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"Art can console us": the Tony Awards honors the Orlando shooting victims

The 58th GRAMMY Awards - 'Hamilton' GRAMMY Performance Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images
Aja Romano writes about pop culture, media, and ethics. Before joining Vox in 2016, they were a staff reporter at the Daily Dot. A 2019 fellow of the National Critics Institute, they’re considered an authority on fandom, the internet, and the culture wars.

On Sunday, following the deadliest mass shooting in US history at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, the Tony Awards dedicated its 70th annual ceremony and telecast to the victims, in a statement released on Twitter:

"Our hearts are heavy for the unimaginable tragedy that happened last night in Orlando. The Tony Awards dedicate tonight’s ceremony to them."

Prior to the show, the cast of Hamilton announced that out of respect for the Orlando shooting victims, they would not be using prop muskets during their performance of the musical’s Revolutionary War number, "The World Turned Upside Down."

Although the emphasis during the Tony Awards was on entertainment, remembrances devoted to the victims of were frequent. Host James Corden began the evening with a short speech in which he promised the show would go on despite the theater community being in mourning. "Hate can never win," Corden said, stating that the ceremony would be a celebration to honor the victims.

Broadway costumer William Ivey Long distributed silver ribbons for nominees and ceremony attendees to wear in observance of the shooting.

Onstage, several award winners acknowledged the tragedy. In addition to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s moving, tear-choked sonnet about the victims during his win for Best Score of a Musical, two veteran actors paid tribute. Jessica Lange, picking up her first Tony win for Best Actress in a Play for Long Day’s Journey Into Night, accepted the award by noting, "This is a dream come true, and it fills me with such happiness, even on such a sad day as this."

Perhaps the most emotional tribute came from four-time Tony winner Frank Langella, who delivered a moving speech while accepting the Tony for Best Actor in a Play. After acknowledging his brother’s battle with dementia, which mirrors the experience of the character Langella plays onstage in The Father, Langella turned his attention to Orlando: "Today in Orlando we had a hideous dose of reality, and I urge you, Orlando, to be strong, because I’m standing in a room full of the most generous beings on Earth, and we will be with you every step of the way."

Frank Langella honors the Orlando shooting victims at the 2016 Tony Awards.

Presenting the award for Best Musical, Broadway legend Barbra Streisand closed out the night with one last remembrance.

"Tonight our joy is tinged with sorrow," she said. "But we’re here to celebrate Broadway."

Then she reminded the audience why celebrating art matters even at times of tragedy: "Art can entertain us and, at times like these, console us."

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