Sav Souza costars in the Broadway revival of the historical musical 1776. They play Dr. Josiah Bartlett, a real-life physician whose signature is on the Declaration of Independence. Bartlett was a straight white man. Souza identifies as queer and transgender. When they were initially asked to audition for 1776, Souza was, to put it mildly, confused.
“I couldn’t begin to fathom how I was supposed to fit into the world of this show,” Souza tells Broadway Direct. “Trans and queer people have been deeply erased from most accounts of historical events. And I have no interest in subjecting myself to watching, or participating in, versions of history that perpetuate the erasure of myself and my community.”
But this revival is not like any previous production of the show. 1776 is a musical by composer and lyricist Sherman Edwards and book writer Peter Stone. It first played on Broadway in 1969 and has been a popular regional and community-theater fixture ever since. It dramatizes the story of how representatives from the 13 original American colonies decided to separate from Great Britain and sign the Declaration of Independence. Throughout the musical, they debate, argue, compromise, and, eventually, put the matter up for a vote.
Traditionally, 1776 has been performed by a cast largely made up of white men. But in this new revival, hitting Broadway at the American Airlines Theatre on September 16, it is taking a page from Hamilton. America’s Founding Fathers are now played by female, transgender, and nonbinary actors of varying ethnicities — the very people left out of that original fight for freedom. There are also new arrangements of Edwards’s songs by orchestrator John Clancy.
When Souza realized the concept for this new version of 1776, their hesitancy turned to enthusiasm. “I felt really excited to reclaim the space that was taken from LGBTQ+ people in the creation of the country — a country where we are still fighting for our rights today,” says Souza.
Souza isn’t an outlier. When asked if they were fans of 1776 before being cast in the revival, many members of the cast said no. Sushma Saha plays Judge James Wilson, a delegate from Pennsylvania, and they admit they had never seen the musical before their audition.
“I wasn’t really interested in learning about a history that didn’t include or consider people like me,” they say, before adding, “The majority of American history is whitewashed and lies on the foundation of Indigenous, Black, and POCs’ backs with credit rarely given where it was due.”
This new production isn’t trying to add a splash of diversity to older material or make the Founding Fathers look trendy. Instead, it is setting out to make history more visceral, to show that change is risky and that the fight for personal freedom is never easy. For the 13 colonies, to declare independence from England in 1776 was tantamount to treason.
Oneika Phillips plays North Carolina delegate and slave owner Joseph Hewes. For her, the new production emphasizes the ideas that America was actually founded on “protest, rebellion, lawbreaking, violence if needed,” she says. In fact, Phillips says that was a big realization she had while doing the show: The Founding Fathers “chose violence through the words of the Declaration of Independence. On all fronts. Against the king. For their liberties,” she says.
But there’s also a contradiction to that declaration of freedom. The Founding Fathers may have fought for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, but only for white, male landowners. Those “inalienable rights” did not extend to women, the Black people who were enslaved, or the Native Americans who were slaughtered.
The creative team has made revisions to 1776 to address that hypocrisy. Directors Jeffrey L. Page and Diane Paulus asked the creators’ estates to give them permission to include a quote from Abigail Adams, the wife of John Adams.
In the show, John is the one most passionate about independence, so much so that the opening number has the irritated delegates shouting en masse, “Sit down, John!” In one new scene in the revival, Abigail tells John to “remember the ladies” who have no “voice and representation,” and to “not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands. Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could.” This new version of 1776 makes sure that the audiences don’t forget the ladies.
That’s not the only scene that acknowledges the people outside the room where it happens. In another tense moment, the founders debate whether to include a paragraph in the Declaration of Independence that condemns slavery as an “assemblage of horrors.” There is even a song, called “Molasses to Rum,” which details the atrocities of the slave trade. They eventually agree to remove that passage from the document in order to get the support of the Southern states.
To Ariella Serur, a standby actor in 1776, that part of the musical shows how America was founded “on a bed of injustice,” she says. “If slavery was eradicated when this country was founded, who knows what our collective freedom and liberation might look like today. But instead, our forefathers felt compromise was needed in order to move the needle on independence — compromise that has kept whole groups of people oppressed.”
To Serur, that’s what makes 1776 “more relevant than ever,” because it brings to mind that the fight for true liberty and justice for all has continued to this day, from Black Lives Matter to abortion rights and LGBTQ+ rights.
In short, the cast considers their presence in 1776 a form of commentary in and of itself. But they also take their jobs seriously, as actors portraying real people. They read up on their respective Founding Fathers and used those biographical details to inform their performances.
Patrena Murray, who plays Benjamin Franklin, learned that Franklin was a ladies’ man, which surprised her “the most,” and that he was a chess player. In the musical, Franklin helps John Adams convince the other states to sign on to the Declaration of Independence. Murray surmises chess may have helped Franklin strategize.
“In no way am I a chess player,” Murray admits. At the same time, “I keep in mind that Dr. Franklin was a chess player, a person who thinks many moves ahead from one single move. One single move can determine your endgame. I like to think that the joy and the focus the game requires enriched Dr. Franklin as a diplomat.”
Nancy Anderson plays George Read, a conservative delegate from Delaware. She made sure to inhabit the physicality of Read, who “was known historically as a soft-spoken, slightly built, methodical man,” says Anderson. “So I spent much of rehearsal and the [pre-Broadway] run at American Repertory Theater working out the patterns of his behavior that gave him a sense of safety and order.” Playing Read also taught Anderson that he was “childish” and “craved the spotlight.”
As a Black woman, Phillips admits that playing a white slave owner feels heavy. Every night before the pre-Broadway run of the show, she developed a ritual. “I found a roster of the names of some of the people he enslaved,” she says. “I either say their names or lift a meditation to ancestors nightly.” She is also aware of the cosmic irony of the situation: “Knowing Joseph Hewes would likely suffer apoplexy knowing a Black Caribbean woman is playing his slave-owning behind: That is inspiring enough.”
Though many of the actors in 1776 weren’t familiar with the musical before performing in it, they admit that being part of the show has given them a new ownership of this classic musical and of American history.
Mehry Eslaminia plays Charles Thomson, a secretary who, in the musical, reads a pivotal message from George Washington. Eslaminia had never even seen or listened to 1776 before auditioning for the musical. Her father is from Iran and her mother is from El Salvador, so as the children of immigrants, the words in the Declaration of Independence “weren’t for my family. These words weren’t for me,” she says.
But that’s changed now that she’s part of this revival. “With these diverse humans on stage saying words that were originally said by white men, it makes you hear it in a completely different way,” she says.
The musical may be called 1776, but for this new Broadway cast, it is actually about 2022. Says Eslaminia: “It feels powerful to me in this way because it’s like a new declaration. Our declaration. A declaration that says, ‘This is America. And we still have work to do.’”
Or, as Phillips says more bluntly: “Hello, 2022? 1776 is on the line for you.”
Information We Collect
Information we collect directly from you: Your provision of your personal information to Us is completely voluntary; it is not a statutory or contractual requirement. Personally Identifiable Information (“PII”) is information that is uniquely identifiable to you, such as your name, address, email address, phone number, credit card number and other personal information that is not otherwise publicly available. Certain features of Our website may require that you provide Us with your personal information, including:
Mobile Alert Sign-Up (SMS)
Contact Us (email)
Public forums (e.g. message boards)
E-commerce (ticket purchases)
Your use of any of the features above;
New content on Our website;
News that We think may interest you about Us;
Responses to your questions/comments to us; and
Information relating to a ticket purchase.
We may use your demographic information for in house statistics, advertising and marketing target information. Our processing of your personal information is necessary for the performance and fulfillment of the contract between us and to provide you with Our services. We will also process, transfer, disclose and preserve personal information when We have a good faith belief that doing so is necessary, to resolve disputes, enforce our agreements and otherwise required by law. You can always opt-out of receiving future promotional communications from Us; see the Choice/Opt-out section below.Information We Collect Automatically: Even if you don’t use any of the features above, when you visit Our website, We may collect certain information about you.
From your Browser. For example, Our servers keep an activity log that tracks all visitors to the website. The information in the activity log does not identify you individually. The information collected may include among other data: your IP address, your registered domain or home server, time of access, date of access, web page(s) visited, number of clicks, software crash reports, type of browser used, session identification number, search terms, search results, access times and referring website’s address. We use your IP address to help diagnose problems with Our server and to administer Our website. Your IP address is also used to gather broad demographic information, such as country of origin and geographic location. We use such data in the aggregate to run internal analyses to improve upon your experience on Our website.
Tracking Tags (also known as “web beacons,” “action tags” or “single-pixel gifs”). Our website may also use tracking tags. Tracking tags are invisible graphics embedded in the pages of Our website that are programmed to collect non-personal information about your use of Our website. Like cookies, tracking tags provide overall usage patterns for Our website that We use for analysis and to provide personalized services and advertising content.
We comply with the Self-Regulatory Principles for Online Behavioral Advertising set forth by the Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA). You can opt-out of targeted advertising from certain providers at www.aboutads.info/consumers.
How We Use Your Personal Information
The personal information We collect allows Us to keep you posted on updates to Broadway Direct. It also helps Us to improve Our services, content, and advertising. If you don’t want to be on Our email list, you can opt out anytime by clicking the “unsubscribe” button or sending an unsubscribe email to [email protected]. From time to time, We may use your personal information to send transactional emails, such as communications about purchases and changes to Our terms, conditions, and policies. Because this information is important to your interaction with Broadway Direct, you may not opt out of receiving these communications. We may also use personal information for internal purposes such as auditing, data analysis, and research to improve Broadway Direct’s services, and customer communications. If you enter into a sweepstakes, contest, or similar promotion We may use the information you provide to administer those programs.
Information Collected By/Shared With Third Parties
Third Parties Doing Work for Us. Third parties have no rights to use any data We have collected on your behalf. However, We may employ other companies or individuals to perform functions on Our behalf, such as sending postal mail, email, and text messages, conducting sweepstakes/contests, prize fulfillment and promotional activities, analyzing data, providing marketing assistance, processing credit card payments and providing customer service. These outside suppliers, agents and vendors have access to your personal information only as needed to perform their functions.
Third Parties with Links from Our Website. From our website, you may be able to click on links to third party sites to buy tickets and merchandise and for other purposes. These third party sites may collect information, including personal information. We are not responsible for, nor do we have access to the information they collect. The collection of this information is governed by the privacy policies on the applicable third party sites.
Social Networking Services. Our website may integrate with social networking services. We do not control such services and are not liable for the manner in which they operate. While we may provide you with the ability to use such services in connection with our website, we are doing so merely as an accommodation and, like you, are relying upon those third party services to operate properly and fairly.
When necessary. We may also release personal information when we believe, in good faith, that such release is reasonably necessary to protect the rights, property or safety of Ourselves, Our clients, Our users, or others. We may disclose personal information about you to law enforcement, other government officials, or other third parties, as We, in our sole discretion, believe necessary or appropriate, in connection with an investigation of fraud, intellectual property infringement, or other activity that is illegal or may expose Us to legal liability.
Transactions With Third Party E-commerce Partners, Vendors and Advertisers
Delivery of Advertising and Other Content
In addition to ads and content that We may serve you directly, We use third-party advertising companies and marketing services companies to serve ads and other content when you visit Broadway Direct and elsewhere on the internet and in other media. Both We and these companies may use information about your visits to Broadway Direct and elsewhere to serve ads and other content to you. In the course of doing so, a unique third-party cookie may be placed or recognized on your browser by such companies. In addition, We and these companies may use Web beacons to help manage Our online advertising and content. These Web beacons enable Us and the third-party companies to recognize a browser’s cookie when a browser visits this Site and to learn which banner ads bring users to our website and to serve you ads that you may find of interest elsewhere on the internet and in other media. Both Broadway Direct and these companies may use information obtained from your visits to Broadway Direct or other websites, and information received from you offline in order to provide advertisements about goods and services and other content of interest to you across the internet and in other media. If you would like more information about this practice and to know your choices about not having this information used in this manner by Our third party advertising companies, please visit http://www.networkadvertising.org/optout_nonppii.asp and/or www.aboutads.info/choices. European users may opt out of receiving targeted advertising by visiting http://www.youronlinechoices.eu/. In addition, we may provide PII and Anonymous Information to marketing services companies. This may include information we received from you offline or online. These companies may combine information we provide (including PII and Anonymous Information) with personal and anonymous information they may have about you, using cookies they place or that We place on their behalf, as described in the section regarding “Cookies and Tracking Tags”. We require these companies to delete the PII we provide them. These companies may use the resulting non-personal information and such cookies for their own marketing purposes, and they may provide the same to their customers for their customer’s marketing purposes. Some of Our emails may contain tags that allow Us and Our advertisers and other partners to determine the types of content that may be of interest to you. Those tags may contain PII and may be shared with others to the same extent indicated in the section regarding “Cookies and Tracking Tags”. Those tags may not be deleted but you can opt out of receiving the emails.
Use of This Site by Children
The Site is not directed to individuals under the age of thirteen (13), and We request that such individuals do not provide personal information through the Site. If a parent or guardian becomes aware that his or her child has provided Us with PII without the parent or guardian’s consent by, for example, misrepresenting his or her age, that parent or guardian should contact us at [email protected]. If Broadway Direct determines that it has collected personal information of children under the age of 13, Broadway Direct will immediately delete such information and any accounts believed to be held by children under 13. In addition, we may not collect or process information from a citizen of an EU member state under the age of sixteen (16) without such person’s parental consent. If you are a citizen of an EU member state under the age of 16, please tell your parents that you are using the Site and have your parents email Us at [email protected] so that We may delete any information We may have collected about you.
California Civil Code § 1798.83 permits California residents to request information about whether we have disclosed personal information to any third parties for the third parties’ direct marketing purposes. California residents have the right to request in writing: (a) a list of the categories of Personal Information, such as name, email address and mailing address and the type of services provided to the customer that a business has disclosed to third parties (including affiliates that are separate legal entities) during the immediately preceding calendar year for the third parties’ direct marketing purposes and (b) the names and addresses of all such third parties. To make a request, please contact Us at the following email address: [email protected].
Rights of EU Data Subjects
If you are a resident of the European Union, under the GDPR, European Union residents, as data subjects, have the following rights:
Right to access – This right allows individuals to obtain confirmation as to whether or not personal information concerning him or her is being processed and provide access to such personal information. It also allows individuals to request details of the processing of his or her personal information, including, without limitation, categories of recipients to whom the personal information have been or will be disclosed and purposes of processing.
Right to rectify – This right allows individuals to rectify any inaccurate personal information about him or her.
Right to restrict processing – This right allows individuals to block or suppress processing of personal data under certain circumstances.
Right to be forgotten – This right is also known as the “right to erasure”. It is an individual’s right to have personal data erased or to prevent processing in specific circumstances.
Right of data portability – This right allows individuals to move, copy or transfer personal data from one place to another in a secure manner without interrupting the integrity and usability of the information.
Right to object to processing – This right allows individuals to object to certain types of processing, including direct marketing, profiling and providing for purposes of scientific or historical research and statistics.
An EU resident has the right to access his or her personal data that We hold and to ask that their personal data be corrected or erased and to port their data. An EU resident may also have the right to object to, or request that We restrict certain processing or to withdraw consent previously provided. If you would like to exercise your rights under the GDPR, please contact us at [email protected]. If you are an EU resident and have a concern about our processing of your personal data that we are not able to resolve, you have the right to lodge a complaint with the Data Protection Authority where you reside. For contact details of your relevant local Data Protection Authority, please see http://ec.europa.eu/newsroom/article29/item-detail.cfm?item_id=612080
Security of Your Personal Information
Broadway Direct employs reasonable security measures consistent with standard industry practice, for personal information collected through this Site, including physical, electronic and operational measures to maintain security and prevent unauthorized access. While Broadway Direct takes all appropriate steps to safeguard personal information under Our control, unfortunately, no data transmission over the Internet or method of storing data can be guaranteed to be 100% secure. As such, We cannot guarantee that personal information supplied by users will not be accessed on Our servers, or intercepted while being transmitted to Us over the Internet. We assume no liability for any damages you may suffer as a result of interception, alteration or misuse of information during such transfers.
We will retain your information for as long as your account or inquiry is active and for a reasonable time thereafter in accordance with Our standard procedures or as necessary to comply with Our legal obligations, to resolve disputes, and to enforce Our agreements. Even if We delete some or all of your Personal Information, We may continue to retain and use aggregate or anonymous data previously collected and/or anonymize or aggregate your Personal Information. Please note that We will not be liable for disclosures of your data due to errors or unauthorized acts of third parties.
This Site provides users the opportunity to opt-out of receiving communications from Us, at any time, by email at [email protected], or by clicking the unsubscribe link in any email communication. The Site gives users the following options for removing their information from our database, to not receive future communications or to no longer receive our service, at any time.
Users can send mail to the following postal address: Broadway Direct 1501 Broadway 14th floor New York, NY 10036
Users can call the following telephone number: (800) 223-6715.
Users can opt-out of receiving future newsletter emails from Us by selecting the “unsubscribe” link at the bottom of our email. However, We are not responsible for removing your information from the lists of any third party who has previously been provided with your information or is collecting your information through their cookies. You have the right to withdraw your consent for Our processing for your personal information by contacting us at [email protected].
This website gives users the following options for changing and modifying information previously provided, at any time.
Users can send mail to the following postal address: Broadway Direct 1501 Broadway 14th floor New York, NY 10036
Users can call the following telephone number: (800) 223-6715
In the event that We are, or any component of our operations is, merged with, or is acquired by, another entity, then any such successor or acquiring entity may become the successor to Our obligations with respect to the personal information that you have provided to Us, which would be necessary for the entity to effectively continue our business. By using this website, you consent to any transfer and use of such personal information by an entity assuming control of Our operations as a result of a merger, purchase of assets, or liquidation in bankruptcy or insolvency.