So as many of you would have heard recently, Mike Pence was greeted at a performance of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton musical by a host of boos and a few cheers. The Vice President-Elect was just out for a night on the town, to watch a stunning musical about the “Founding father without a father (quote from show’s opening number Alexander Hamilton).’’ The events seen at the Richard Rodger’s Theater that night also delayed the curtain by fifteen minutes, something very off-putting to actors. So were the audience members right to do what they did?
For those who don’t know, Hamilton is a musical written about Alexander Hamilton, a founding father of America, regarded in some circles as the man who won the revolutionary war against Britain in the 18th century. Lin-Manuel Miranda, who also wrote In the Heights, a Tony awarded play, wrote Hamilton in a hip-hop/rap style, saying “[the musical] is about revolution, and hip hop is the music of revolution.” A very well thought out musical about an american hero, who meets his end to a political rival in a duel (sound familiar?).
Yes, theater and arts are used as a platform to put opinions out on the table, many being political. It has been like that since forever. That does not mean that the audience should heckle and boo at someone because he has a different opinion than them. While I do believe that Pence is far worse than Trump, and I dislike him to a large extent, the opinions in art should be left on stage or in the recording booth. It is not a sports match, where the odd comment or put-down about the other team is tolerated. This is something which people go to watch to escape their world and find a story to watch for a few hours, whether it be music, a play or even a movie.
Even President-Elect Trump agrees with me, saying “Theater should be a safe place.” But the similarities stop there. Instead of taking a final bow, Aaron Burr, played by Brandon Victor Dixon, spoke on behalf of the cast, saying “ “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, sir. But we truly hope that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and work on behalf of all of us… this wonderful American story told by a diverse group of men, women, colors, creeds, and orientations.” Trump took this as an attack against Pence, taking to Twitter again to voice his opinions.
I think Victor Dixon was very brave to say this, considering Pence’s strong opinions against the LGBTQ+ community. That is what theater is about, voicing your opinions. It is what all art is about. Whether it be a musical, or, in this case, an impromptu speech congratulating and asking the. Vice President-Elect a very small favor on behalf of his cast and all people around the world. But that does not mean you can be in the audience and voice your opinions, after all it is still a night at the opera for all, even if all includes a homophobic, racist, sexist political figure.
New update (21/11/16): At a performance of Hamilton in Chicago last night (19th November in US), a Trump supporter was escorted out of the theater during the performance after interrupting it. Shouting things like “We won”, according to other audience members, the man yelled at the audience and actors before being taken outside by security. I will bring you more on this as I find out.