During the Nov. 18 curtain call of “Hamilton,” actor Brandon Victor Dixon encouraged its audience to pull out their phones "and tweet and post" a message directed towards Vice President-elect Mike Pence.
The Frame's John Horn spoke with Ben Brantley, chief theater critic for the New York Times, who had some thoughts about both arguments, which he shares in an article headlined, “‘Hamilton’ Duel: Addressing the President-Elect on His Own Blunt Terms.”
On whether the "Hamilton" cast was justified in calling out Pence
I think any work of art should express what it intends to say in and of itself. "Hamilton" is such a passionate and articulate show, you would think that just the fact that it being a celebration of immigration being watched by Mike Pence would be enough of an implicit dialogue in itself.
Once I read [President-elect] Donald Trump's comment, I thought, No, we're in an age where you can't take it for granted that people are going to read the implicit. "Hamilton" is a very passionate show, and somehow this seems to be a part of the impulse that shaped the show.
Normally, do I think [addressing an audience member] should be made a regular practice? No. If it happened to me I would be thoroughly demoralized. But in this context I didn't mind it so much. We're in highly-charged contentious times, and this actually seemed to be a fairly civilized thing to do.
On whether or not the theater is a space where political views and beliefs should be expressed
[Theater] should be a place not to have our beliefs and prejudices confirmed, but they should be challenged. It should force you to think, it should rattle you out of your complacency. Obviously sometimes you want theater that is the equivalent of a pizza. But really good theater ... that can change the way you think, that's always to be encouraged. And that kind of theater is never safe.