Calls to #BoycottHamilton met with mockery

Published November 21, 2016
ACTOR Brandon Victor Dixon along with full cast of Hamilton speaks from the stage after the curtain call in New York on Nov 18. Vice President-elect Mike Pence is the latest celebrity to attend the Broadway hit, but the first to get a sharp message from a cast member from the stage.—AP
ACTOR Brandon Victor Dixon along with full cast of Hamilton speaks from the stage after the curtain call in New York on Nov 18. Vice President-elect Mike Pence is the latest celebrity to attend the Broadway hit, but the first to get a sharp message from a cast member from the stage.—AP

ON Friday, Vice President-elect Mike Pence attended a performance of the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical Hamilton, triggering a firestorm. First, Pence was greeted by both cheers and boos upon his arrival at the Richard Rodgers Theatre in New York. After the show, the famously diverse cast of Hamilton paused during its curtain call to deliver a message to Pence.

“We, sir, 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, sir,” said Brandon Victor Dixen, the actor who portrays Aaron Burr, to raucous applause. “But we truly hope this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and work on behalf of all of us. All of us. Again, we truly thank you truly for seeing this show, this wonderful American story told by a diverse group of men and women of different colours, creeds and orientations.”

Pence reportedly left the auditorium before Dixon finished speaking, but a show spokesman told the Associated Press that the vice president-elect stood in the hallway and heard the full message.

Social media accounts for Hamilton posted the address online shortly after the end of the show, and videos of Dixon’s speech soon went viral, getting shared tens of thousands of times.

By Saturday morning, #NameAPenceMusical and #BoycottHamilton were both trending on Twitter. President-elect Donald Trump, who has taken to Twitter 35 times since Election Day, expended two tweets on Saturday morning criticising Hamilton. He said that the cast had “harassed” Pence with “cameras blazing” and demanded an apology.

The responses were, well, non-stop.

Some cheered the cast for voicing their concerns so directly.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which has been on high alert since Trump won the presidency last week, also chimed in on Twitter, saying Americans did not need to apologise — “not even to presidents or vice presidents” — when lawfully exercising their constitutional rights.

“President-elect Trump needs a refresher on his high school civics class,” ACLU executive director Anthony D Romero told The Washington Post in an email.

“... The First Amendment is a cornerstone of our democracy, and Democratic and Republican presidents alike have understood that freedom of speech makes our country stronger — even if it sometimes make our leaders uncomfortable. The apology should instead come from President-elect Trump for calling into question the appropriateness of the Hamilton cast’s statements.”

Still others found the incident “rude” and argued that the theatre was not an appropriate place — the modern-day equivalent of crying out, “For shame!”

Many of Trump’s top supporters — including a press aide, former House speaker Newt Gingrich and former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke — joined the chorus of those who derided the cast’s speech.

As Trump supporters continued to call for boycotts of Hamilton, many questioned if it was even possible to “boycott” a show for which tickets are notoriously expensive and difficult to obtain.

Still others enthusiastically supported of the Hamilton boycott — if only because it would finally allow them to watch the show. Maybe.

Written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton is a musical about the rise of Alexander Hamilton, from his humble beginnings as an orphan and an immigrant to Founding Father. One of the show’s oft-touted lyrics — ‘Immigrants, we get the job done!’ — attracted a long standing ovation in the middle of Friday’s show, according to theatregoers who were in the room where it happened.

Hamilton has been an overwhelming hit since it debuted on Broadway last August, winning 11 Tony Awards in June, including for best musical. Although many original cast members have since left the show, its popularity has remained unfettered — to the point where the only way to nab tickets are to enter a lottery or to pay hundreds of dollars on the resale market.

—By arrangement with The Washington Post

Published in Dawn, November 21st, 2016

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