There’s still a long way to go, but the former US presidential candidate sees plenty to cheer in the theatre world, writes Howard Sherman
After her catastrophic loss to Donald Trump in 2016, it was widely reported that Hillary Clinton turned to walks in the woods, as well as chardonnay, for solace. But at the third Women’s Day on Broadway on March 10, the former US senator and presidential candidate confessed that she had a third, lesser-known comfort: the theatre.
“No matter what was happening, there was nothing like sinking into a seat, feeling the excitement and anticipation as the lights went down, and being transported out of our
crazy world at least for a little while,” she said.
Standing on the stage of Disney’s New Amsterdam Theatre, Clinton spoke to a full house that gave her standing ovations at the beginning and end of her 15-minute speech, which was also frequently interrupted by laughter, applause and cheers.
This happened particular when she said wryly that she has gained a new appreciation for the words of Shakespeare’s King Lear, quoting: “’Tis the time’s plague, when madmen lead the blind.” She left it to the audience to draw their own conclusions about her intent.
Oblique political commentary also came into play when Clinton spoke about the gender imbalance when it comes to hiring and pay. First citing a study on the issue, she said that it showed how when the only difference on a given résumé was male and female names, Joe had a significant advantage over Jane.
“The man is more likeable, good old Joe,” said Clinton. As she paused, she was interrupted by the crowd, who may have though that she was referring to presidential candidate Joe Biden, before continuing: “Poor Jane is seen as hostile and pushy and selfish and abrasive and untrustworthy.” When a member of the audience shouted: “We love Jane,” Clinton responded, without missing a beat: “Actually, we are Jane.”
Shifting back to theatre, Clinton said: “It’s not just about people running for office. It’s about changing minds and hearts. It really matters when women’s stories are told on the most high-profile stages in America. And so I feel encouraged personally by the progress we’ve seen towards diversity and inclusivity over the past few seasons on Broadway. Don’t stop.”
She spoke of the diversity of the 2015-16 Broadway season with Hamilton, The Color Purple, Eclipsed, On Your Feet and Shuffle Along, but pointed out that the following year was much less inclusive.
However, she did take note of the Broadway debuts of Lynn Nottage and Paula Vogel that year.