Broadway performers and artists discuss celebrating LGBT+ pride and the future of theater.
Renowned Broadway stars were center stage to champion inclusion and diversity and to share their stories of LGBT+ pride. At Morgan Stanley’s Out On Broadway Live, accomplished artists and performers discussed how they were celebrating PRIDE during these challenging times.
The eighth annual event, held online for the first time, featured Broadway professionals, including actor, director-producer Michael Urie, director Leigh Silverman, actor-comedian Jenn Colella, and actor Christian Dante White. Each acknowledged, from an LGBT+ perspective, gains that have been made as well as identifying how much work there is yet to do on and off stage.
Theatre producer and reporter Frank DiLella moderated a discussion that included shaping the dialogue around LGBT+ inclusion and other current social and professional issues.
Jenn Colella (Come From Away), who is sheltering at her home in Canada, is demonstrating her pride by holding her girlfriend’s hand while walking down the street. “I believe in being out wherever you are, in a sweet way,” she said. Early in her career, she was advised to keep quiet about her sexuality. When she finally decided to come out, “I felt more like myself and felt more authentic as a person and artist,” she said, adding that fans are excited to see someone like themselves on stage.
“Having a gay sister made it easier for me in my family,” said Michael Urie (Grand Horizons), but it was a gay high school friend who was the first person I came out to. He encouraged me to read Angels in America and Torch Song Trilogy. Embracing my queerness opened things for me.”
DiLella addressed issues of gender and race, and guests responded with their thoughts on the lack of stories about gay Black characters or transgender persons, and that Broadway had one Black director in 2010, and has only one Black director in 2020.
“That is a huge problem,” said Leigh Silverman (Violet). “We’ve had a kind of fantasy that we are in a place of progress…For many, this is a moment of awareness.”
“So much of queer theatre has been written by white men, said Michael. “Queer people are all people. The community is vast.”
Christian Dante White (The Book of Mormon) is excited to see a growing desire within people for more information about current social issues, and says it is no longer an excuse to not know what to do. “People are aware and thirsty for knowledge,” he said. “There are many resources. Read. Act. As many people as there are –that’s how much opportunity for change there is.”
For Leigh, her biggest challenge in theatre has been being a woman. As just the seventh woman to direct a play on Broadway, she said sexism is its own challenge, and that the industry is “exponentially harder for people of color.”
Referring to how the industry will react to the current spate of social issues unfolding in recent months, Michael said he can’t wait to see how the current wave of artists will respond. “Artists speak to the moment we are in. New voices are speaking to the new moment.”
DiLella closed the conversation by asking the guests what Pride meant to them.
Christian said, “Pride is about being your unapologetic, complicated, gorgeous unique self, 24/7.”
According to Leigh, “Pride is aspiration, changeable, ephemeral.”
“Regardless of your sexual orientation or race,” Jenn said, “if you can have pride in being a good human being, that is a good start.”
To Michael, “Pride is solidarity. Especially true this year, but also every year. Pride brings us all together.”
For a fourth year in a row, the American Theatre Wing was the non-profit partner of the event. Best known for founding the Tony Awards, the American Theatre Wing is primarily focused on creating opportunity for the next generation, with an emphasis on equity and inclusion.
Managing Director Sandra Richards and Executive Director Nadine Wong, in partnership with the Pride & Ally Network, first hosted the event in 2012. Richards is Head of Global Sports & Entertainment and Segment Sales & Engagement; Wong is a Private Wealth Advisor and Director in Sports and Entertainment, and is a board member of the American Theatre Wing. Serving as co-host of the gathering was Managing Director Jacqueline LiCalzi, Global Head of Regulatory Relations in Legal and Compliance and co-head of the Firm’s Pride & Ally Employee Network.