On Sunday, June 19, Fathers’ Day, hearts will be especially heavy as the world reflects on the 49 victims who lost their lives in Orlando, Florida, as victims of the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
It was just a week ago Sunday when the theatrical community, poised to celebrate the 2016 Tony Awards in NYC, felt the impact of the tragedy. In quick response, nominees and presenters wore silver ribbons — designed by veteran Broadway costume designer and six-time Tony winner William Ivey Long — to honor the victims.
As difficult for the heart to absorb so many deaths, it’s further exacerbated because many of those who died there, were Hispanic and African-American young people, many at the beginning of their lives. A particularly poignant fact to ponder in Broadway history, is that 2016 will be seen, as a historic and important year for the African and African-American artistic community given that all four awards for Performances in Musicals went to African-American actors.
“Hamilton,” the hip-hop musical about America’s first Treasury secretary, won 11 Tony Awards including picking up Broadway’s highest honor — the Tony for Best Musical. Proving that the art form of hip-hop is successful not only artistically, but commercially — it was earning about $6000,00 in profit weekly on Broadway — and is poised to expand its reach with productions opening in Chicago in September, followed by two North American tours and a London staging as well.
The lingering weight of the tragedy made many reflect on the value of time and the importance of family. Among those pondering such matters was Daveed Diggs, who plays both Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson in “Hamilton.” He was one of those cast members who took a Tony home — in his case, for Best Featured Actor in a Musical.
In Act I, of “Hamilton,” Diggs brings the thunder, commanding the stage first as Lafayette. According to the website FiveThirtyEight, which uses statistical analysis — hard numbers — to tell compelling stories about elections, politics, sports, science, economics, etc., he drops the fastest rap in Broadway history, with the song “Guns and Ships” clocking in at a dizzying 19 words in three seconds.
Then in Act 2, he shakes out his mane of hair, undoing his man-bun and turns into the complex Jefferson, who he paints with big strokes of braggadocio as well as ladening on a dash of entitled-dandy charm. A cool, confident ghost of history and a master adversary to Miranda’s Hamilton. The result is a hyped cabinet rap battle that brings audiences to their feet.
For Diggs, becoming a part of “Hamilton” — which marked his Broadway debut — was a stroke of pure “luck.”
Born and raised in Oakland, California, the son of a white, Jewish mother and an African-American father, Diggs honed his musical skills with the experimental Cali-based hip hop group CLIPPING.
A family focused artist, Diggs shared words of wisdom on the importance of following your dreams. “It’s important, and always has been, to my parents that I do something that I love. [I} watched his father report to a job he hated, as bus driver in San Franscico,, [and it] helped frame his hearts’ ambition.”
Diggs added that the success of “Hamilton” and his Tony win is dedicated to his parents.
Here is what the Tony winner had to say about his father on Tony night.
[On getting Tony win in contrast to the Orlando tragedy]
In the middle of all this thing, for me, it makes perfect sense in the mist of this performance [that] I get represent my actual self while telling this story, and I think that’s why Hamilton is so inclusive. We get to see our actual selves in this story about the founding of the country we all live and participate in.
[On sharing the news of his win with his family]
I tell me my dad and my grandfather too, I call him [grandfather] on the phone, too, he says some real slick stuff. They are supportive.
I’ve always aspired to be my father. I always have, and I am not… We are sort of fundamentally different, in a lot of ways, but I try him on from time to time.
I made this outfit [that I am wearing]. I feel great in this, because this is some stuff my dad would have worn when he was younger, and he looks so much better than me tonight — it’s ridiculous.
And it’s not just his style, but that’s the way that I get to play it. But it’s really the kind of man he is, and the kind of person he is who exudes the love that he does; and so getting to play a role where I get to take these things that I learned, from just trying to walk around, like my dad walks around — it’s great!
[Playing this historical role] of Thomas Jefferson — come on, there is no way that this should be ‘real’ — reading lines written for Thomas Jefferson — [and] I am like, “Yes, that’s my father,” except, maybe, that’s way too real.
It’s been so great. It’s been so much fun. It’s one of the great things about this process is how much of ourselves we were asked to bring to it and how much sense it kept making to do that.
My family is through all of this work and that’s great because I am so far away from them, right now. So iIt’s nice to carry them with me, all of them, it’s nice to feel that.