Austin Mayor Steve Adler presented the cast of “Hamilton” with the Key to the City last Wednesday for their diversity and inclusivity. Daily Record photo by Celeste Hollister
'Hamilton' cast honored for diversity
Last Wednesday, Austin Mayor Steve Adler presented the cast of “Hamilton” with the Key to the City, an honor that no other city in the United States has bestowed upon them. An advocate for diversity in a city that champions inclusivity, Adler recognized the play and its creator, Lin Manuel-Miranda, for its dedication to these ideals.
Adler, who spoke at a rally in support of LGBTQ equality in Austin and extended invitations to transgender military personnel to apply for positions in the Austin Police Department after Trump declared they would no longer be able to serve, has endeavored during his term to preserve Austin’s culture of inclusion.
“This musical is great because it gives us a historical perspective on what is happening now, politically,” Adler said during his presentation of the key to “Hamilton” cast members Nik Walker (Aaron Burr), Marcos Choi (George Washington) and Ta’Rea Campbell (Angelica Schuyler).
“Hamilton” recounts the life of Alexander Hamilton, an immigrant from the West Indies who rose from poverty to become George Washington’s right-hand man during the Revolutionary War. In the face of rivalry and hardship, Hamilton later served as the United States’ first Treasury secretary.
After the key ceremony, cast members were able to share their thoughts about the importance of representation for today’s audiences.
“Right now,” Choi said, “representation is everything. Diversity is everything. When I was growing up, the first national tour of “Miss Saigon” came through LA. I remember seeing Asian-American actors on stage and thinking, ‘that’s possible. I can do that.’ A lot of times, younger Asian Americans reach out and express their appreciation and joy — and parents, too — because, in some way, to see an Asian American playing a role in such an influential show, they have a little bit of ownership.”
Walker expressed similar feelings regarding the importance of representation in “Hamilton.”
“When I was growing up,” Walker said, “and this is not a knock on any of these shows, but the only places I could see people who looked like me in principle roles, I was either going to be a lion, a hyena, or a thug. If I had been able to see someone play a role like this — what a difference that would have made in my childhood.”
Speaking of role models in theater, Ta’Rea Campbell agreed, saying, “When I was growing up, I didn’t see a lot of people who looked like me. The beautiful thing that Lin (Manuel-Miranda) did when he cast this show is that he cast it as how America would look today. A lot of times people get shut out — poor people, brown people, trans people. It’s important that he wrote something that showcased somebody from nothing getting so much. It’s the story of Alexander Hamilton, but also the story of the casting. I want brown girls to see that it is possible, that you can look like me and be up here as well. Alexander Hamilton was an immigrant. He had nothing and look where he went.”
Because Austin pledges to protect its diversity, Adler’s act of granting the Keys to the City shows a similar devotion to representation of all members of society, regardless of race, religion, ability or identity.
“Hamilton” will continue its Austin run at the Bass Concert Hall this weekend with a show tonight at 8 p.m., two shows on Saturday, at 1 p.m. and 8 p.m., and two shows on Sunday, at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. Tickets start at $129.