One step forward, two steps back.
Is this what “progress” feels like?
In the same year that Hamilton wins 11 Tonys and redefines the scope of American musical theatre, Donald Trump is elected to be the next President of the United States.
For us theatre people, I think Hamilton has been this untouchable beacon of hope for the future of American theatre. It has allowed multiculturalism to penetrate a commercial industry otherwise dominated by white actors, producers, directors, etc.
Hamilton managed to make inclusivity mainstream; it popularized truths about what actually makes America great.
Since its inception, Hamilton has been in an intimate relationship with social media. Lin-Manuel Miranda documented much of his writing process on Facebook and Twitter. Once tickets to the show started to become unattainable, Hamilton took to social media with the #Ham4Ham lottery-performance system. The production team used social media to keep the show democratically accessible, once again marrying old and new American ideals.
For the people reading this blog, it goes without saying that the Trump administration is antithetical to the message of Hamilton. Donald Trump and his anti-immigrant, anti-feminist, White Supremacist attitudes belong to the era of Anything Goes and South Pacific.
So, what happens when the pro-conversion-therapy representative of the Trump administration inserts himself in the star-studded audience of Hamilton?
Actually, the interaction between the cast of Hamilton and Mike Pence was respectful and mature on both ends — it was everyone else who lost it. Several people in the audience booed, and Donald Trump went on an absurd Twitter rampage, clearly ignorant to the social media base that Hamilton established long ago.
The main message coming from the cast was a big ol’ “Thank You” to Mike Pence for coming to see their show. They thanked him for hearing their message. They told the audience not to “boo” him. It was not a threat; it was an invitation to reflect on the values embodied by their show.
Hamilton is inherently political. That’s part of the reason why it has gotten so much hype. If there is any show on Broadway that has a right to comment on politics, it’s this one.
The thing that no one seems to be talking about is the fact that Mike Pence listened. He didn’t walk out and ignore the people reaching out to him. Sure, that’s not saying much, but he also did not denounce the curtain call shout-out the way Trump did on Twitter.
In an interview with Fox News Sunday (cringe, I know), Pence said he was not offended at all by the boos he received as he entered the theatre. He said that he heard the heart of the cast’s message and that he wants to address the concerns of disappointed and worried Americans. He said (once again) that Donald Trump will be a President for all people. He said that “it was a real joy to be there” and that Hamilton was an “incredible production.” He (allegedly) told his daughter that the sound of the crowd booing him is “what freedom sounds like.”
Whether or not you believe a word of what Mike Pence says, I think there is some hope to be found in the fact that he respected the cast’s freedoms of expression and speech. He seems to be willing to engage in a dialogue, and acknowledged the fact that people aren’t happy with his victory. And, he did so without throwing a Twitter tantrum or being a jerk.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m still devastated by the prospect of what 4 years of Trump and Pence will do to this country. I’m saddened by what it has already done to this country, and the hatred that has been fueled by it. I abhor Pence’s stance on just about everything.
But lately I’ve been coping by trying to find little glimmers of hope in all the nonsense. I think the peaceful exchange of rhetoric between Hamilton and Pence is one of them.
And, if you wholeheartedly disagree with me and would much rather continue reading #NameAPenceMusical suggestions, I highly recommend this article from The New Yorker .