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The Nonbinary Production of 1776 on Broadway

By Lori Perkins

As soon as I learned that nonbinary actors were performing the current production of the musical, I wanted to see it, and I was fortunate enough to do so during the week between the holidays.

I had seen a version of this play with my patents during the bicentennial, and I vaguely remembered that there was a movie made of this as well. As much as I “liked” history in school, I now know that what I was taught is only half the story at best, but I was curious to see how this would play out.

I was amazed, so much so, that I would even see it again (as did my friend who recommended it to me).

As most of you know, 1776 is the play about the interior politics of getting the Declaration of Independence signed by all the states’ representatives. Even in the ‘60s, when this play was first performed it was considered somewhat progressive because it told the story of the compromises the drafters made on freedom versus slavery to get all to agree. This play was never a celebration of American right as much as a look at how we became who we are.

And that is the genius of this production. By having actors who are not cis white men playing Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson and James Adams, all the testosterone of the original conflict has been removed, leaving only the words and deeds. Seeing nonmale actors of all color confront these issues gives them a power and resonance that makes this play even more thought-provoking than it was originally.


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