broadway community, specifically media outlets, are predominately white and therefore aren’t quite sure of how to initiate or cultivate a conversation on Race with her. Women’s rights? Yes. LGBTQ rights? Yes. Race? Not so much. This is no fault of the actress. She simply can’t answer questions that aren’t asked and there is always the chance she may come off  as “too militant” if she spoke on the subject too often (re: predominately white community).

During the round table discussion, McDonald delivered her most woke statement, saying, “I tell you what. I know this much. That if Trayvon had been a white child and George Zimmerman had been a Black man, and even IF he had ended up being acquitted with the Stand Your Ground law, they would never in a million years have given him back the gun!” (This is where I shouted and damn near threw my shoe at my television, because the Truth she had just delivered made me catch the Holy Ghost. Even now in this coffee shop I’m rocking like a deaconess on the front pew whose obnoxious church hat is barely holding on! MY GOD!) Those words delivered by THAT woman with that amount of certainty gave a feeling too powerful for words.

 

Her appearance on The Nightly Show was definitely one for the books and her words are very much appreciated. To you, Audra McDonald, we say– #StayWoke *insert Black Power fist*!

Click here to catch Audra along with Brian Stokes Mitchell, Billy Porter, Joshua Henry and Brandon Victor Dixon in one of the most spectacular musicals on Broadway, Shuffle Along! A behind the scenes and aftermath story of the American classic that introduced jazz to theatre directed by George C. Wolfe and choreographed by Savion Glover.

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The Women of The Color Purple Talk #OscarsSoWhite on TheaterTalk

Jerrica White

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“Theater Talk” welcomed the leading ladies of The Color Purple and director John Doyle on its latest episode.

Now if you’re not hip, “Theater Talk” offers an inside look into some of our favorite shows on The Great White Way. Denzel Washington, Taye Diggs, Anika Noni Rose, and many more have all been guests on the CUNY sponsored show.  So we were thrilled to see the stars of one of this seasons’ hottest shows in attendance.

When the production airs peep JHUD’s shirt. I couldn’t help but notice that she boldly states “Not Bossy, But The Boss” across her chest, as if to foreshadow the aura and power of her presence during the interview.

We see you, Jennifer!

Now let me be clear. There is no sign of attitude, but rather an air of confidence. She uses this confidence to advocate and weigh in on #OscarsSoWhite and calls for change in diversity in the arts.

The Grammy and Oscar winner gives example after example of the lack of inclusion in Hollywood, finally concluding,“We’re all here, we’re all in it and our art reflects that. Why isn’t it all acknowledged?”

Well said.

Cynthia Erivo and Danielle Brooks were in agreement, nodding their heads in unison and providing commentary authoritatively. And as for hosts, Michael Ridel and Susan Haskins… they sat back yielding to the expressive black voices.

Broadway debut or not, Hudson is a boss– truly speaking as a woman who has found her voice on the stage and is using it as a platform for change. But let us not forget the power and support provided by Erivo and Brooks.

These three women remind me that we’re really lucky this season. Broadway is full of powerful Queens.

Tune into this episode on WLIW-21 Monday, February 29 at 5:30 PM. Episodes are also available on Youtube and HERE.

UPDATE: Watch the episode below

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New Broadway Star Lupita Nyong’o talks #OscarsSoWhite

Jerrica White

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Lupita Nyong’o sat down with TODAY Show’s Savannah Guthrie recently to talk about her Broadway debut in Danai Gurira’s acclaimed, Eclipsed, diversity and #OscarsSoWhiteHer composure was elegant and her smile was beaming as she talked us through understudying “The Girl” in the Yale Repertory production, and playing the same role during a sold-out run at The Public. She promised herself that she had to play “The Girl,” and now she’s reprising her role on the intimate Broadway stage at The John Golden Theatre.

But the conversation didn’t stop there.

When the conversations shifted to the brain child of our Managing Editor April Reign, #OscarsSoWhite, Lupita had something to say.

We knew we liked Lupita. 

This isn’t the first time the Oscar winner has spoken out about the lack of representation in the Oscars. She took to Instagram weeks ago in alignment with her peers seeking change by saying: “The Awards should not dictate the terms of art in our modern society, but rather be a diverse reflection of the best of what our art has to offer today.”

Like the rest of us, she sees the need for expansion in the diversity of shows in order to better reflect the world we live in. She’s invested in sharing untold stories—much like that of the five African women, bonded together by turmoil and navigating war. The story she’s currently sharing 8 shows a week. 

I feel the change coming in the atmosphere and I’d like to believe it will be greater than changes in membership and voting policies. But until then, we’ll be in formation. We’re going to keep on creating. We’re going to keep on supporting. And here, we’re going to keep on highlighting the achievements and successes of African-American theatre artists on and off the Broadway stage. 

As for Sunday, February 28th. Well, we’ll be live-tweeting “The Wood.”

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Broadway Black Box

Joshua Henry Goes Back to School…Kinda

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Shuffle Along star Joshua Henry took some time before rehearsals to go back to the place where it all began.

The University of Miami graduate got a little nostalgic with his social media followers as he took a literal walk down memory lane through the campus.  Boasting his Miami green “U” tank top and sandals (clearly enjoying the antithesis of New York winter weather), Henry stood proudly in front of the Jerry Herman Ring Theater, the student performance space that cultivated his budding creativity as well as that of several other notable students.

Never forget where you came from. Before I was ready for Broadway, I honed my performing chops here at the University of Miami’s #JerryHermanRingTheater. This is where the fire was fanned. Just visited today and felt all the feelings again! #AllAboutTheU #humblebeginnings

Inside the theater, it was almost as if Henry had stepped back in time and could see and feel all of the experiences he’d had in the space.  He vividly narrated the memory of his first acting class:

This is the black box theater at the University of Miami. Bruce Miller was the first person to give me an acting class in college.  Freshman year we all sat in a circle here and we said something about where we’re from and what we wanna accomplish in the next four years and there was just so much love here, but it just brings back the craziest memories.  Wow.

After graduating from the Coral Gables campus in 2006, Henry instantly landed a role in Godspell at Papermill Playhouse.  By 2007, the crooner was on Broadway with In the Heights.  Henry played “Tin Man” in The Wiz at City Center and a very sexy “Favorite Son” in American Idiot before earning a 2011 Tony Award nomination for his powerful depiction of Haywood Patterson in Scottsboro Boys.

VIDEO: Where did I learn how to act? University of Miami theater department! #DaU #HumbleBeginnings Jerry Herman Ring Theatre

Posted by Joshua Henry on Tuesday, January 5, 2016

I’m counting the days until we get to see many of our favorite Broadway Black stars in Shuffle Along, namely, my boo, Mr. Henry.  I’m also hoping that somewhere in Hamilton’s eternal run (because it’s obviously not going anywhere anytime soon) I will get to see a Joshua Henry portrayal of Aaron Burr. #FangirlFantasy.  Lin Manuel, are you listening??

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Broadway Black Kids

The Best of Broadway Black Halloween 2015

Jerrica White

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Halloween was on a Saturday this year, guaranteeing that the night would be lit. I don’t know about you, but I love a good DIY costume. Minions, Elsa, and superheroes are cute (btw, if you haven’t seen Beyonce as X-Men’s Storm, check that out immediately), but Halloween is the time to bask in your inner creativity. Whether you were at home passing out candy or kicking it at Trilloween, we hope you had a great time on the night you get to choose to be someone you’re not. While some have the pleasure of acting on Broadway as a profession, that’s not the reality for all of us. So here are a few costumes that paid homage to Broadway shows this weekend! 

Who doesn’t enjoy seeing kids dressed up in period costumes? Lucky for you Gabriella Pizzolo, Oscar Williams, and Zell Morrow, the very talented kids in the Fun Home cast, dressed in their favorite 1700s wear, portraying Eliza, Hamilton, and King George.  

Who wore it best? …Obviously @sashahutchings, but I tried. #Halloween #Hamilton A photo posted by Darius Wright (@dariusawright) on

  This really is the year of Hamilton and we’re not mad about it! Darius Wright from the cast of Matilda, dawned some curls and lipstick, and transformed effortlessly into Sasha Hutchings, currently in the ensemble of Hamilton. He did that!    

It wouldn’t be Hamilween without someone portraying Leslie Odom Jr.’s, Aaron Burr. “Jeopardy!” phenomenon and Hamilton fan, Matt Jackson, nailed it and even added his personal flair scribing the “Ten Duel Commandments” in stone.

Nothing can top the admiration that beams from a daughter that wants nothing more than to be like her mom. Genesis, the beautiful daughter of Queen Viola Davis, takes the cake for best Broadway inspired costume of 2015. Who doesn’t want to be like Tony and Emmy award-winner Viola Davis. WHO!?!   

And we are telling you… Happy Halloween! A photo posted by BroadwayBlack (@broadwayblack) on

This one really just brings a big smile to your face. It’s so well done and spot on. Her pose & smile really syncs up well to the inspiration. We know Jennifer Hudson rocked the role and won an Oscar but this young girl deserves an award for her heart. We love it!

The ones that made us laugh the most included was Nick Rashad Burroughs, who will have his 54 Below debut alongside Marisha Wallace soon. He continued the Halloween celebration at Matthew Morrison’s party in a leotard. He was Aunt Viv from Fresh Prince of Bel-Air in the infamous audition episode. This one took us down!

Screen Shot 2015-11-02 at 2.59.14 PM

Another good hearty chuckle came from Amber Iman, who went to her celebration as “The Bella Noches Girl”. I mean, If you can’t go to Bella Noches, where can you GO?!? This one was spot on and we are still in tears over it.

All in all, Halloween was great this year! Can’t wait to see what the Broadway Black community cooks up next year!

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Stand For Justice: Black Theatre in the Fight for Black Lives Matter

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“Powerful” is the best way to describe the ongoing Black Lives Matter movement. The Black Lives Matter organization was started by three Black women activists: Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi. Since its inception following the shocking and upsetting acquittal of George Zimmerman, the man responsible for the death of Black teenager, Trayvon Martin, Black Lives Matter has gained a huge following worldwide. With all of the heartbreaking news of Black people dying at the hands of police brutality or by the individuals who perpetuate the system that is validating the deaths of Black people everywhere, the #BlackLivesMatter movement is needed now more than ever.

The saying, “art imitates life” is often thrown around callously. But when it comes to Black theatre artists, the phrase means a lot more than meets the eye (or the mouth, for that matter). In theatre history, there has been a tradition of productions staged to reflect the politics and restlessness of the times. Today’s theatre artists are similar to their predecessors.

Award-winning playwright Katori Hall is in touch with the Black Lives Matter movement and other political happenings, as often reflected on her Twitter page. Hall’s form of protest appears within her writing. Her play, The Mountaintop, fictionalizes the events leading up to the death of civil rights leader, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In an April interview with The Root, Hall states, in regard to her decision to become a playwright,

Me and my scene partner, we’re, like, two young African-American women … we get to the library and we’re pulling out all kinds of plays and couldn’t find nothing—like, nothing … had any scenes with young black women in it . … So I went to the teacher and was like, ‘Do you have any suggestions, because we’re having a hard time,’ and 10 seconds went by, 20 seconds went by, 40 seconds went by, and our professor could not think of an answer, and so, in that moment I said to myself, ‘I’m going to write those plays, then.’

Theatres have also been involved with Black Lives Matter in inspirational ways. In early February, Washington D.C.’s Howard Theatre hosted a panel that discussed the Movement. Howard Theatre has an extensive history of featuring Black theatre artists and their many talents. In May, the cast from Marley the Musical took time out of rehearsal to perform a free concert for those protesting the senseless death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore. At the National Black Theatre Festival in early June, according to Ticket Sarasota, Jackie Taylor, founder of the Black Ensemble Theater, remarked, “This is a sick society, with Black men being killed, young boys being killed, churches being burned and those nine people being killed in that church in Charleston. Racism is embedded.” The Black Ensemble Theater’s mission is one that is clear-cut and powerful: “to eradicate racism and its damaging effects upon our society through the utilization of theater arts.”

This is merely a snapshot of the work being done in the Black theatre world in support of the Black Lives Matter Movement. So many Black artists have and continue to use their work not only to showcase the ever present Black excellence in theatre but also to shift the mindset of those who may perpetuate the systemic racism that holds them back. These artists prove, time and time again, that not only do Black lives matter, but so does Black art.

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