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The mass shooting inside a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., in the early hours of Sunday morning, which left 50 people dead and another 53 injured, took center stage at the top of Sunday night’s Tony Awards.
The CBS broadcast of the ceremony began with host James Corden standing alone onstage with his back to the audience addressing the “horrific” tragedy, which he said people around the world were “trying to come to terms with.”
“On behalf of the whole theater community and every person in this room, our hearts go out to all of those affected by this atrocity,” said Corden. “All we can say is you are not on your own right now. Your tragedy is our tragedy. 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’s show stands as a symbol and a celebration of that principle.”
A little more than 45 minutes later, Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda seemed to allude to the shootings in his acceptance speech for best score, which he wrote as a sonnet, claiming he was “too old” to freestyle a speech as he had when he won for In the Heights.
Miranda began by thanking his wife but soon segued into remarks about the musical’s enduring significance in light of Sunday’s shooting.
“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.” Miranda said before he appeared to start crying as he repeated several times, “Love is love is love is love … cannot be killed or swept aside.”
Roughly an hour later, another winner, Frank Langella, who accepted the Tony for best actor in a play, honored the victims of the shooting in his speech.
“There are so many names that I wrote down today to thank you, but I hope they will forgive me if I bring in a dose of true reality: What happened today in Orlando. I found some words that I think will mean more to you than a litany of names,” the actor said, pulling index cards out of his pockets. “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. I urge you Orlando to be strong because I’m standing in a room of the most generous human beings on earth, and we will be with you every step of the way.”
Presenting the Tony for best musical to Hamilton, Barbra Streisand began her remarks by saying, “Tonight our joy is tinged with sorrow. But we’re here to celebrate Broadway and the beauty that artistry can bring into this world.”
The awards show said earlier on Sunday that it was dedicating that evening’s ceremony from New York’s Beacon Theatre to the victims of the massacre at Pulse nightclub, the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.
A number of Broadway stars took to Twitter earlier in the day to react to the incident, with Miranda, whose show went into Sunday night’s awards up for a record 16 Tonys, posting a heart with a rainbow flag in it above the word “Orlando.” Veteran Broadway costumer William Ivey Long, a six-time Tony winner, designed silver ribbons for guests to wear in solidarity with the victims, with many stars sporting the tribute on the red carpet.
Hamilton also dropped its planned use of muskets in its performance, it was reported earlier in the day.
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