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Tony Awards: Winners Champion the Arts in Politically Charged Speeches

The turbulent state of culture and politics in the Trump era were top of mind for many Tony Award winners. A number of those who made the trip to the stage at Radio City Music Hall on Sunday cited the role that theater can play in opening minds, touching hearts, and illuminating universal human truths.

Cynthia Nixon, who won featured actress in a play for “Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes,” said she was grateful to have had the chance to perform in the groundbreaking 1939 play about lesbian relationships at “this specific moment in history.” She called it “eerily prescient” and offered a pointed quote from the playwright.

“There are people who eat the Earth and all the people on it and there are all the people who just stand around and watch them do it,” she said. She expressed her appreciation for “all the people who are refusing to just stand and watch them do it.”

Sally Field, a nominee for “The Glass Menagerie,” delivered a brief history of the service work done since the World War I era by “the women of the Wing” — the American Theater Wing, which administers the Tony Awards. She finished by assuring the crowd that the Wing is going strong in its mission to “illuminate the darkness with the blazing truth of art.”

Kevin Kline, winner for leading actor in a play for “Present Laughter,” called out in his thank-yous the National Endowment for the Arts, which has been threatened with losing its federal funding under the Trump administration. Kline cited the NEA as an organization “without which half the people in this room would not be here.”

Lynne Meadow, artistic director of the Manhattan Theater Club, hailed the legacy of playwright August Wilson as she accepted the trophy for best revival of a play for Wilson’s “Jitney.” The play exemplifies Wilson’s “belief in the importance of coming together in adversity and to celebrate our humanity — our shared humanity,” Meadow said, her voice rising.

Stephen Colbert was on hand to present the trophy for revival of a musical. Not surprisingly, the “Late Show” host took quick aim at Trump. He joked about the revival in Washington, D.C. of a show that started off-Broadway in the 1980s. “This revival is supposed to have a four-year run but reviews have not been kind,” Colbert quipped to wild applause. “It could close early — we don’t know.”

Bette Midler, a winner for “Hello, Dolly!,” also hit the prevailing anti-Trump sentiment head on in an unabashed plug for her show. “This thing has the ability to lift your spirits in these terrible, terrible times,” she assured the crowd.

Trump also dominated the conversation on the red carpet. Watch interviews below.

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