I've been researching and preparing for another post but I am taking a break due to the timeliness of what occured after a Hamilton performance on Broadway.
Below is the transcript.
"You know, we have a.. a- a guest in the audience this evening (laughter from audience). And Vice President elect Pence, I see you walking out but I hope you hear just a few more moments. There's nothing to boo, ladies and gentlemen. There's nothing to boo. We're all here sharing a story of love. We have a little message for you sir, we hope that you will hear us out.
And I encourage everybody to pull out your phones and tweet and post this message far and wide.
"Vice President-elect Pence, we welcome you and we truly thank you for joining us here at Hamilton: An American Musical. We really do. We, sir... we are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us...
Our parents, our children, ... [indecipherable] and uphold our unalienable rights, sir. But we truly hope this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and work on behalf of all of us. (applause) Allll. of. us.
Thank you truly for seeing this show (?), this wonderful American story told by a diverse group of men, women of different colors, creeds and orientations (applause)"
Here is the reaction of the President-Elect.
Here is the reaction of the Vice President-Elect.
Do you see a difference? One is at least acting like an adult and the other a petulant child.
I understand why people who don't agree with the sentiments of Brandon Dixon are upset. It's because in that moment the cast of Hamilton had Vice President-Elect Pence over a barrel. They used the power of their platform to spread their message of alarm and anxious feeling and to implore a member of the upcoming administration to work on behalf of all Americans. In that moment he couldn't respond. It was not a conversation in that the numerous viral videos that resulted afforded Mr. Pence no opportunity to address their concerns. To that I say...
Welcome to the theatre!
The theatre experience is not a conversation. It's a spectacle!
Now, I know there are those who will argue that the audience paid good money to come see a musical about a well known story, that of Alexander Hamilton. Those people did not pay to hear the political concerns of the cast and crew. One of those people was Vice President-Elect Mike Pence. You might even argue that a contract was broken between performer and audience member considering that they got something they didn't want based on what they paid for.
I understand where that argument comes from. It's rooted in the expectation of a company (the theatre) providing a service (the expected show).
Here is my perspective and from what I have heard online it is the perspective of many other theatre professionals. That model of the theatre providing a service to a crowd's expectations is not my "true" theatre. Granted, the audience members in Hamilton that night got what they paid for. The received a brilliant performance of Hamilton the Musical. However, the cast was faced with a connumdrum after a contentious election. They had a unique opportunity with the Vice President-Elect in the audience. They could maintain the status quo and move along like nothing was out of the ordinary. Or they could use their platform to voice the concerns of their community. I agree with the decision to shake things up instead of maintaining the status quo. Keeping things the same is not the way we will productively move forward. If that means speaking out and pissing off a few people for doing so then so be it.
That is part of what makes theatre so great.
As an artist I understand the weight and the power that an actor possesses on the stage. It's intoxicating to stand on a stage with a crowd in front of you listening to every word you say. Invested in every move you make. It is a unique relationship where I have agreed to work hard to show you a new perspective on life and you have agreed to take it in, hopefully with an open mind. That doesn't mean that it is going to be easy and that doesn't mean that you are going to get what you expect. Some of the greatest theatre surprises us and makes us think. It has us leaving the venue scratching our heads saying "I wasn't expecting that." It compells us to move on to a restaurant or a bar after the show so that we can discuss what we just witnessed.
The theatre's job is to challenge our preconsieved notions and to ask us to look at the world and humanity in a new way. The actor has done his or her job if you leave the theatre and need to talk about what you witnessed in the curtain speech, in the content of the show, in a speech following the curtain call, or in a talkback after the performance.
If you are thinking and talking and questioning and grappling the theatre has done its job. If you leave after an entertaining show without much of a second thought then the theatre has only succeeded in entertaining you. That's OK. That's valid theatre too but it's not the essence of what true theatre artists strive for in honing their craft.
Aside from the art of theatre the cast of Hamilton siezed a unique opportunity to make their voice heard and to speak out for their community.
To that I say bravo!