The Theater must always be a safe and special place – Donald J.Trump (via. Twitter)
This tweet followed the Vice President Elect, Mike Pence’s trip to see Hamilton, where he was booed by the audience, addressed at the end of the production by the cast. Brandon Victor Dixon addressed Pence, after the curtain call, as he tried to make a speedy exit.
“Vice-president elect Pence, I see you walking out, but I hope you will hear us, just a few more moments. There’s nothing to boo here, ladies and gentlemen, we’re all here sharing a story about love. We, sir, 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 truly hope this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and work on behalf of all of us. All of us”
Pence reacted, not in anger, but instead asking whether this was appropriate, and called into question the position of Theatre in our society. Is it a place for political debates? Were the cast of Hamilton right to call out Pence in the Theatre? As much as I dislike Pence, his reaction was commendable. He told his children, that the booing was the sound of freedom and complimented the cast. Trump on the other hand, reacted, completely oppositely, through his usual media, otherwise known as, a twitter rant.
“The cast and producers of Hamilton, which I hear is highly overrated, should immediately apologize to Mike Pence for their terrible behaviour”- Donald J. Trump. (via. Twitter)
“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!” – Donald J. Trump (Via. Twitter)
There are so many things about these statements that are anger-inducing. Firstly that the president elect is so petty about someone respectfully calling out his administration, with their fears, that he will insult their career and art. Secondly his definition of a ‘safe space’. According to Trump, a safe space, in college, to stop women from getting raped and sexually assaulted, is political correctness gone mad, but the minute a middle-aged, straight, white man, is respectfully called out, it’s a necessity.
Trump was not the first person to call Theatre a safe and special place.
In recent history, theatre, has been considered a safe, special space, especially for minorities, with many mainstream performances having political roots, such as RENT. In RENT, the 1996 musical, written by Jonathon Larson, the characters are made up of Black, Gay, Straight, Queer and Trans Americans in New York, many of them living with AIDS. A story that would have been hard to tell at the time through other mediums.
Theatre is now used to challenge that norm. Trump wants it to be comfortable, to not invoke change The statement felt drenched with irony. Who is he to say, what theatre, can or can’t be? Broadway has always generally been democratic, rather than republican. The Theatre is and should be a safe and special place, but his definitions of safe and special are not universal. It should not only be safe for the straight white man. Which I and many others, think Trump’s administration will lead to. How dare he use a phrase, so commonly used, in protecting minorities, when his campaign and his policies be so heavily rooted, in racism, bigotry, sexism, homophobia and everything else.
The other question raised, is, were the cast right to get involved in Politics? Since the dawn of Theatre, is has always been used as a way to inform people and discuss politics, from Greek Tragedy, to Brechtian to Contemporary Theatre. I think the cast, of a show about politics, especially a cast made up of minorities, had a right to an opinion, and using their platform was admirable. Broadway has never shied away from its democratic tendencies. Addressing the issues of Trump’s policies, at the end of a show, which glorifies, and rightly so, immigrants, was particularly powerful, and amplified the core aspects of the show. Especially as Trump’s policies target immigrants. I am constantly drawn back to the line ‘Immigrant. We get the job done’ which the reaction, in that showing, was very lively, according to reports. The cast addressed Pence respectfully, and kindly, better than how Trump treated the cast.