This is a great week for artists of color. Three brown-skinned, stunningly talented black women won Emmys on Sunday. One of them, the flawless Viola Davis, made history not only as the first black woman to win a primetime Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress, but also by starting her speech with a gotdamn Harriet Tubman quote. Scandal, Empire, and How To Get Away with Murder returned this week (my red wine is ready, Olivia).
On the theatre side of things, the Hamilton original cast album was streaming online this week and came out on iTunes at midnight today. Like the groundbreaking show itself, the album has slayed the lives of many a theatre geek. In the midst of the first of countless listenings, I wondered, in awe, “Is Lin-Manuel Miranda our Stephen Sondheim?”
And then it hit me. We immediately go to that as the greatest honor. We compare exceptional black and brown artists to great white men (or women) because we still internalize and externalize the idea that people of color are inherently inferior. As the thoughtful and hysterical podcast For Colored Nerds pointed out in their most recent episode, the only reason the Angela Bassets of the world aren’t doing Meryl Streep work is because of their abundance of melanin. Blame the myth that black work doesn’t do well overseas or whatever else, but there’s something going on.
Colored folks are excellent independent of anyone else. Not “instead of” or “in spite of” or “relative to” but just “also” and “too.” The world is wide enough for all of us.
So no, self, Miranda isn’t our modern Latino Sondheim. He’s Lin-Manuel Miranda, plain and glorious and great.
“How lucky we are to be alive right now.” We get them both.
Love and theatre,