3 lessons Broadway shows like 'Hamilton' can teach Hollywood.

Broadway isn't exactly a shining example of diversity, but you aren't going to see #TonysSoWhite anytime soon.

Only one African-American woman has ever earned the Academy Award for Best Actress. One. (In fact, you can see all of the African-American Oscar winners for acting and most of their speeches in this video that's less than five minutes long.)

Meanwhile, Broadway has celebrated actors, writers, choreographers, and directors of color on the stage for decades, with several big names earning multiple awards in their lifetime — a feat few Hollywood actors of color have been able to achieve.


Left to right: Patina Miller, Cicely Tyson, and Billy Porter at the 2013 Tony Awards. Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images.

Here are three easy lessons Hollywood can learn from Broadway.

Because if the Great White Way can make money telling stories by and about people from traditionally underrepresented groups, then why can't Hollywood?



Lin-Manuel Miranda (left) performs with the cast of his 2008 hit "In the Heights." Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images.

1. White, straight Americans aren't the only ones living the human experience.

It seems obvious, but sadly, many Hollywood insiders still don't get it. Broadway is winning by sharing and celebrating the rich stories, traditions, and cultures of traditionally underrepresented people.

Whether it's the cruel injustice faced by Japanese-Americans in internment camps during World War II, as depicted in George Takei's biographical musical, "Allegiance"...

Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images.

Or the story of five women during Liberia's civil war in the upcoming "Eclipsed." Written by Danai Gurira (who you may know as Michonne from "The Walking Dead") and starring Lupita Nyong'o, it's the first Broadway production to boast an entirely black cast and all-female creative team.

Coming to #Broadway February 23rd. Tickets on sale today. #eclipsed #eclipsedplay @lupitanyongo @ladyzjah @vintagepopsoul @danaijekesaigurira @liesltommy @clintramos Photo: Joan Marcus
A photo posted by Eclipsed on Broadway (@eclipsedbway) on

Even seeing a familiar story through a different lens can be quite revolutionary. That's how Lin-Manuel Miranda made American history come alive in his hip-hop infused musical "Hamilton."

Miranda accepts the award for Best Musical Theater Album at the Grammys. Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images.

While the experiences may look unfamiliar on the outside, all of these stories hit themes that are deeply personal and universal: perseverance, love, and hope. And contrary to movie previews, white, straight people aren't the only ones who experience these things.

2. Challenge the status quo, rake in the dough.

(This one rhymes so you know it's true. )

While originality, writing, and creating new stories are important, Broadway has a long history of reviving older musicals and plays to offer a fresh take on these well-loved stories.

One way to breathe new life into long-running musicals and plays is with color-blind casting.

Actresses of color like Brandy Norwood and Carly Hughes have taken on the lead roles in the long-running Broadway classic "Chicago."

Hughes performs during a rehearsal for "Chicago." Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images.

In 2014, actor Norm Lewis took the stage as the 13th actor to play the phantom in "Phantom of the Opera" on Broadway. It was the 10,936th performance of the show, and Lewis was the first African - American in the role.

And in the summer of 2015, actor Kyle Jean-Baptiste became the youngest and first African - American actor to play the role of Jean Valjean in "Les Misérables."

Before and after shot. Today is my last performance as Valjean on Broadway. What an incredible experience. I've learned and grown so much. Grateful for the people I've met and this opportunity. I will never forget it. Dedicating this performance to someone special to me. They know who they are. Also sending love to everyone who supported me. Family friends etc. Until next time ..Kyle signing out...saudade❤️✌🏿️ #onedaymore#valjeanout#24601 @lesmizbway
A photo posted by Kyle Jean- Baptiste (@baptistekyle1) on

Sadly, just days after the end of his historic run, 21-year-old Jean-Baptiste died after falling from a fire escape.

Color-blind casting for these eminent roles is a great way to broaden the talent pool and opens up opportunities for actors of color. Plus it freshens up these long-running shows and gives customers new reasons to see them again and again. Or, in Hollywood terms, "cha-ching."

3. There's no such thing as niche. A good story can appeal to anyone.

The true story of a lesbian cartoonist telling the tale of her dysfunctional family, including her closeted father's suicide.

Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions.

A coming-of-age story based on a 19th century German play that touches on abortion, child abuse, and other tough themes, performed in English and American Sign Language.

Rehearsing, rehearsing, rehearsing (and more rehearsing!)
A photo posted by Deaf West Theatre (@deafwest) on

A musical based on the real story of a young man who turns his dead father's shoe company into a place to make stiletto heels for drag performers.

Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions.

These aren't small productions. These are synopses for "Fun Home," the revival of "Spring Awakening," and "Kinky Boots." "Fun Home" and "Kinky Boots" have both recouped their investments and cleaned up at the Tony Awards. And all three shows have or will soon begin national tours.

Considering the average ticket holder for a Broadway production is a middle-aged white woman from outside New York City, this is no small feat. It's a reminder that people don't need their characters to look or behave just like them because at heart, good stories are universal.

It's not hard, Hollywood.

All you need is a great story, millions of dollars, and a few people willing to take a chance on storytellers, actors, and creators who want to bring unique offerings to life. They won't all be hits, but that's a risk you're already taking.

At least this way, we'll get compelling stories; see representations of different cultures, traditions, and populations; and open ourselves up to greater empathy. Oh, and better movies. We'll definitely get better movies.

Now who's in?

GIF via "Hamilton."




Researchers at Harvard University have studied the connection between spanking and kids' brain development for the first time, and their findings echo what studies have indicated for years: Spanking isn't good for children.

Comments on this article will no doubt be filled with people who a) say they were spanked and "turned out fine" or b) say that the reason kids are [fill in the blank with some societal ill] these days are because they aren't spanked. However, a growing body of research points to spanking creating more problems than it solves.

"We know that children whose families use corporal punishment are more likely to develop anxiety, depression, behavior problems, and other mental health problems, but many people don't think about spanking as a form of violence," said Katie A. McLaughlin, director of the Stress & Development Lab in the Department of Psychology, and the senior researcher on the study which was published Friday in the journal Child Development. "In this study, we wanted to examine whether there was an impact of spanking at a neurobiological level, in terms of how the brain is developing."

You can read the entire study here, but the gist is that kids' brain activity was measured using an MRI machine as they reacted to photos of actors displaying "fearful" and "neutral" faces. What researchers found was that kids who had been spanked had similar brain neural responses to fearful faces as kids who had been abused.

"There were no regions of the brain where activation to fearful relative to neutral faces differed between children who were abused and children who were spanked," the authors wrote in a statement.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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