by Priya Sridhar
“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.”
- Lin Manuel Miranda, Tony Awards
Soon it will be the anniversary of the Pulse shooting. On June 12, Latin Night at the Orlando club, a man went in with a gun. He didn’t leave alive. Neither did a good portion of the patrons who went to dance. The Tony Awards were the next evening on June 13. Hamilton swept the stage with multiple wins, and composer Lin Manuel Miranda recited a sonnet as his acceptance speech.
I remember reading about the shooting on social media. People exchanged information about those killed and injured, about how to donate blood. Two of my friends, who are now a married couple, live in Orlando. For once the Facebook’s “safe” status reassured me. They were okay. They weren’t at the club. A few weeks ago they posted their wedding photos.
This year, the nightclub will become a memorial and museum. Memorials honor the dead, while museums educate every visitor. I’m not sure what to think; while I’m not a nightclub fan, I feel sad that we have to keep making sense of pain and educating those who may lack basic decency.
When you are LGBTQ+, you need a safe space. Right now the world has proven that it doesn’t want us to exist. At best we can stay in the closet. At worst we can end up in a camp, and die. In between, parents abuse their children, and schools force them to make compromises. A year ago I wrote about the shooting and related it to Alison Bechdel’s graphic novels. She mentioned seeking a safe space to explore her sexuality.
Pulse was supposed to be a safe space. Supportive parents could dance with their kids. Single men, women, and nonbinary people could dance to loud music. Kids could discover their sexuality while partying. Then an idiot with a gun entered, and turned the joy into tragedy.
Then we get to the 2016 Tonys. The Tony Awards commemorate new musicals that arrive each year. Theatre is generally an inclusive safe space for LGBTQ and POC. Anthony Rapp, for example, built his career from Rent before settling down with a partner. People had to get dressed in expensive gowns and rent tuxedos, prepare acceptance speeches, and change into performance costumes. The show must go on, as the cliche goes. If my feelings as a distance spectator were mixed, I can only imagine it was harder for the performers.
The Tonys recreated a safe space, a haven from the bullets and dead bodies chronicled in the papers. Host James Corden opened the show by singing about how everyone in the audience, and those watching from home, could be onstage and become a part of the show. All of the nominees joined in with James, warm and loving to each other. The School of Rock kids affirmed they were here to rock, not to win, despite giving a showstopping performance about their affinity for guitar, bass, drums and keys. George Washington and the cast of Hamilton reenacted the Battle of Yorktown without prop muskets. The women of Waitress sang about their lives, and surviving mundane horrors such as domestic abuse and building a new life. We knew that a tragedy had happened, but the performers straddled the line between integrating our shock and grief and resuming the show.
Hamilton stole the show, as well as most of the Tony Awards. Lin Manuel Miranda portrayed Alexander Hamilton, a historical figure who in modern times would have identified as bisexual. He married Elizabeth Schuyler, who deserved better than him, but also exchange flirtatious letters with a male comrade. Hamilton admitted in one letter that he loved John Laurens, a married abolitionist, and in another admitted he was jealous at a lack of responses from John. Later on Hamilton’s son John Church would censor these letters, to protect his father’s reputation. I guess we should feel fortunate that the letters survived,
As far as I know, the revolutionaries didn’t have a nightclub, or the Supreme Court upholding gay marriage. If Hamilton didn’t have an affair with John Laurens, a married abolitionist, then they certainly shared a passion with words. Did they have a safe space? Did they have their Pulse, their Tonys? Would a Laurens Pamphlet have brought down Hamilton the way the Reynolds Pamphlet did, which chronicled his torrid affair with a married woman? Could Eliza Schuyler have forgiven her husband, who also loved her?
Hamilton asks the audience what is a legacy, if what we do in our life is enough when we don’t control who remembers us. Our 2017 legacy will be tricky, mark my words. We need to stay alive, and remind people that we exist. That won’t be easy, with who is in charge, but we have technology on our side, and changed attitudes.
I’m not sure what will happen at the Tonys this year, which we’ll see on Sunday, June 11. The nominees look promising, and I hope that no future tragedy strikes. I also hope that we can keep LGBTQ spaces safe, away from guns, from armies, and from hate.
A 2016 MBA graduate and published author, Priya Sridhar has been writing fantasy and science fiction for fifteen years, and counting, as well as drawing a webcomic for five years. She believes that every story is a journey, and that a good tale allows the reader to escape to a new world. She also enjoys reading, biking, movie-watching, and classical music. Priya lives in Miami, Florida with her family and posts monthly at her blog A Faceless Author.