Broadway’s wildly successful “Hamilton: An American Musical” took an eventful turn on its otherwise regular Friday night performance. In attendance was Vice President-elect Mike Pence, whom the cast’s Brandon Victor Dixon addressed at the conclusion of the show.
“We, sir — we — are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our unalienable rights, sir,” he said after welcoming him and thanking him for coming to the show. “But we truly hope this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and work on behalf of all of us. All of us.”
At about this point, social media blew up.
Dixon, who portrayed Aaron Burr, the nation’s third vice president (talk about irony), even encouraged the audience to take out their phones and share the message.
I don’t necessarily have a problem with the message. It’s relevant, and it’s how the cast and many members of the audience are feeling. The problem I have is that the theater, this place that is a safe haven for so many people from so many walks of life, is suddenly polarized and negative. As a Broadway enthusiast and major “Hamilton” fan, I have to say I was a little disappointed.
In a series of tweets the following morning, President-elect Donald Trump said that Pence was "harassed" by the Hamilton cast and that the theater should be "a safe and special place."
Of course, when Donald Trump said this on Twitter, it got immediate backlash for the use of the word "harassed." Dixon’s reply noted that “conversation is not harassment.”
While I agree with Dixon that the cast’s words would not necessarily qualify as harassment, I do believe that Trump was fair in saying that the cast was rude. As an integral part of the show, they should know better than anyone that Lin-Manuel Miranda’s purpose in casting non-whites as the founding fathers is to make sure everyone can leave their racial and political baggage at the door, and with that principle, they were out of line to breach the subject in the theater.
The subtext in Dixon’s address is “you don’t care about us,” and I think most people would be a little offended by that. It just enforces the societal disposition to make all situations “us” versus “them.” Do they think he has no compassion simply because his beliefs don’t align with theirs? I mean, “Hamilton” had a fundraising performance in support of his opponent, and he still wanted to see the show, for crying out loud.
Yes, they do represent many of the groups of Americans who feel as though they won’t be represented in Trump’s America, and they do have the right to free speech. So say whatever you want to say, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s okay to single someone out in an audience and publicly denounce them. Especially when they paid for a ticket that contributes to your paycheck.