I’ve been really good about keeping this page politics-free, but Mike Pence’s visit to Hamilton combines my two favorite worlds. You need not fear that you’re reading a polemic; if you’re anything like me, you’ve already read too much on the subject. I’ll be brief. The Vice-President-Elect attended the megahit show about the founding of our country, enjoyed himself. Then, as he was hustling out, the actor who’d played Vice-President Aaron Burr addressed Pence with a speech penned in collaboration with the show’s author, Lin-Manuel Miranda, its producer and director:
“Thank you for joining us at Hamilton: An American Musical. 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 inalienable rights. We hope this show has inspired you to uphold our American values, and work on behalf of ALL of us. Thank you.”
The Left and the Right predictably split into their usual corners. On one side, the Hamilton company was praised for delivering an important message of peace in such a classy way. On the other, led by the President-Elect in a tweet (of course), outrage and consternation. But the audience, as always, played its part, too. Some booed Pence when they saw him entering the theatre, and part of the outrage from the Right is at the booing of a (just-) elected official.
To conflate the premeditated actions of a cast with the spontaneous jeering of a well-heeled crowd of theatre-goers – well, who would do such a thing? Oh: Donald Trump. For the (presidential) record, here are his tweets:
“Our wonderful future V.P. Mike Pence was harassed last night at the theater by the cast of Hamilton, cameras blazing.This should not happen!”
“The Theater must always be a safe and special place. The cast of Hamilton was very rude last night to a very good man, Mike Pence. Apologize!”
Curtain speeches, of a political sort, are a long and respected tradition in the theatre. The performances before and after the Veep’s attendance ended with appeals for donations to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. Some suggest that there’s an important distinction when the comments are addressed to one individual. But Pence is no ordinary citizen. He is a prominent politician with – more than anyone I can think of – a record of governmental actions aimed at making life worse for homosexuals. His anti-gay actions, it could be argued, make him inherently unworthy of respect. The speech aimed at him, however, was astonishingly calm in tone; “anti-inflammatory” seems a good word for it.
To call this “very rude” or to say the cast “harassed” him is to be out of grip with reality.
What to do when the incoming Chief Executive is so thin-skinned, he seems to be living in an alternative universe? I don’t think there’s an easy answer to that. The election results have a lot of us more than a little shell-shocked, unsure of how to proceed. The Hamilton company was given a golden opportunity to say a few words, from their hearts, to the person a heartbeat away from the presidency (and head of the transition team). Far from throwing away their shot, they spoke with eloquence and dignity.
There are those who believe art should speak for itself, that no further oratory is needed. Hamilton makes a ton of salient points about the founding of our country and how politics is practiced. One applause-getting line is a timely swipe at today’s anti-immigrant fervor. Alexander Hamilton has long been highly-regarded by the conservative movement. It was Miranda’s unusual choice to lionize him while making liberal favorite Thomas Jefferson the villain. Had he dramatized one of the Federalist Papers, Hamilton’s defense of the Electoral College, his show might be the thing getting boos today. For it is the Electoral College, not the popular vote, that awards the White House to the tweeter of these words:
The cast and producers of Hamilton, which I hear is highly overrated, should immediately apologize to Mike Pence for their terrible behavior
There are some people who find Hamilton highly overrated. I happen to know both of them, and neither has talked to Trump. Laughably, a BoycottHamilton movement has cropped up out of this tempest in a teapot (dome). Hamilton is completely sold out, a year in advance, but if this makes tickets available to those who want to see it… Well, I’ll be gobsmacked: He did make America great again!