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Was the 'Hamilton' cast right in calling out Mike Pence?




Lin-Manuel Miranda, center, is the creator of
Lin-Manuel Miranda, center, is the creator of "Hamilton." He has left the show, but a statement he wrote was read during the curtain call to Vice President-elect Mike Pence, who attended on Nov. 18.
Disney+/"Hamilton" (2020)

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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. 

Dixon thanked Pence for being in attendance, but said: "We, sir, we, are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us." His remarks have sparked a spirited debate: Was the speech inappropriate and rude, as Donald Trump called it? The president-elect also said the theater should be "a safe and special place." Or were Dixon's comments — which were written by the show's producer, Lin-Manuel Miranda — reasonable and part of a robust political debate?

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.”

INTERVIEW HIGHLIGHTS

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. 



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