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Playwright Matthew López makes history as first Latino to win Tony for best play

He said: “We constitute 19 percent of the United States population, and we represent about 2 percent of the playwrights having plays on Broadway in the last decade. This must change."
2020 amfAR New York Gala - Inside
Matthew Lopez speaks at the 2020 amfAR New York Gala on Feb. 5, 2020, in New York.Jamie McCarthy / Getty Images file

Playwright Matthew López made history by becoming the first Latino to win the Tony Award for best play.

On stage at the Winter Garden Theater on Sunday night, López paid tribute to “three queer men” who inspired him to write his Broadway play, “The Inheritance.” He praised Howards End” writer E.M Forster; the late Terrence McNally, whom López described as “the spiritual godfather of this play,” and Miguel Piñero, the first Puerto Rican playwright to be produced on Broadway. 

“This is the 74th Tony Awards and yet I am only the first Latiné writer to win in this category. I say that ... to highlight the fact that the Latiné community is underrepresented in American theater, in New York theater, and most especially on Broadway,” López said from the stage. “We constitute 19 percent of the United States population, and we represent about 2 percent of the playwrights having plays on Broadway in the last decade. This must change.” 

self-described “gay Puerto Rican from the Florida panhandle,” he is the nephew of Broadway actor Priscilla Lopez, a member of the original cast of “A Chorus Line.” 

López saw his play take home four wins out of 11 nominations. 

On social media, his friends and colleagues cheered him on. “Huge congrats to my friend Matthew López on his historic win,” tweeted Gloria Calderon Kellett, co-creator of the reboot of “One Day At A Time.”  Eric Ulloa, cast member of Broadway’s “On Your Feet!” and a playwright, tweeted, “We never get these moments and so I will shout it from the rooftops, a LATIN writer’s play won BEST PLAY OF THE YEAR!!” 

López went on to make an impassioned plea for inclusion in the theater. “We (Latinos) are a vibrant community, reflecting a vast array of cultures, experiences and yes, skin tones. We have so many stories to tell, they are inside of us, aching to come out. Let us tell you our stories.” 

“The Inheritance” was a play about the legacy of the AIDS epidemic (in two parts, it ran a total of six hours). It premiered in London in 2018, where The Telegraph called it “perhaps the most important American play of the century so far.” On Broadway, “The Inheritance” ran from November 2019 to March 2020, shuttering with the onset of the pandemic.  

López is working on a new adaptation of the classic Whitney Houston film “The Bodyguard.” 

The Tony Awards broadcast also featured appearances by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Robin De Jesús, and Chita Rivera — who noted that it was 64 years since she created the role of Anita in “West Side Story” on stage at the Winter Garden Theater.  

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